Justin Bieber has stirred up controversy after sharing photos on social media of his new blonde dreadlocks.
Bieber shared the above image to Instagram on Sunday and Twitter users voiced their opinions on his new style – and the cultural appropriation that some say goes with it.
Karen Wallington is a licensed hairstylist who has been dreading hair for the past 18 years in Toronto. She opened her first salon in 2001 and then founded Knot Just Dreads (which has since been renamed Modlocks) in 2004, a private studio that specializes in dreadlocks.
Wallington also collaborated with Knotty Boy, a company that makes natural dreadlock care products, and wrote the Knotty Boy Dreadlock Manual that was used for the Knotty Boy Loctician Training and Education.
She has dreadlock clients from all over Canada, the U.S. and abroad and says soon she’ll be offering regular workshops to teach people how to make, maintain and repair dreadlocks professionally.
“For me, dreadlocks represent personal expression, independence, creativity and open mindedness,” she says.
Wallington says she thinks anyone can sport a hairstyle for any reason.
“People are so hung up on what’s offensive that we’re forgetting the bigger picture: we’re all human beings who share the same planet. Some people choose to grow locks to support their spiritual, cultural or religious intentions but nobody owns the exclusive rights to a hairstyle,” she says.
Wallinton says she thinks Bieber’s involvement in the hip-hop community may have influenced him to sport the new style.
“Justin Bieber grew up around older black artists who inspired him and influenced him,” she says.
“His reasons for getting dreadlocks are entirely his own and I really don’t think anyone can argue that.”
Dallas Blackstone, a student at the University of Toronto, says he originally got his dreads because he wanted a way to control his long hair and a few friends suggested he try dreading it.
Blackstone began with two dreads given to him by a couple of friends and continued this way.
Blackstone now has a full head of dreads and says every one is important to him in some way.
“Each dread has a story. I’ve got beads in my dreads and rings in my dreads and I think of the people who gave them to me. I know who gave me each dread and when,” he says.
Blackstone says he has never been called out for cultural appropriation.
“Most people just see it as a hairstyle,” he says.
“But I know some people have been denied jobs, felt forced to cut their dreads or straighten their hair and that’s cultural assimilation,” he says.
Blackstone says he thinks Bieber’s new dreadlocks are less about cultural beliefs and more about business.
“He’s marketing himself. Its hard to say what’s fair game and what’s cultural appropriation,” he says.
“I don’t know what Bieber’s intent is. Whether it’s blatant marketing ploy or if it’s just because he likes dreadlock style but Bieber is a business,” he said.