Kat Aden’s decision to sport dreadlocks was a religious one.
“God had been challenging me about materialism,” the equine science and pre-vet freshman said.
Sophomore Heather Taylor had a friend do her dreadlocks the day she signed out of a four-year military stint.
“In the Army, you’re not allowed to have any type of freedom of expression,” said Taylor, a global tourism major. “I wanted to show I wasn’t the same as everyone else.”
Bonnie Sizer, a freshman art and speech communications major, had a different approach to her matted or knotted strands of hair.
“I just wanted to try something new with my hair,” she said.
Taylor, who moved from New York, noticed that dreads were much more trendy on CSU’s campus than other places she had been. She said the revived popularity is due to students seeking new venues of self-expression.
“I think people are finally starting to educate themselves. Maybe younger people are doing it for the ultimate way to express themselves,” Taylor said. “Maybe the stereotype of the stupid stoner hippie will go away.”
Jean Vick, a longtime Fort Collins hairstylist, specializes in diverse services like weaves and relaxations. She said that from what she has noticed through customers, dreadlocks are no longer limited to certain nationalities.
“I see a lot of Caucasians coming in for them, surprisingly,” she said.
Aden, who has only had her dreads for three weeks, wondered about the reaction she would get from other students on campus.
“I thought that a lot of people would be discriminating, but I’ve found that others with dreads are more discriminating,” she said. “People just automatically assume I’m vegetarian and environmentally-friendly, which I am, but they just assume now.”
Taylor has had her dreads for almost two-and-a-half years and said she has received mixed comments from others. During a visit to Country Buffet with her husband, an older woman approached her and recommended that Taylor cut her hair because it was “unbelievable” and “dirty.”
“Most of the people who have been negative are the older generation. They’re not really open to new things, and dreadlocks have been given a bad stigma,” she said. “It sucks that people are so closed-minded about (dreads), but are open to piercings.”
Sizer said people think her three-week-old dreads are cool but agrees that the hairstyle is not for everyone.
“Dreads are OK if you can deal with people judging you,” she said. “I’ve definitely been getting dirty looks.”
There are different ways to get dreadlocks. Some choose the neglect method, where hair is literally neglected and uncombed. Others try a twisting method or go to specialty hair salons to get the process done for them.
For these CSU students, the road to dreads included backcombing and beeswax, the most popular method for amateurs today. Aden and Sizer purchased kits online that came with the materials necessary to start their own dreadlocks.
The process starts by sectioning relatively clean hair and securing the pieces with tiny rubber bands. The strands are then backcombed, a process that combs hair backwards from tip to root to create volume and knots. Special beeswax is applied and melted down with a hairdryer to form solid dreads.
At the three-week stage, hair is still relatively loose and a little more high-maintenance than fully-formed dreads. Despite popular misconception, dreadlocks still need to be washed like regular hair.
“My wash days are Mondays and Fridays,” Aden said. “I have to make sure to use a residue-free soap. If I don’t, the residues will cause water to build-up, which causes mildew.
Aden will keep “her babies” and is not particularly worried about what future implications her hair may have.
“I know people (with dreads) have a hard time finding jobs, because most people are really straight-laced. I’m not going to worry about it at this point in my career,” she said.
And Taylor will continue to grow out her well-formed dreadlocks. In the meantime, she hopes that people will stop to take a second before judging someone with dreads.
“I’m a really hard-working, goal-oriented person. Hearing people in Old Town say, ‘Oh, she’s a hippie. Wash your hair,’ bothers me,” she said. “It’s a different generation now. It’s not the 60s anymore.”
Staff writer Jen Cintora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*BREAKOUT BOX INFO BELOW*
Five misconceptions about dreadlocks:
Dreads only work well in African American hair
Truth: It is entirely possible for any hair texture to dread tightly.
You can’t wash dreadlocks and your hair must be dirty to dread.
Your hair will stink if you don’t wash it. It needs to be washed at least twice a week, with a residue-free shampoo. Clean hair actually dreads up more easily than dirty hair.
The only way to get rid of dreads is to shave your head.
Not entirely true. Some experts say the one removal method is to cut the dreadlocks close to the roots. Other sources say that soaking the dreads in a strong conditioner makes them easier to comb out.
Dreadlocks are made with substances like dog feces, peanut butter and mayonnaise.
Only if you want bacteria and mold to grow in your hair. These days, there are specially formulated substances like beeswax that safely dread hair.
Dreadlocks are only for Rastafarians.
It is a popular misconception that Rastafarians originated dreadlocks. Historical evidence has shown that cavemen wore dreadlocks, simply because combs weren’t invented yet.