Wearing Dreadlocks, Third World, Bob Marley, its history, more than a fashion statement!


My home fills with sweet, thought-provoking, inspiring Reggae music, while performance videos of “dread” locked former and current Third World band members; Stephen Coore, Richard Daley, William Alexander Clarke, Irvin Jarrett,  and Michael Cooper light up my screen.  

Watching the Facebook-hosted, anniversary show on Sunday August 16, 2020, my heart swells with gratitude for the life I had in Jamaica and my exposure to a long list of talented people in the music industry, many of whom wore dreadlocks.

They wore them with great pride, despite in some cases protests by family, friends and powerful members of the Jamaican establishment.

That Third World anniversary show, which I think is a must see; is the inspiration for this blog post which is about dreadlocks, a way of styling hair that is often most associated with the legendary, late, great Reggae icon, Bob Marley.

While it's a fashion statement for many, its roots are embedded in a colorful global history that includes, religion, spirituality, war, maintaining health and yes; fashion and style.


Bob Marley by Adrian Boot

These days, dreadlocks are being worn by a growing number of sports and entertainment celebrities.  They are  also becoming more common and visible in other fields, from law to medicine, even politics.

Today you literally cannot find a football, basketball or baseball team where players are not wearing dreadlocks.  American football players Ricky Williams and Al Harris apparently first showed off theirs in the 1990s. A decade later some 180 National Football League players followed in their cleat wearing footsteps.

Apart from the style’s adoption by a long list of Reggae stars, according to the website The History of Dreadlocks:

“You have people like Mike Borden, drummer for killer awesome rawk band Faith No More, with phat knotty dreads all the way down to his drum stool.”

The site also lists rock and fusion bands like Korn, Bad Brains, Incubus Finger Eleven, POD and several others that have chosen to include members who love their “natty dreads”.

But arguably the figure who gave birth to the modern-day adoption of this hair style, as mentioned, is Bob Marley who wore his hair in “dreads” not as a fashion statement, but as a religious one.

Bob Marley by Quadraro

Bob was a devout Rastafarian. Rastafari is a religion that surfaced in Jamaica during the Marcus Garvey back to Africa movement. It makes references to the Christian bible’s old testament, the Ethiopian King Haile Selassie’s relationship by lineage to King Solomon and the Nazarite practice of not cutting one’s hair.

Rastafarians follow the Nazarite practice of growing locks as part of a sacred “vow, or covenant of purity they… enter into with God.”

In India, Hindu Vedic scriptures provide one of the earliest depictions of locks; which are still worn today by the Sadhus.  These holy men wear their locks, called Jaata, bundled on top of their heads, only letting them flow freely during rituals and on special occasions.

Sadu Kathmandu Pashupatinath 2006 Luca Galuzzi


In Senegal, the Baye Fall, who follow the Islamic, Sufi movement called the Mouride (founded in 1887) are famous for wearing colorful gowns and dread locks.

Wearing dreadlocks is also a tradition adopted by warriors. Maasai warriors have been photographed for decades by curious photographers fascinated with their dread locks.   Often colored with red ochre and or the roots of certain plants, Maasai warriors wear their dreadlocks thin and long.

Maasai in East Africa by Helga76

In addition, the Fulani, Wolof and Serer warriors from Mauritania, as well as the Mandinka in Mali for centuries wore cornrows when young, and locks when old.

Dating back some 3000 years to Greece, one of Europe's earliest civilizations; again, historical artifacts show soldiers gearing up for war wearing dreadlocks, the most famous being the dreaded Spartans.

Statues of Kleobis and Bito - Karmakolle - File:Delfimuseum 05

Over half of surviving Ancient Greek kouroi sculptures (from c. 615–485 BC) are found wearing dreadlocks

While Hollywood costume designers, hair and make-up artists often revel in dressing soldiers for battle scenes, some of the most coveted assignments have been portraying infamous Queens. One that excites many is Cleopatra of Egypt who wore  a variety of wigs made of coiffed dreadlocks.

While dreadlocks were definitely a fashion statement in ancient Egypt, perfumed locks made into wigs were used to prevent hair-lice and other nasty parasitic infestations.

Undeniably, Bob Marley, several members of Third World and many other celebrities have worn and popularized the wearing of dread locks across the world.

While Bob Marley sadly is no longer with us along with Irvin “Carrot” Jarrett and “Bunny Rugs” William Clarke from Third World, thankfully, we can still enjoy their music and see them perform proudly wearing dreadlocks, despite much early push back and criticism.  

Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, Epiphany and Red Bones, the Blues Café founder and owner Evan Williams; Third World co- founders Stephen “Cat” Coore and  Michael “Ibo” Cooper,  Reggae Sunsplash’s co-founder Don Green; and so many more music industry heavies who showed up and gave interviews for Third World’s live Facebook anniversary show on August 16th 2020; know that better than most.

The show is worth seeing dread locks and much more!

Here’s the link:


Stay safe, stay healthy…





Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published