My Complicated Relationship With Faux Locs

Photo: courtesy of Breanna Davis.
As I scrolled through my Explore page searching for hair inspo, only one look spoke to the effortless, get-out-of-bed-and-do-nothing look I was going for: butterfly locs.
Not dreadlocks, which are pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to hairstyles I'd ever consider. But, Breanna, you're Jamaican. The math isn't mathing. Yeah, ironic isn't it? There's just something about the style that always looks unkempt, kind of clumpy, to me.
But when I saw a girl on my phone screen rocking waist-length butterfly locs, it sparked my moment of clarity, if you will. Even though the style is visually similar to dreadlocks, the hair being added in with intentional distress made it more chic to me. Her messy bun and side-swoop bang was anything but common — she stood out in a group picture with other girls wearing lace wigs and individual braids. I fed off the aesthetic and connected with her confidence.
Advertisement
I started browsing StyleSeat, a holy-grail marketplace of beauty professionals who can be booked for any style from weaves to braids to a silk press. Over one hundred and fifty stylists on the site promised they were the best person to deliver my new look. Being the budget-minded girl my mom raised me to be, I prioritized my price, found a stylist, and flooded her inbox with photo inspiration. I knew the locs had to be dramatically long, with medium distress (how messy each loc is made). Over the past few months, I've been obsessed with how amazing my melanin skin pops with ginger hair, so I decided to take it up a notch with copper.
With each finished loc my braider dropped down on my shoulder, I grew antsier and antsier. I couldn't stop pretending to scratch my head to see how much more was left. The process took about three and half hours to finish. When I looked in the mirror, it was everything I imagined. With my baby hairs laid and wavy ends, giving a cute beachy vibe, I walked out of my appointment feeling like...well, a brand-new bitch. I swung my head back and forth, bouncing to my car just to feel my hair smacking my butt. I. Was. It. Until I FaceTimed my mom.

I swung my head back and forth, bouncing to my car just to feel my hair smacking my butt. I. Was. It....until I FaceTimed my mom.

"Wooooow." Then, silence. That's all I needed to know this look was absolutely not Magie-approved. My exciting, daring look that had me feeling my best immediately sizzled with just one exaggerated expression of disbelief. I've never strived for my mom's approval; I've been blessed to not have a parent that would put that pressure on me. But still, when I had it, I felt reassured. To be honest, her disapproval didn't shock me because my mom's style is minimalist at best. She'd never dye her hair any other color but black and the most out-of-comfort zone thing she's ever done was her switch to square-rim dark purple glasses. Mom's "less is more" view wasn't inherited, but it's a difference we've accepted about each other over time. So I smiled through her criticisms, convincing myself it wasn't so bad. She's just old school. She doesn't get it.
Advertisement
I waited to debut my hair for public consumption until a couple of weeks later when my mom visited my favorite cousin in Atlanta. Surely I would get positive reinforcement from someone closer to my generation. I FaceTimed my cousin, my mom was in the background, and she answered: "Hey cuz! Okayyyy! Butu." Our Jamaican word for ghetto.
It's a term that Tresemme Global Artist and International Hair Expert Nai’vasha deems "unacceptable," mainly because it's used in a negative form due to ignorance. Because a lot of women (and society) don't understand Black hair, it's considered complicated or even "wrong." When in actuality there's nothing incorrect about textured hair. American culture just never glorified it. Coming to terms with this and defuncting the word "ghetto" starts with education.
Outwardly, I wore the word with pride. Internally, I sunk. My cousin laughed and said it looks nice but followed with, "It's very you, Bre." What the hell does that mean?
The next few days were difficult. Wearing my hair up in a bun to attract less attention, I started feeling more and more self conscious, my thoughts speeding a mile a minute. Can I dye the hair black, so at least the color is less bold? Maybe it would look better short? Should I just take it out altogether? Then, I looked down at my signature, well-manicured XL nails (à la Sheneneh Jenkins from Martin). I realized with my new hair and old nails, I certainly felt like the ghetto cousin of the family.
Advertisement
Nai’vasha faced similar self consciousness when she got her own head of faux locs. "I felt really weird about the faux locs because I felt like didn't look quite as refined," she explains. "I didn't look as chic and sophisticated — maybe I didn't look quite as professional. All the things started to run through my mind because I was getting looks." Similar to Nai’vasha, I had friends who gassed my locs but I still received looks, which didn't make me feel good on the inside.

