This Independence Day weekend I want to drop a rare Curator editorial on you to give pause and props to the freeform and knotty/natty dred in our family.
I’ve been reflecting for some time on the sort of harsh division that exists between some wearers of the manicured American style locs as they seem to look down upon the style choices of the freeformers and less meticulous kept knotty dreds.
To tell the truth, starting the loc’ed life as an American-style dred, I too have shied and been ashamed to let my neat parts give way to anything other than crispness. In my personal life, puffy roots were a signal of financial brokeness and/or personal neglect— being too busy, too tired, or sometimes just too lazy to put my hands in the air for 3 hours and twist.
I knew why my puffy roots bothered me, but I remained troubled by the pure vehement some American dreds had toward those who chose to be more organic with their style — Especially since freeforming is the origin of locs as we know them.
The most common comments from dissenting American dreds about organic/freeformers are particularly disturbing to me because the words they use and disgusted sentiment they speak from so closely resembles the purposefully derogatory things underexposed person of non-African descent say and have said about natural Afro-texture hair.
"It looks dirty!" Sneers. “Wild" and “unkept." Even “nappy" is among commonly voiced expressions of a organic resentment. If the commenter is P.C. we get the barely diplomatic, “That’s for some people. It wouldn’t look right on me" - knowing all the while that the actual translation is “I’m not going to put myself out there like that.” (What’s “that”? The naive position that allows someone to be foolish enough to allow their dedication to cultural pride interfere with professional or any other attainment while knowing everyone else will be judging you on a mainstream expectations.)
I know that got heavy right then, and I’m not writing this tell to anyone what to do (other than perhaps gently dissuade you from being a hater). But I must share this:
Whether you were natural before, or went directly into locs from a big chop, us African-Americans with locs are a part of the natural hair family. When we have loose natural hair we celebrate the Afro-coil’s strength and versatility. However, often when we come to locdom much of our attitude changes, reverting, if you will, into acting as the texture that enables us to do the things we do and its smallest particle, the nap, become the enemy. In turn regarding those who allow either to coexist with their locs with a profound negativity.
My acceptance of freeform and “knottiness” has been cultivated over time. Though I still don’t favor one massive loc growing out of anybody’s head, I can partially attribute my broadened perspective on exposure to a greater exposure that has shown me beauty in freeform, chunky, and knotty heads (Thanks, Brooklyn).
The rest is that, in my own life I got tired of feeling some kind of way that every hair was not perfectly preened when in fact the point of purposefully natural hair is appreciate it its natural state and abilities. Having entered another phase where my new growth just didn’t want to stay twisted I paused, reflecting on all the positives of just being (the chief reason being “No stress” - I didn’t get locs to stress them) I realized and asked myself, “Am I using my locs to run away from my naps?”
For 4 years, deep in my subconscious the answer had been “Yes,” and it shouldn’t be. So I changed. I’m letting it grow without stressing, twisting gently, casually. It’s a glorious feeling.
Just for you, Locs&Branches, I prolonged my shampoo just to share pics with you. Freeformers and natty locs, please share pics with me this week. American-style locs how do you feel about free form and using locs to avoid naps?
Phi Beta Sigma pin on one lapel, Masonic pin on the other, and a crown of (pauses, checks watch) 14 years, 11 months, 26 days, and 22 and 1 half hours old locs of dedication at center.
You would think he might have been his fraternity’s timekeeper, but Timothy’s extreme mindfulness of the length of his loc’s existence is just one the ways he demonstrates his belief that locs are part of a lifestyle, not just a style.
Timothy keeps the particular event that inspired him to loc private. The desire to perform a gesture of thanks to African ancestors who legendarily chose not to groom their hair while engaging in the physical fight against colonialism factors into his dedication.
In that spirit, Timothy usually does not twist his hair outside of special occasions. (On this day he was attending a highly influential board meeting.) When asked, if he had any feelings of conflict over taking a departure from his beliefs for the sake of others, Tim acknowledges it is not ideal, but necessary because sometimes we have to meet people at the (mental) place that they are.
That is to say, in his loc’ed life, Tim finds that sometimes the end result in the board room is greater than the aesthetic means by which you get it.
In Tim’s case, twisting his hair in compromise is not a detrimental to his locs. Do you ever face situations (in your workplace or in the job market) where you feel pressured to change your locs to be respected?