Have you noticed? Over the past five years or so, it’s been cropping up on Black women’s heads…it was growing in popularity in places like Brooklyn and D.C., and now it’s spreading to North Carolina and California and the Midwest.

If you guessed natural hair, you would be right.

The current trend of natural hair on black woman is something that’s gained traction in recent years, spurring lively debate on the merits of using the creamy crack vs. going au naturel. Last year black news anchor Rochelle Ritchie took an enormous career leap by going natural on live television, and Chris Rock literally ‘snatched the wig’ off of the black hair care industry in his 2009 documentary “Good Hair.” All of this activity around what happens on the scalps of black women is interesting, and I think it has contributed to more women becoming comfortable with the hair God gave them. I’ve seen exponentially more mini-fros, twist outs, and bantu knots than ever, but the hairstyle I think still holds some taboo mysticism around it is the one on my head right now –locs.

While they are gaining more widespread acceptance, dreadlocks, particularly for women, are still tangled in the mire of beauty politics. I spoke to my friend Danielle, a fellow Richmonder and dreadlock-haver, to discuss the experiences we’ve had in growing our locs.

For both of us, growing dreads was a ‘natural’ progression. I’d been natural since 2005, and Danielle started even earlier, forgoing chemical relaxers in 1999 when she first started high school. I wanted to try something new, and dreadlocks were the only hairstyle under the sun that I hadn’t had. My family is pretty chill, so they weren’t surprised when I decided to take the loc leap. Danielle says that her mother was hesitant about her doing it at first. “I always wanted [locs], but my mom wouldn’t let me do them when I was younger,” she says, and thinks it was because her mother was concerned that she might face challenges in the workplace as a result of her hair. However, Danielle says her family has been very supportive, especially her mother. She says that her mom thinks her hairstyle is “fitting.”

The first thing I’m asked by people who find dreadlocks abnormal is about my job prospects as a result of having an unconventional (it’s the euphemism people use when they want to be polite) hair arrangement. I think they are shocked when I reply that a. I work in a corporate environment and I’m doing just fine, and b. I would never work in a place that tried to encourage me to ‘assimilate’ in that way. Living in Washington D.C. is definitely a blessing, because a LARGE number of women and men in the DMV area have dreads or knows someone who does.

Another aspect of having natural hair, particularly for women, is how you are perceived by the opposite sex. In my experience, a lot of guys think I’m ‘herbal’ because of my luscious locs, which I always find slightly hilarious. Yes, I enjoy incense and oils and organic food, but I’m still a fan of Lloyd and Rick Ross, don’t get it twisted. I also get hit with a lot of “my queen/hey sista/yo Nubian” when I’m approached by interested gentlemen, while Danielle says that she doesn’t get the ‘organic’ treatment as much.

Danielle says that what she loves most about her hair is the versatility that her locs afford her. “People wonder how I do certain styles, like curling my hair, and they are shocked when I tell them I use curlers like everybody else,” she explains. She also likes being able to do her own hair. What I enjoy most about my locs have less to do with their physical appearance, but more to do with the mental freedom they have given me. Growing them taught me to be patient and to accept myself in all the awkwardness and unruliness that comes with the in-between stage. The beauty of locs is that they encourage you to be happy with what you have, an invaluable lesson in self-love.

– T. Hall

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