What are Dreadlocks?
Dreadlocks in their various forums are made from matted hair. That is all there is to it, hair that has knotted up so much that it has matted itself into tube-like ropes. Matted ropes of hair have been grown for a variety of different reasons by many different cultures around the world and throughout history. Given enough time all hair will matt together and so if it were not for hairbrushes everyone's hair would lock up. While matted / locked hair has been around as long as people with hair have been around, the term dreadlocks is much more recent and originates from a very unpleasant period of human history but has since become a generic term for all matted hair.
How are they formed?
If you refrain from brushing and conditioning your hair for long enough - dreadlocks will form. As the hairs rub past each other they form knots. Over time as more and more knots form, the hair will begin to become matted together. It takes a long time for this process to occur, usually 1-2 years for the hair to become fully matted and once this has happened, the dreads will take care of themselves, automatically matting the new hair as it grows from the roots. That's all there is to it. The various methods for starting dreadlocks merely control how thick the dreadlocks will be and where they will grow from, it's the time - not any products or maintenance that will cause the dreadlocks to fully form.
Are they made from real hair or extensions?
Well, as mentioned in the post above, they can definitely be made from real hair, despite the fact that many people think they are extensions. Similarly some people may have dreadlock-like extensions and other people may have dreadlock-like extensions attached to their dreadlocks!
Are they dirty? I heard you can't ever wash them...
Some people believe that you cannot wash dreadlocks, which is ridiculous. Dreadlocks are only as dirty as the people who 'wear' them. You are freely able to wash your dreadlocks as little or as often as you like. It is in fact recommended to keep them clean as it helps accelerate the 'locking' process - greasy hair doesn't lock as well as clean hair. - remember the hair is locked together from being knotty, not from being dirty!
Do you have to shave your head to get rid of them?
Nope, I've helped remove a set of dreadlocks that were 2 years old. It takes time and patience but I successfully removed them leaving a full head of hair, I'll be making an in depth post on dreadlock removal in the future.
How long do they take? can't I just go to the salon?
Yes there are many methods offered at hair salons but they only give the impression of dreadlocks sooner. It will take 1 year+ before the hair properly begins to lock up. So while the hair salon might be able to create a dreadlock-like effect it's still going to take a long while before they start to mature. See my post on Starting Dreadlocks for more information.
What's all this I hear about Dreadlock Wax?
See my 'Why Is Wax Bad' post
How do I tighten my roots and/or tips?
See my Roots and Tips post
See my Loose Hair post
Aren't dreadlocks full of lice and/or bugs?
I don't know who came up with this one but it's probably one of the most ridiculous misconceptions I've head about dreadlocks. Unless you are bound by some pre-written religious rules - dreadlocks are a choice. No one forces people to get dreadlocks, people take on dreadlocks for a different reason and because they want them. Do you seriously think that anyone would put up with a head full of bugs and lice just so they could have dreadlocks? no. If dreadlocks had things living inside of them I'd have never started them and you can be damn sure I'd not keep them. The people who spread this rumour have obviously never actually touched any real dreadlocks, because they'd pretty soon realise that they aren't hollow or honeycomb - they are fairly solid. You're going to struggle to fit anything in there anyhow.
Can I swim with dreadlocks?
See my activities post
Will dreadlocks inhibit me from any activites?
See the activities post
Can I shower without washing my hair?
Yuuup! read my showering without washing dreads post.