Thought Catalog
April 1, 2011

An Open Letter to White People With Dreadlocks

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What is the issue?

To Whom it May Concern (WHITE PEOPLE WITH DREADS),

Let me begin by explaining that I am not saying this to be a mean ol’ black hair elitist, I’m saying it to be nice. Think of it as a well-meaning PSA-from someone who really, really cares. Maybe everyone else is too polite to say it, but dreadlocks are not the look for you. I know you thought they would be a great idea after meditating with your giant Bob Marley flag you’ve tacked to your dorm room wall, but they’re not. Dreadlocks are a hairstyle invented by people with coarse, nappy hair (and while we’re on the subject, please don’t EVER use the word “nappy” to describe your hair – it’s an adjective that does not apply. “Curly” or “coarse”, maybe. “Nappy?” Never.) for people with coarse, nappy hair.

Listen – dreads exist because black hair dreads naturally, and because we can usually pull it off (I don’t know if it’s our so-called “strong features” or just natural smoothness, but it works for us). We don’t have to grease our locks up and keep them in rubber-banded clumps for weeks on end without washing to get our hair to dread, okay? All it takes are a couple of days without running a wide-toothed comb through it. Furthermore, the reason you don’t usually see black folks running around with dirty, greasy, smelly dreads sticking up every which way is because we understand that even the most low-maintenance of hairstyles requires minimum upkeep. That means SHAMPOO, people. Get a toothbrush, put some conditioning soap on it, and get to work. And for the record – Axe hairspray does NOT count. Furthermore, if you don’t heed my advice and do decide to get dreads, know this – you don’t get “dreadlocks” from simply refusing to wash or comb your hair. If you do that, you’re either going to end up looking like PigPen from the Peanuts cartoon strip, or you’ll soon be sporting the unenviable “beaver tail” a.k.a when your hair just grows into one matted, stinky eyesore on the back of your head.

Honestly, it’s kind of insulting to see all these wannabe Rastafarians or whatever you’re calling yourselves these days running around. Every time I see one of you out on the streets I cringe and wonder how painful it must be for your parents to have to claim you as their own when you come home to visit from college. You have what looks like a frizzy piece of dog shit hanging down past your butt and some Rasta bracelets, but I recognize that shirt as Marc by Marc 2005, so who are we kidding here? Okay, you like reggae music and refer to yourself as a “free spirit” on your “About Me” section on Facebook – I’m willing to let it slide. Honestly, I’ll say whatever I have to say to get you to do us all a favor and spend some of that money on a real haircut and stop making yourself look like a total tool.

Look, I know you’re sad, but believe me, I understand hair envy. Why do you think black people spend literally billions of dollars every year in the hair industry? I know you see us walking around with afros, dreads, braids, and cornrows and get jealous that your hair can’t do that, but all I ask is for you to just let us have this one. Feel free to go to Mexico for spring break and get your hair braided and beaded so you can feel like an African princess while you down Adios Motherfuckers and win a wet T-shirt contest, I don’t care. Just STAY AWAY FROM THE DREADLOCKS. Please trust me when I say that you will look unfailingly ridiculous, and that I can’t promise not to surreptitiously cut them off next time you’re sitting in front of me on the bus.


A Friend Who Cares

image – Valerio Pirrera

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