Why I Loc’ed Up

If you’re new here and you don’t know what I look like, too damned bad.

Just kidding.

Me and AndrewThis is me and my friend Andrew at a brewery a few weeks ago.  You’ll notice a few things about me.  One, that I am stunningly gorgeous.  And two, that I have an entire head full of dreadlocks, or locs as they’re commonly referred to.

Kidding again about the stunningly gorgeous part too.  That actually took very much premeditation.  Like I actually showered on the day we took that photo.

But I’m getting off-topic.

So, people are really curious about my hair.  Less so these days, because locs are definitely far more common than they were, but the questions I’ve gotten about this hair, ranging from questions of hygiene to even my sexuality (yes) have been plentiful.

So here’s how I came to the style.

So when I was a wee junior in high school, I had literally done every style that there is to do on a little black girl.  As a kid, my mother had relaxed our hair.  We graduated to getting it relaxed at the salon, and then in the summer time, my mom began to allow us to do box braids.  When it was time to get the braids out, we’d stay up, all night sometimes, taking the braids out, washing, and combing our hair, only to spend another day in the african hair braiding salon for them to reinstsall.

After that, we’d be in agony for like two days waiting for the braids to loosen up because they’d be snatched up so tight.  It’s truly a wonder that I have any edges at all because the women braiding really were trying to make it a point that that didn’t happen.

This is a loose guesstimate, because I really didn’t realize the magnitude of my decision, but I want to say that early on in the year of 2003, I decided that I was 100% done with having my hair pulled, yanked on, burned off, and in general, sitting still for upwards of 8 hours, waiting for a style to be finished.  To this day I can’t sit still, so I’m not exactly sure how I did it when I was so young.  But I was really sick of it, and I told my mom I wanted dreadlocks.  I didn’t know much of anything about the style, which, today, sounds really bratty and sort of trustafarian of me, but I just knew I was done with conventional hairstyles.

Now, at the time, locs were not at all popular, and were mostly being worn by men, and by women of color who were either musicians, or stereotypically, lesbians.  (Which is where the comments about my sexuality came from in the early 00s.)  My father was fairly indifferent to the decision, however, he insisted, after I attempted to start them on myself, that I see a pro.  My mother, on the other hand, was really against the decision, since she associated the style with being unclean and some unsavory characters she’d interacted with in New York.  But we went to a pro who trimmed the relaxed and damaged hair off of the ends, and began to twist my entire head.  It was short.  Like really short.  And I wish I had photos of how long it was, but again, I didn’t realize how cool it would be to document, and I never thought to take a picture.

Prom

This is me at the prom in early 2005, probably about 1.5ish, 2 years into the process?

The thing that was really cool about starting the locs, and keeping them, was that similarly to life, you don’t realize the growth is there until it’s there, in your face.  When I started the locs, they were teeny-tiny, and I didn’t have anything to hide my face with.  I felt really exposed, and my dang scalp was cold.

With each wash, and then each year, they got longer and longer.  They’re long enough now to pull back, and for my wedding, I was able to pull it into a gorgeously complex style that served, not only as fierce wedding hair, but also doubled as a face lift cause this stuff is HEAVY.

The significance, since I’ve started my locs, has shifted a lot.  Locs went from being a style of convenience for me to being something more, something from which I draw a lot of pride, and I’ve fielded a lot of (good) questions about the process.  I think about cutting it sometimes, especially during the summer when it’s hot, or I feel like I need a change.  I think about cutting it, and starting it again, but I’m not sure what the future has for me.

What questions do you have about the hairstyle?

Giuliana Rancic

I was about 16 when I decided that I was going to loc my hair up.

To that point, I’d had every hair style that one could have as a little black girl growing up in the 90s.  My hair had been permed.  My mother hand straightened my hair with the hot comb (the one that you would stick on the burner and run through your hair).  I’d rocked box braids.  And finally, when I was old enough to realize that I didn’t want anyone touching my hair or pulling it anymore, I decided that I was going to loc it up.  I don’t think my mom took me seriously at first.  Up to this point I’d been an imaginative teen, and had dreamt of being a singer, practiced my autograph over and over, changed my handwriting, tried to be a lefty, and expressed my dreams of becoming a Rockette, so she may have thought it was just one of my Cheri-isms, and she bought me a few books on it from the library, not thinking it would lead anywhere.

