I started my loc journey this June — and at the time, I do not think I fully understood just how much my life would change. I watched plenty of videos on locking hair. I heard all about the spiritual journey that locs take you on, and how they inspire a state of self-love and appreciation. However, having had countless bad experiences with my hair throughout my life, I foolishly doubted how much having locs would impact me positively.
My hair has changed so much throughout my life. For most of my childhood, my hair was styled in different variations of braided styles with colorful beads at the end. I loved these braids so much, but always resented how short they were compared to the long strands of white girls in my school or the popular girls in the TV shows and movies. I never wore my hair straightened, and it was too short to put in a cute ponytail or bun, so I always felt left out in my ballet classes where all the white girls had cute buns with pretty pink scrunchies. I spent most of my childhood yearning for the long, straight hair that society taught me was desirable. Whenever I went to the store with my mom, I would beg for the long headband wigs of all different colors in the toy section so I could pretend that my hair was longer and I dreamt of the day it would finally reach the middle of my back.
At 8 years old, my mom let me get my hair braided with synthetic hair. I loved those braids because the extra hair added to them made my hair longer and fuller. It was also nice not having to get my hair done every week for the few months I had these braids. When I got to middle school, I decided that I was too old for braids and hated them. I was still fixated on having hair long enough for the slick ponytails that my softball teammates wore. Their hair seemed so much easier to maintain, so much more desirable by society — they could sweat without their hair shriveling back into their scalp.
At 10 years old, when my mom let me perm my hair, I thought I was all set. This would be the start of me loving my hair. A perm meant that I wouldn’t have to deal with any shrinkage. I would no longer have to sit through long wash days where I would have to blow dry my hair and braid it for hours. I believed my hair would never shrink again. I could go swimming without a tight shower cap because washing my permed hair was much easier. My hair would remain straight and eventually grow into the long tresses I desired. However, after going to the salon every six weeks for two years, chemically manipulating my hair and experiencing seemingly endless breakage, I decided the best thing to do was start all over. I cut my hair into a short afro and went natural.
Being natural was fun for a little while, as the low-maintenance nature of the afro was a breath of fresh air. Plus, my hair was growing faster than ever. I thought this was my forever hair. Eventually, I grew sick of my hair maintenance. After years of caring for it delicately because of its natural fragility, being mistaken for a 12-year-old despite being well into my teens and braiding my hair every day to accommodate my daily softball schedule, I felt like I was out of options.
I put my hair through each damaging phase out of frustration, and maybe even some internalized self-loathing. When my mom suggested that I lock my hair, I doubted it would be the style that would actually move me to love my hair. I watched so many videos about how people who have locs enjoyed the process that guided them to this unique form of self-love. The many faces of the locking process really teach you to appreciate the magic that is Black hair. There is magic in the naps, twists and curls that society has long-conditioned us to hate. I was so scared that, once again, I would fail and hate my hair even more in its new natural state. I wanted to experience the same feelings of liberation the people in the YouTube videos described, but I was hopeless after so much trial and error.
The disdain I had towards locs and natural hair was not random. Society may hate natural Black hair, weaves and braids, but the hate for locs is extreme. A few years ago, a video circulated of a Black teenager named Andrew Johnson. It showed a referee for his wrestling match forcing Johnson to cut off his locs, threatening that otherwise he would make Johnson forfeit the match. This is not an individual circumstance; there are even laws that ban locs in some schools. Locs are commonly referred to as dreadful and unattractive through their common names of “dreads” and “dreadlocks.” I would be lying if I said that society’s perception of locs didn’t affect my view of them. Similar to how I perceived my hair my entire life, I found locs undesirable. I didn’t understand their versatility. I didn’t even understand how hair became locked. I was so ill-informed about them and am so upset that I went this long being uneducated about locs. I am even more mortified that I let the Eurocentric standards of beauty plague how I perceived Black hair in all its forms. I’m grateful that I have been given the opportunity to learn more about and appreciate locs because of their growing visibility in popular media. I am grateful for actresses and singers like Chloe x Halle and actress Zuri Adele because they show me how beautiful locs are.
I have to admit that there have been some moments within my 5-month journey where I have doubted the process. I have questioned whether or not my hair would actually ever lock, or if I would even like it as it continues to change. I sometimes reach points where I grow impatient with the progression of my hair, but all it takes is one glance at the photo album where I document my loc journey to spark that patience and appreciation again. I love my hair. I love the short wash days and the easy styling every morning. I love going out to stores, or restaurants and seeing other people with locs, sharing tips with each other and marveling at what our hair has become. The Loc Community is amazing, locs are amazing and I am happy to say that I’ve finally reached a point where I wholeheartedly and unconditionally love my hair.
MiC Columnist Maria Patton can be reached at email@example.com.