Why These Women Want To Take The "Dread" Out Of "Dreadlocks"

Photographed by Olivia Ema.
"My locs are far from dreadful, they are simply locs. They are beautiful, twisted sections of my hair," says April-Louise, one of the four women I met with photographer Olivia Ema while photographing Black British women who proudly wear their hair in locs.
Until we sat with April-Louise, I hadn’t considered why the word “dread” was ever associated with the style and have since made a point of ridding it from my vocabulary.
Though they have existed for thousands of years, when talking about locs, many refer to the late Bob Marley – the globally renowned Jamaican musician and proud Rastafarian who was one of the first icons to have locs when he emerged in the '70s and often spoke about them in relation to his identity.
Unfortunately, ignorance about the hairstyle still exists today. In February 2015, Giuliana Rancic of Fashion Police made a disrespectful comment about Zendaya Coleman’s hair smelling like "patchouli oil and weed." Just last month, a 12-year-old student at Fulham Boys School was threatened with being placed in isolation unless he cut his dreadlocks, as his hairstyle was a breach of uniform policy.
While the natural hair movement is thriving both online and off, few are talking about locs specifically and the profound relationship that women and men have with them. Speaking to the four women in this feature, Olivia and I learned that the decision to allow your hair to grow into itself without interruption is never taken lightly. Each woman's reason for choosing the style is different but they all speak of a personal evolution in sync with the evolution of their hair.
Olivia and I met April-Louise Pennant, Jaha Browne, Angela Dennis, and Keisha Cameron on social media and through chance encounters around London to chat about the fascinating intersection between hair and identity.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series