• Tiye Naeemah Cort

You Think Locs are "Messy"?

When I first started my locs, I remember my grandmother constantly asking me "Baby, what are you gonna do with that hair?" She was an older Southern woman, and locs, especially at the beginning stages, looked "messy" and "unkempt" to her. She grew up in a time when black hair needed to look a certain way to be considered presentable. As long as it was "controlled" by a relaxer, parted into puffs, or braided up neatly, it was acceptable. I had already done all of that with my hair, but when I showed up with tiny coils that got a bit fuzzy after a few days, we had a problem. Shortly before she died last summer, one of the last times I saw her laugh was when I walked into the room and she said "Just shake it."- my hair. My roots were fuzzy- no, nappy- but my hair hung a little past my shoulders, so I shook my hair and did a little dance. She laughed and said "She's so beautiful, isn't she?"

The other day, an older black woman told me that she doesn't usually like dreadlocks, but she liked mine "because they're neat". This was a couple of days after I sat for four hours retwisting my roots. That day, I appreciated the backhanded compliment, but today my roots look like this, and I wonder if she would consider them to be "messy". Hair is hair is hair, y'all. I'm retwisting tonight because I want the added length, but newly grown healthy roots left to grow free are not "messy" if they're clean and healthy. Mine happen to be thick and coiled so tightly that my hair stays out of my face because my roots hold my parts in place. 

And to think, people have actually lost court cases regarding how loc'd hair looks in the workplace. Let's not confuse naturally curly, tightly coiled, or otherwise nappy hair with "messy" when the wearer has simply made a choice not to control how their hair grows out of their head and can still style it to meet pointless standards if necessary. Now, we can inspect some people's tracks or take a peek under a couple of wigs if you want to see messy. We can ask some people how long they plan on relying on dry shampoo instead of actually washing their hair if we want to see messy. We can even ask some people what the heck they put in their hair to get the LOOK of natural locs to find out what messy is (candle wax? Really?) We can peruse Instagram and see videos of people with infestations of all types of tiny creatures in their hair to see messy.

I'm thankful that my hair has never stood in the way of my employment. In fact, I'll add gold to mine, I'll braid it overnight so that it is huge and curly the next morning, I'll make sure to moisturize with coconut oil so that I leave a scent path of my Guyanese roots wherever I go. I'll add a little blonde to some of my front locs for added dimension when the light hits it, and I'll wrap it in cloth wraps, not to make a statement, but because I feel like it. I'll retwist my roots when I have extra time on my hands, a couple of TV shows to binge watch, and when I decide that my edges can handle it. Until then, my hair is not messy. It's mine.


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