Freeform Dreadlocks 101 – The What, How, Why & Who

Freeform/Organic Locs

My first meeting with Mamayashi (left) some years ago during an interview

I will admit, I do not know that many people with freeform dreadlocks. The talented and beautiful fashion designer, Mamayashi (pictured left above) is one of the first I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with casually about life and career.  We also spoke a little about hair and religion. I had always preferred smaller locs or loose natural hair but my immersion into the natural hair world has opened me up to more acceptance of true natural beauty, of which freeform locs are an expression.

Mamayashi rastafarian organic freeform locs

Another view of Mamayashi’s freeform/organic locs

The What

Some people will refer to traditional, freeform locs as “real locs”, “organic locs”, “dreadlocks” or “Rastafarian locs” because it is commonly considered the first type of locking that originated in Masai tribes in Kenya, Africa. Minimal grooming was done to the hair. This style of locking is now done by people of all nationalities and, although usually associated with people of the Rastafarian religion, does not necessarily signify or require any religious association. Many people are adopting this type of loc’ing for wholistic reasons after adopting a “natural” or “spiritual” lifestyle. Some just like the look of locs as a style.

The How

Freeform dreadlocks are usually created by simply washing the hair and letting it clump naturally. The loc’ing process can be started at any length. To start, you just wash your hair (maybe blot it dry with a towel) and go. Hair is not groomed with a comb or brush. Some people will pull sections apart to avoid extremely large sections from matting/locking together while others seem to have natural medium sections and others have a mixture of sizes. As such, no two heads of locs look alike and your hair dictates the outcome.

Some people semi-freeform, where they will encourage the hair to clump in different sections by pulling them apart after washing while some loosely twist the hair every 6-12 months. This is particularly common with people who work in an environment that doesn’t encourage organic locs.

What to Expect

Nerissa Irving’s mother has already given you an idea of what to expect when having dreadlocks in the video above but keep reading for more things to consider before starting freeform locs.

  • Your hair, if curly, will shrink significantly. If straight, it will not look like curly haired locs and may take a very long time to show any change in appearance at all.
  • You will have a lot of frizziness. There is no way to really control this except for typing hair down with a scarf. This is just a temporary measure and the natural frizz will return.
  • You will be discouraged. Most people still consider this style to be uncouth, uncivilised and rebellious.You really need to want this style.
  • You hair may take a very long time to loc and may even unravel frequently after washing. This is all a part of the process so be prepared to lose control and let the hair do it’s thing.
  • Minimal maintenance. There are no parts to worry about. All you have to do is keep it clean.
  • Styling will be a bit more difficult, especially when it is short. You will not have a lot of versatility.
jocelyn's freeform locs

Jocelyn’s organic locs

The Why

Many people create freeform locs for spiritual or religious reasons. Others simply enjoy the style and this it is beautiful. Some simply believe that they shouldn’t have to fuss over their hair and that it should be allowed to grow freely.

The Care

Some people merely wash with a soap while others will use traditional shampoos. This is really a matter of preference. You can pop your dreadlocks to keep sections separate because depending on your hair, you could end up with 4  or 6 locs on your head. To avoid that, some people still “pop” or separate their locs at the root using their hands (no combs here). You can also oil your scalp for a healthy scalp and strong follicles.

Karryl talks about how she maintains her hair below.

The Who – Are Freeform Dreadlocks for You?

People of all ethnicities freeform loc their hair. Still, the curlier the hair, the faster it will loc. Usually it will take 3-12 months for your hair to be defined and look like locs.  You must be extremely patient as this is a long process. You must also be willing to let your hair have more control over you do regarding the outcome and look.

If you work in a very corporate environment, dreadlocks may not only be discouraged,  but prohibited. Such places can include the military, schools or banks. Check with your human resource department or employer before embarking on a freeform loc journey if your career is of importance.

To freeform, you really need to be a free spirit that does not care about people’s perceptions of your style. Freeformers are confident. So, are these types of locs for you?


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  1. Pingback: Jocelyn from Virginia Keeps it Loc’d | DIY Locs

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