2 WKU students find self-acceptance through hair growth

Nashville junior Deconious Greene, 24, became interested in locing his hair in 2009. He plans on cutting his hair after he graduates college. “I like evenness, the start of my freshman year of high school is when I started my dreads and I will cut them after I graduate college to dignify the long process it has taken to come this far in my succession.” Significance of dreads represents a tree. The roots of the tree that supports the tree, it’s the roots. They grow and I’m the tree of myself and I’m getting stronger as my hair grows and as my journey continues. I am encountering all these good things and bad things and all that is coming to me with all that is my hair.” “I’ve been discriminated in corporate companies. if you have the same length of hair as someone of another race, you are less likely to get that job because your hair is natural even if it is kept and I feel like that is unfair,” Greene said. 

Danielle Chavis

Seniors DeConious “DeCon” Greene and Caleb Smith are committed to the lifestyle of locking. Hair locking, commonly referred to as dreadlocks, is a method of interweaving hair follicles over themselves until the strands grow together, forming the dreadlock. 

Viewpoints surrounding dreadlocks and the appropriation of the hairstyle in school and the workplace have been the focus of some recent debate.

In 2016, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals legally ruled in favor of allowing businesses to refuse hiring potential employees because of their dreadlocks. In other cases, dreadlocks and natural hairstyles, such as cornrows, have been addressed in the school system.  Butler Traditional High School in Louisville gained national attention in 2016 when a now-suspended school policy banned students from wearing cornrows, twists and dreadlocks.

 Despite these events, Greene said his dreadlocks are more than just a hair style.

“My locs, to me, mean patience,” Greene said. 

Greene said this patience he has developed is beneficial to his self-esteem. In his six-year dreadlock journey, Greene said his perception of self has transformed. 

“I’ve been learning to develop my own self-patience and learn who I am along the way,” Greene said. 

In the first stage of locking, dreadlock specialists, or “locticians,” suggest to shave the scalp and begin new. 

“You deal with a lot of insecurities when starting over and looking completely different,” Greene said. 

 Both Greene and Smith said the beginning stage of growing dreadlocks is awkward but necessary for the process.  

 “Dreadlocks really are a journey,” Smith said. “When I first started to grow them, I didn’t think of them like that. Going through the short stages, when you have the itty-bitty small dreads is funny because it’s so ugly and you really don’t want them.”

“Like DeCon said,  ‘It kind of kills your self-esteem a little bit,’ but after a while you don’t even notice them anymore and they just get longer and longer,” Smith said. 

Greene and Smith said that the journey of growing dreadlocks is largely a spiritual experience. 

“It promotes my strength definitely because my hair is strong and my hair is durable,” Greene said. “Because of that, it represents me in a way of how I’ve been able to endure a lot of things in life. My hair has been enduring a lot of those things with me and it still manages to hang on just as I have.”

“Dreadlocks make you go back and think of memories where your hair was different lengths and what you were going through,” Smith said. “It helps you connect back with the time.”

Greene said that the dreadlock is uniquely associated to the individual who wears them.

“It’s hard to identify the person with the dreads,” Greene said. “You have to try to make a good judgment off of them. You don’t have to put it into a stereotypical type of view. We’re not meant to be seen like that. We’re meant to be seen like normal people who want to grow their hair out like everyone else.”

Reporter Danielle Chavis can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected]