BusinessThe Symbolism of Dreadlocks in Rastafarian Culture

The Symbolism of Dreadlocks in Rastafarian Culture


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Dreadlocks, commonly referred to as “dreads,” are more than just a hairstyle in Rastafarian culture; they are a powerful symbol deeply rooted in the spiritual and social beliefs of this movement. Rastafarianism, a socio-religious movement that originated in Jamaica in the 1930s, places great significance on dreadlocks as a visible expression of its core principles. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the symbolism of dreadlocks in Rastafarian culture, uncovering their spiritual, historical, and social meanings.

The Birth of Rastafarianism

To understand the symbolism of dreadlocks in Rastafarian culture, it is essential to grasp the movement’s origins and core beliefs.

1. Haile Selassie I

Rastafarians believe that Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, originally named Ras Tafari Makonnen, is the earthly representation of God, known as Jah or Jah Rastafari. His coronation in 1930 was seen as the fulfillment of a prophecy, and it marked the birth of Rastafarianism. Selassie’s divine status is central to Rastafarian beliefs.

2. African Redemption

Rastafarians believe in the repatriation of all people of African descent to their ancestral homeland, Africa. This belief stems from the history of African slavery and oppression, which has left a lasting impact on the African diaspora.

3. Resisting Babylon

“Babylon” is a term used by Rastafarians to symbolize the oppressive and corrupt forces of the world, including colonialism, imperialism, and racism. Rastafarians view themselves as part of a spiritual resistance movement against Babylon.

The Significance of Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks have a profound and multifaceted symbolism within Rastafarian culture.

1. Nazarite Vow

Rastafarians often cite the Nazarite vow from the Bible, specifically Numbers 6:5, as the basis for growing dreadlocks. The vow stipulates that one should abstain from cutting their hair as a sign of dedication and consecration to God. Rastafarians believe that by growing and maintaining dreadlocks, they are adhering to the Nazarite vow, symbolizing their commitment to a spiritual life and a connection with Jah.

2. Connection to Africa

Dreadlocks are seen as a natural and unaltered hairstyle that reflects the African roots of Rastafarian culture. In contrast to straightening or chemically altering the hair, dreadlocks are an authentic and proud display of African identity.

3. Rejection of Babylon’s Standards

Rastafarians reject the beauty standards imposed by Babylon, which often involve straightening or altering the natural texture of hair. By embracing dreadlocks, Rastafarians reject these standards and proudly display their natural, unaltered hair as a form of resistance against Babylon’s influence.

4. Symbol of Nonconformity

Dreadlocks also represent nonconformity and a rejection of mainstream societal norms. Rastafarians see themselves as “out of Babylon,” choosing an alternative path that prioritizes spirituality, equality, and cultural identity over materialism and conformity.

Variations in Dreadlock Styles

Within Rastafarian culture, there is diversity in how individuals choose to style their dreadlocks, reflecting personal preferences and interpretations of Rastafarian beliefs. Some variations include:

1. Length and Thickness

Dreadlocks can vary in length and thickness, with some Rastafarians opting for long, thick locks that cascade down their backs, while others prefer shorter and more manageable dreads.

2. Beads and Adornments

Many Rastafarians decorate their dreadlocks with beads, shells, and colorful threads. These adornments can have cultural or spiritual significance and are a way to express individuality.

3. Head Coverings

Some Rastafarians choose to cover their dreadlocks with turbans or wraps, especially during religious ceremonies or gatherings. These coverings often have symbolic meanings and add to the overall spiritual aura.

The Dreadlock Journey

Growing and maintaining dreadlocks is not just a physical process; it is also a spiritual journey for Rastafarians. It represents a commitment to a set of beliefs and values that transcend the physical appearance. The process of cultivating dreadlocks is a reminder of their dedication to Jah and their rejection of Babylon.


In Rastafarian culture, dreadlocks are far more than a mere hairstyle; they are a powerful symbol of spirituality, identity, and resistance. Through their dreadlocks, Rastafarians express their dedication to God, their African heritage, and their defiance of oppressive forces. The symbolism of dreadlocks in Rastafarian culture serves as a visual testament to the enduring principles and beliefs that guide this unique and influential movement.

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