Retro Hairstyles With Dreadlocks

Written by a. low
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Over their long history, dreadlocks have come to represent a hodgepodge of things: spirituality, Rastafarianism, nonconformity, non-violence, anarchism and community. While historical wearers of dreadlocks were priests and men who sought intimacy with god, modern dreadlocked folks are often stereotyped as drug-users and outcasts. Some folks simply wear dreadlocks for convenience—to keep back wild, unruly hair. Whatever your reason, there are many ways to individualise your dreadlock style and create some unique, retro looks.

Lock Thickness

One way to separate yourself from the crowd is to have especially thick or thin dreadlocks. Locks are commonly about the size of an index finger, but locks of different thicknesses add some intrigue to your do. To emulate the tradition of ancient spiritual leaders, try extremely thick locks. These can be worn down, to the side, or partially up in a high ponytail. Some African priests will also wear locks in their beards, or have a variety of dreadlock thicknesses throughout their hair.

Lock Length

You don’t need super long hair to wear dreadlocks—in fact, just three inches of hair is enough to hold the locks in place, especially if your hair is naturally curly or wavy. Short hair will need to be stripped of oils the night before “locking” takes place, otherwise the locks won’t hold. Locks will end up about one third shorter than your beginning hair length, so prepare for this before getting your dreads. To get a retro, Rastafarian look, long hair length is best. Experiment with layered locks to create a freer look, or keep them around one length to channel Bob Marley.


A few hair ties or hair clips are all you need to turn your ordinary dreadlocks into an unusual updo. For a bold 1960s look, style your locks into a high beehive by looping them over the top of your head and securing with hairpins and lots of hairspray. Another high-up, retro look is the single bun—create this by pulling locks into a high ponytail, wrapping the longest locks around the hair tie and tucking them in to each other to form a high, pointed bun. For an elegant yet punkish look that resembles early an early 1900s women’s hairstyle, part the locks in the middle and twist the sides back by gradually adding more dreads to the underside of each twist. Secure with a hair tie.

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