“Yuh don’t have to dread to be Rasta. This is not a dreadlocks thing.”
This line from a song by the dread locked reggae group, Morgan Heritage could seem a bit contradictory, a tad controversial and a little confusing as to some, locks (and the ubiquitous spliff) are the trademarks of a Rastafarian.
“The locks are a living functional symbol and covenant of our devotion to The Most High, RASTAFARI. They are the roots that anchor us in the Cosmic Mind, Intelligence and Consciousness of The Most High, as well as the Antennae that connect us to the spiritual existence. In essence the “dreadlocks is the tangible testimony, extension, identity and manifestation of the Faith and Covenant between The Rastafarians and The Most High, Jah Rastafari” (Overstanding Rastafari, pg 103)
In the 1930’s, the early days of the Rastafarian Movement, and perhaps up to the mid to late eighties, this may have been the norm but as in all things nothing is static. There is evolution, modernization, imitation and inspiration. Locks and spliff aside, the mode of dress of the Rastafarian made him a standout among the masses. In the early years a strict code of ethics was adhered to and this was seen in the way a Rastafarian was attired. Due mainly to their emphasis on self reliance and the practice of “fire burning” things Babylon, clothes were homemade and handmade and were often from crocus or onion bags, sandals from indigenous materials and tams knitted. The men were usually attired in long flowing gowns while the females were quite modest in long dresses and proper head covering.
Fast forward! It is now the 21st century and one could be forgiven for not being able to differentiate a true Rasta from a “fashion rass”. Some people today who have adopted the Rastafarian way of life do not necessarily grow locks while there are those who now wear locks who do not practice the livity of Rastafari! It is not uncommon to see a Rastaman sporting the latest designer threads or a Sister showing off her sexiness in short skirts and tight jeans!
It is true though that there are still some Rastafarian communities where codes of conduct regarding dress are strictly observed. These will vary dependent on which the order this particular community follows. (That is a long story for another time!)