Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review
The amount of time is takes Maxwell Evans to wash and dry his hair amounts to more time than most students probably spend in class on an average day. That is because Evans, a junior, has a head full of thick dreadlocks.
Evans has had dreads since 2007 and puts in hours each week to maintain his tangled locks. Washing and drying his dreads can take up to six hours, he said.
Evans is one of many dread-headed students who can be seen around Western’s campus. Senior James Hyde also invests hours each week on his dreadlocked hair.
“It’s actually a lot more work than having regular hair,” said Hyde, who has had his dreads since April 2009. “People think it’s a lazy hairstyle, but there is so much work involved.”
Hyde said he dedicates several hours each week to taking care of his dreads. Despite the time commitment, he said the hairstyle fits his personality.
“When I moved to Bellingham in 2007, I saw people with dreads and I really liked the style,” Hyde said. “People with dreads just seem friendly and approachable.”
He said that having dreadlocks can be a conversation starter, and people have approached him with curious questions or comments. Hyde said that dreads have slowly become more common in the United States, but in foreign countries they are still considered unusual. Hyde visited China last summer, where he said people were wildly curious about his hairstyle.
“In China, having dreads was such a novel thing,” he said. “People really didn’t know what to think.”
He said that although he enjoys having dreads, there are several drawbacks. Dreadlocks are often associated with illegal drug culture, and as a result, he is searched every time he crosses the U.S.-Canada border. He added that authority figures tend to have a negative view of dreads. Although dreads aren’t a hairstyle that always lasts forever, he said he plans on having his for at least a few more years.
“I would never cut them because of a serious job or anything,” he said. “But then again, who would want a job like that anyway?”
For those thinking about growing their own dreads, Evans warns that people should seriously consider the decision before beginning the process.
Evans said that it can take six months to a year before dreads start to “lock up” and look like actual dreadlocks. He said that good planning in the beginning stages will make the entire process much easier.
“Good prep work saves so much time,” Evans said. “It makes them look presentable, and not just like you have a mess on your head. It will take a while before the knots really start to set in hard.”
Evans said that in order to begin the dreading process, one must have at least 10 inches of hair to work with. From that point, chunks of hair are sectioned off with tiny rubber bands. Once a person’s full head of hair has been separated into sections, Evans said that you can backcomb each section individually. Backcombing the hair is particularly important and involves using a fine-tooth comb to brush against the hair growth. The resulting knots are them pushed toward the base of the scalp. Evans said the process should be repeated until all sections have been knotted.
To strengthen the knots, Evans recommends rolling each section with your hand before rubbing the end of the dread into your palm. This secures the knot at the end. Evans said the prep work is vital to having nice dreads, since improperly fashioned ones can take years to fix.
The process doesn’t stop there, however, and maintaining the dreads once you have them can be a time-consuming process.
“The maintenance is ongoing, all day, every day,” said Evans. “The more you roll them, the tighter the knots get. Once you have dreads that are locked, the thing is to keep the new hair growth knotted too.”
Rebeccah Williams, a junior who has had dreads on two separate occasions, said that it is a good idea to start the process in the winter, because it can be uncomfortable to have mass of thick hair on your head during the hot summer months. She discouraged the use of wax or any products that claim to help dread hair, since the products usually just weigh dreads down and don’t make much of a difference.
The first time Williams had dreads, they were approximately an inch and a half in diameter and ran down to her waist. Although Williams has a shorter hairstyle now, she said that she wouldn’t hesitate to have dreads again.
“I just think they look really good,” she said. “It’s whatever appeals to you. You get sick of them like any other hairstyle, but I just think they’re awesome.”