The Story of Dreadlocks and the Hair-Jackers

An advertisement on OLX for 'crocheted' dreadlocks in Durban
An advertisement on OLX for ‘crochet’ dreadlocks in Durban

They may not have originated in South Africa, but with more and more young Zulu people wearing dreadlocks the subject definitely makes for a relevant – and interesting – discussion! Most people seem to think that the hairstyle comes from Jamaica, but really it was just the fact that the Rastafarians, and Bob Marley in particular, made dreadlocks so famous. Followers of Rastafari originally called themselves ‘Dreads’, signifying that they had a dread, fear, or respect for God. Emulating Hindu and Nazarite holymen, Dreads grew matted locks of hair, which soon become known to the world as ‘dreadlocks’. The first disciples of Rastafari drew their influence from the the Old and New Testaments, Hindu culture, and African tribal culture.

There is some confusion over the true origins of the hairstyle, but there seems to be a general consensus that dreads first appeared in Africa, with the Masai of Kenya being the earliest tribe that the hairstyle can be attributed to. Some people believe that the story of dreadlocks goes back even further – the Old Testament recounts the tale of Samson and Delilah in which a man’s potency is linked to “the seven locks on his head”, and according to Roman accounts, the Celts were described to have “hair like snakes”. Germanic tribes, Greeks and the Vikings are all said to have worn dreadlocks too.

Jabu Stone, South Africa's 'king of natural hair'
Jabu Stone, South Africa’s ‘king of natural hair’

People grow their hair into dreadlocks for different reasons. Often it’s just because of fashion or personal taste, but there are some people for whom their hair is a physical manifestation of their spirituality. In the same way that people shave their heads to show a lack of vanity, dreads represent a disregard for physical appearances, and respect for a higher power.

Dreadlocks have become very popular in recent years, with hairdressers in Durban’s CBD offering to dread customers hair, or if the client’s hair isn’t long enough, add dreadlocked extensions. Real hair obviously takes years to grow, and so a bizarre new form of theft has arisen where people are robbed for their dreads! Strange, but true. The peculiar crime is on the rise in Durban, where customers will pay anything from R200 for short dreads and as much as R2000 for long dreads! More than a lot of cellphones costs, so well worth the while of the ‘hair-jackers’ who target unsuspecting pedestrians.

Click here to read an article about South Africa’s crazy dreadlocks thieves

Images courtesy of and

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