Did Vikings Have Dreadlocks

Did Vikings have dreadlocks: What did Viking dreadlocks look like and why were they special?

Dreadlocks, or dreads, is a hairstyle that’s been around since early civilization. These rope-like strands, created by locking or braiding hair, were worn for practical, spiritual and aesthetic reasons. But did Vikings have dreadlocks? Read on for more about the history, significance and meaning of Norse dreadlocks.

Dreadlocks, also known as dreads or locs, is a hairstyle that’s been around for ages. Many people associate dreadlocks with Afro culture, which is why some consider it cultural appropriation if people from other races wear them.

However, dreadlocks can be traced to countless civilizations and distinct people.

These rope-like strands of hair, created by braiding or locking hair, were worn by people of distinct origins around the world, including the Vikings. Both Norse men and women had unique ways of growing their hair and styling them into dreadlocks.

They didn’t just wear them to make a fashion statement but for several other reasons.

In this article, we will do a deep dive into the significance, history, methods and meaning of Viking dreadlocks. You’ll have all the information you need to answer the question: did Vikings have dreadlocks?

Did Vikings have dreads?

Vikings are traditionally known for their superior sailing and fighting skills, but they were also attentive to their grooming. Archeologists have found artifacts like combs in Viking gravesites that point to their keenness in looking after themselves.

They didn’t leave a lot of written records that tell us details about their life, but there are documented accounts from foreign people who have interacted with them that describe Vikings as having long hair that looked like ropes.

For instance, Romans have written about the appearance of Vikings, describing their long flowing hair as “hair like snakes.” This resembles contemporary depictions of Norse heroes such as Thor, played by actor Chris Hemsworth.

The Viking TV show also had characters like Lagertha, who wore a hybrid of dreadlocks and braids.

There are depictions of Norse women wearing their hair in small braids around their heads, laced with long flowing flocks, a typical female Viking dreadlocks style. Viking men were seen with a more masculine style of a shaved undercut and dreadlocks at the back.

Based on this evidence, there’s a good chance that Vikings wore dreadlocks.

Did Vikings Have Dreadlocks

What did Viking dreadlocks look like?

The Vikings wore their dreadlocks in a variety of styles. While it may not have looked as put together as the dreads that people wear today, they kept it looking neat. They likely used combs to do this, which were later found by archeologists in Viking burial sites.

A popular male Viking dreadlocks style was a shaved head with a long plait of dreads that ran from the top of their head down to the back.

The other way they wore it was by creating a dreadlock man bun with shaved sides, a loose ponytail of dreads or cornrows on all parts of the head.

The married Viking women wore their braids knotted at the top of their heads to signify their status as a wife. Unmarried girls tended to wear long dreadlocks and braids, which they decorated with a circle of flowers on special occasions.

Besides Norse dreadlocks, there were plenty of unisex styles that enhanced the appearance of both men and women, such as Viking mohawk dreads, an undercut with dreads, braids, reverse mullets, ponytails, buns, crisscross dreadlocks.

Did the Vikings invent dreadlocks?

Dreadlocks were not invented by the Vikings. Locs have been mentioned and depicted in the records of countless civilizations from different places around the world.

Many of these people from those eras did not have the hair grooming tools and products we have today and most likely had matted hair, which looked thick, untidy and unkempt.

These are some of the ancient cultures that mention or showcase dreadlocks:

Ancient Greece: Earliest depictions of dreadlocks were seen in frescoes in Crete and in Thera (modern-day Santorini) in 3600 BC.

Ancient India: The Vedas, the scriptures of Hinduism that date back to 1500 BC, describe the Hindu God Shiva as wearing “jata,” which means dreadlocks in Sanskrit.

Ancient Egypt: Several artifacts show Egyptians with braided hair and wigs. There are also intact mummies with their dreadlocks still intact.

During the Bronze and Iron Ages, many civilizations in the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, the Near East and the Caucasus have been shown to wear locs.

Numerous native populations around Africa, New Guinea and the Aboriginal communities have been wearing dreads for centuries.