But I was relentless.

I loc’ed it up myself, and my parents were so horrified by the results (rightfully so), that they took me to a place to get a consultation, and then finally, to get my locs started.  They were short, little baby locs, and my mother was horrified.  She begged me to let her cut them off.  She begged me to try a wig, and then a weave.  And when it became clear that I was serious, she left it alone, and most likely resigned herself that I was just going to with short hair forever.  [Side note:  mom has since come around, and admitted that she didn’t understand what they were going to look like.  She loves it, and has since started to wear her hair natural as well.]

Since then I got into a prestigious private college, graduated college, attended graduate school, met my husband, got married, bought a house, and made a life as one of the director team at a non-profit.

All this to say that though I chose to transition my hair back to its natural form 10ish years ago, I am a productive member of society.  But wearing my hair this way made me afraid that white people would look at me and make assumptions about who I was, my education, or my capabilities as an employee.  Fears that came to light when Giuliana Rancic, a correspondent at E!, made the following comments when sizing up Zendaya’s red-carpet look from Oscar Weekend.

“I feel like she smells like patchouli oil… or maybe weed.”

She opened her hands and laughed it off.  My cheeks immediately got hot.

I was taken back to the millions of times people have asked me if I wash my hair.

I was taken back to the time I was in an interview (an interview, people), and one of the gentlemen in the interview asked me what I do with my hair when I’m running.

I was taken back to a 2007 Glamour controversy where an editor stated that natural hairstyles were a big “no-no” for the office.

Giuliana Rancic, your comments were not cool whatsoever.  People with natural hair don’t smell of illegal drugs or douse themselves in patchouli to cover up body odor.  The vast, vast majority of us lead productive lives, and it doesn’t take a classically European hairstyle to achieve any of these.  On the flip side, there are plenty of people with straight silky locks who may smell of patchouli and weed.  I know this because I worked at Whole Foods for a few months while jobs searching after school.  It depends on the individual. 

Now, do I feel like Giulina is an horrible racist?  No, probably not.  But she made an insensitive, stupid, and ignorant comment that peels away that outside layer and reveals what she truly thinks when she sees chicks like me walking down the hall with a huge mane of natural, well-maintained hair.  And that has to change.

 

 

Running will jack your hair up if you’re not careful.

I started my locs I think like 8 or 9 years ago after I was seriously seriously tired of having my hair ripped out while I was getting it braided at the braiding salon in Charlotte we frequented.  I’m also terribly tenderheaded, so the whole thing was a bad deal.

So my hair’s long, looks pretty well kempt for the most part, but it can be hard work when I’m working out.

There’s also the stigma that locs aren’t clean that I like to shake, so I have to make sure that between running, Running for Haiti, teaching classes, and working out, that I’m keeping it together, looking nice, and smelling clean.  You go too long between a wash and this mane begins to cry out for some salvation.

Hot mess of a head, freshly shampooed head, and clean and twisted head.
Hot mess of a head, freshly shampooed head, and clean and twisted head.

I know you’re probably curious about how all of this works.  So usually, when people ask me questions about my hair (maybe a little more often than I’d like), they ask if I can wash it (yes), and how I wash/maintain it.  About once every other week, my hair starts looking a royal mess.  You can see, especially in that picture to the far left, that my roots are super fuzzy and fluffy.  Usually around this point, my scalp is begging for some relief, especially in dry weather.  So I wash with Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Threat Invigorating Shampoo and Conditioner, which leaves me minty fresh.   Finally, I take about an hour and twist every individual loc with a clear twist and loc gel.  Easy as pie.  So if you’re thinking about locking it up, go for it!  It requires some maintenance, but if you’re like me, and you were just completely over braids, weaves, hot combs, or perms, this may be the style for you.  Doesn’t look half bad on me right?