Sometimes it feels as though there aren’t many hair styling options for men. Typically, men opt to cut their hair short, which doesn’t always leave room for versatility. However, there are plenty of men who are forgoing tradition and exploring longer hair styles. Locs are one of the most popular hairstyles for men of color with longer hair. Once you know about men's locs, you’re going to want them.
Despite having been around for centuries, there is still a bit of mystery around forming and caring for locs. Erik Taylor and Carmen Serna, Baxter of California barbers and brand ambassadors, are here to put an end to that by teaching you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about locs, how they’re created, how to care for them, and whether you really have to wear them forever.
What are locs?
Locs are a hairstyle in which hair is twisted and matted together to create rope-like strands. While locs weren’t introduced to mainstream American culture until the 1970s, they have been around for centuries.
Dr. Bert Ashe, professor of English and American studies at the University of Richmond, chronicles the history of the style in his book. He writes that the first evidence of locs dates back to 2500 B.C. Hinduism’s oldest scriptures depict the Hindu god Shiva wearing locs.
In the past, locs were commonly referred to as dreadlocks. Today, many loc wearers prefer to drop “dread” from the name given the word’s negative connotation.
Shaping A Loc
There are several different ways to form locs. The most common is a twisting method. For this one, the stylist twists and mats the hair together to create string-like strands. Other stylists prefer to use a crochet method in which they use a hair crochet needle to knit the strands, forming locs. Alternatively, some people opt to let their hair loc up on its own, creating a style called freeform locs.
If you’re thinking about heading to the salon for locs, Taylor says the first thing you need to do is make sure your hair is 1 to 2 inches in length. If your hair is too short, it’ll be more difficult for your stylist to form your locs and the loc’ing process will ultimately take longer.
Need help deciding whether you want your locs to be thin or thick? Your stylist will help you figure out which style is best for your face shape and lifestyle.
The beauty of locs is that you can style them however you like! According to Taylor, cornrowed locs are increasingly popular with men. As long as your locs are longer than an inch, you have enough length for your stylist to braid.
Caring For Locs
One of the major benefits of locs is that they’re fairly easy to maintain. All you need is shampoo and a blow dryer. Serna suggests picking up a shampoo specifically formulated for locs and washing your hair once a week. While we’re sure you’ve been washing your own hair for years and have the basic technique down pat, there is specific technique you should follow when washing your locs.
Begin by separating your hair into three to four manageable sections and work with one section at a time, applying shampoo from root to end. Take your time massaging the shampoo into your hair, allowing the product to penetrate your locs. When it is time to rinse your hair, resist the urge to wring the water out of your locs. Begin at the roots of each section, squeezing to release the water from your locs. Repeat the technique, slowly moving down the section until you reach your ends. After washing and squeezing the water out of your hair, Serna says it is of the utmost importance that you dry your hair thoroughly with a blow dryer.
We recommend applying a heat protectant to your locs before drying.
According to Serna, there is one hair care staple you probably have in your bathroom that you can consider skipping: conditioner. Serna advises against conditioning locs because conditioners typically aid in the detangling of hair, which is the opposite of what you want to happen to your locs. However, many loc wearers condition their hair with no issue. Do what works best for your locs and follow the advice of your own stylists.
While your at-home care routine will be relatively low maintenance, prepare to become a regular at your salon if you like to keep your locs looking neat. Serna recommends coming to the salon once a month to get your locs touched up.
Locs And Hair Loss
If you’re committed to caring for your locs, there should be no reason why your hair can’t look and feel healthy as ever. That being said, there are some long terms risks associated with loc’ing your hair.
Because there is a significant amount of twisting and pulling needed to form and maintain locs, people who wear locs long term can suffer from traction alopecia. Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss primarily caused by pulling the hair into tight styles such as braids, ponytails, and locs. Unfortunately, once your scalp has started to scar there is no way to reverse the damage.
Over time, people with locs may begin to notice their scalp becoming more visible and hairline receding. If you want to reduce your chances of seeing hair loss, Taylor recommends keeping your locs short because the weight of the style can exacerbate the problem.
Getting Rid Of Locs
Men often think of locs as a lifetime commitment, but they don’t have to be. When you’re ready to part with your locs, you have two options. The easiest (and most common) option is to cut off your locs. Depending on how long you’ve had them and whether or not you’ve dealt with traction alopecia, your hair should bounce back to its former pre-loc glory. Your stylist is best equipped to help you come up with a plan to rejuvenate your hair.
If you’d rather not get rid of all of your hair, it is sometimes possible to comb out your locs. The process can take up to several days to complete, depending on the length, thickness, and age of your locs. If you decide to take this route, be prepared to see a lot of shedding. Many of the strands of hair that make up your locs are no longer attached to your scalp and only remained a part of your mane because your strands have been twisted and matted together. While the shedding is likely to be intense, don’t panic. As long as you haven’t dealt with traction alopecia, you should have no problem growing your mane back.
Now that you’re equipped with everything you need to know about locs, nothing is stopping you from wearing one of this year’s hottest hairstyles.