"I felt really weird about the faux locs because I felt like didn't look quite as refined. I didn't look as chic and sophisticated — maybe I didn't look quite as professional. All the things started to run through my mind because I was getting looks."

Hairstylist and CUrl Expert Nai’vasha
I couldn't understand my feelings. How did I come from my mom, the most modest sister out of seven, and end up being the most ghetto? And have I always been this way? The feeling of embarrassment was swift and burdensome. I felt like the people were looking at me, not with admiration but criticism.
Once again, my bestie, the IG algorithm, pulled through with a much-needed reality check. (In a way, it's like when you call your best friend when you're mad and she tells you what you need to hear to feel better.) When I really needed it, my Explore Page was flooded with Black, beauty-positive posts of Afros that could touch the sky, acrylic nail sets with different colors on each finger, and lash extensions long enough to question if they could even see. I finally asked: "Why should I feel embarrassed about being myself?"
It's 2022 and at 28 years old, I'm dealing with an uncovered fear of not looking how I should look. For too many decades, Black women have suffered the boundaries of beauty created based on European standards, trying to fit the mold of what a non-threatening, respectable woman of color should look like. Those standards aren't actively promoted anymore, but let's be real, race-based hair discrimination was legal up until 2019's passing of the CROWN Act.
Advertisement
Meanwhile, our white counterparts have capitalized on everything that we've been told to be ashamed of. I see brunettes dye their hair red, throw in braids, and call themselves hipsters. Or natural blondes loc theirs and get labeled 'boho-chic.' But I, a Black girl from D.C., decided to alter my look in a dramatic way and immediately thought less of myself because my underbelly thoughts are reminding me: You can't do what these white girls do. Nai’vasha leaned into this with a great point about why there's such an emphasis on hair in the Black community.
"Historically speaking, the authenticity of our natural hair was not what was acceptable or found as the blueprint or basis of beauty," she explains. "When you talk about Hollywood, when you talk about brand attachment — kinky, coily, curly, frizzy, none of those things were in the conversation when you speak on the epitome of beauty. That's why we frown upon each other and we are not as warm to our full-on heritage."

"When you talk about Hollywood, when you talk about brand attachment — kinky, coily, curly, frizzy, none of those things were in the conversation when you speak on the epitome of beauty. That's why we frown upon each other and we are not as warm to our full-on heritage."

Nai’vasha
This has deeeeep custom roots, too. Similar to America's colorism culture, Jamaica's classism is influential. Your social class is represented by the family you come from, what you do for a living, and how you carry yourself in society. All of this culminates in respect, and if you don't have respect, you're nothing. It also didn't help that my grandma bragged to her friends about her granddaughter with naturally long, pretty hair, rather than my academic accolades.
I love being a Jamaican woman. I love being a Black woman. I love being a woman, period. But the sad truth is I have to consciously remind Breanna to love Breanna. That means not letting outside opinions guide me into being who I think I need to be, and rather being who I am. After letting the butterfly locs live for a good two months, my mom eventually came around with compliments like, "It fits your face."
Aside from being beautiful (and expensive), I kept the locs because they forced me to tackle demons I wasn't aware of. Everyone has their own beginning to their journey of self-discovery. For Nai’vasha, it was moving to New York from Atlanta after struggling with criticisms for not dressing like her peers. Mine began with a hair appointment in Downtown L.A.
With Butterfly locs, I found more self awareness and confidence. Now, I'm excited to try any look — no matter how outrageous — because that means I'm being authentic. There's so much I've accomplished in life that I acknowledge with pride. While it is a term we shouldn't perpetuate, "ghetto" no longer has the power to make me feel less than. Being perceived as the ghetto cousin is only a Cliff Note in the story of who Breanna is. I'm not my hair, my nails, or the suggestive clothes I choose to wear. I'm actually, quite literally, my ancestors' wildest dreams in every aspect.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series

Advertisement