Locs may have been around for a long time, but the Vikings made Norse dreadlocks their own by adding their own special touch and by associating it with meaningful symbols that were significant to their culture.

Why did people wear dreadlocks in ancient times?

The majority of ancient people wore dreadlocks for religious purposes. After taking vows, they committed to not touching or brushing their hair. As their hair grew, it became tangled and formed knots. Over time, the tangled hair became matted.

Both Western and Eastern traditions believed the mental, bodily and spiritual energies exit the body via the top of the head and if the hair was knotted, the energy would remain in the head and body, keeping the wearer prosperous and healthy.

Dreads also became associated with Shamanism and symbolized a connection to the divine.

Besides being a symbol of religious and spiritual convictions, it also became an expression of ethnic pride and social standing. It was a symbol of integrity and strength in chief and warriors.

The ancient people may simply have worn dreadlocks as a fashion preference. Men and women wore different hairstyles to express their masculinity or femininity in their communities.

Vikings wore dreads for some of these reasons but also had reasons specific to their traditions.

Did Vikings Have Dreadlocks

Vikings and dreadlocks: Were dreadlocks important to Vikings?

Norse dreadlocks played a significant role in the Viking grooming rituals for several reasons. Both men and women took great pride in the lavish dread hairdos not only because they enhanced their appearance but because of their meaning.

Here are a couple of theories behind why dreadlocks were important to Vikings:

1. It indicated their social status

Vikings wore dreads to show their position in their clans. Human slave trade was practiced during the Viking era, so hairstyles were used to differentiate between enslaved people and the general population.

Enslaved people were made to wear their hair cropped short to show their loyalty and subjection to their owners.

Those of higher status have long, lush locs often accessorized with ornate caps and brightly colored ribbons.

2. It showed marital status 

Vikings women wore their female Viking dreadlocks differently before and after marriage. Unmarried women wore their hair loose in dreads or braids.

Married women tucked their long hair in a high bun on top of their heads.

3. It was a practical hairstyle 

Dreadlocks were seen as both fashionable and functional by the Vikings. The men who spent much of their time in battle and traveling needed to keep their long hair from getting in the way during their raids.

Once the dreads were made, they did not require much maintenance.

4. It intimidated adversaries

Norse men believed that male Viking dreadlocks gave them a more fierce appearance that could intimidate foreign people. Their imposing looks reminded opponents of the mythical snake-haired creatures like Medusa, who was feared by many.

Ancient Romans alluded to this when they described the Viking dreads as “snake-like.”

What are Viking dreadlocks called?

Historians believe the word dreadlocks was first used when the British army fought Kenyan warriors during the 19th-century colonial battles. They noticed the locs on the warriors and called them “dreadful,” thus creating the term dreadlocks.

The term was coined centuries after the Vikings wore dreads, indicating that there was a different word used for Norse dreadlocks.

So, what did Vikings call dreadlocks?

According to experts, they may have called them “elflocks,” which they borrowed from their neighbors, the Celts.

No written records prove that Vikings called dreads elflocks, but because of the close proximity between the two cultures, there’s a good chance that they did.

What’s the difference between Viking dreadlocks and Celtic elflocks?

The Celts were a collection of Indo-European tribes who originated from central Europe. As a group, they share cultural and linguistic similarities. The Celts were neighbors of the Viking people who lived in Scandinavia, the Northern region of Europe.

As geographical neighbors, both peoples likely had an influence on each other. The Celts had a rich ancient culture consisting of arts, songs and storytelling, making it easy to pass information down from one generation to the next and to other groups exposed to them.

The Celts’ version of dreads was called “fairy locks” or “elflocks.” According to Celtic folklore, elves and faerie liked to knot the hairs of sleeping children while they were playing at night.

When children used to wake up with tangled hair, mothers would tell them about the tale. It was considered bad luck to try and brush out the elflocks.

While there is no clear evidence that Norse dreadlocks were influenced by Celtic elflocks, they appear to look similar and seem to have been used for similar purposes.

Did Vikings Have Dreadlocks

Viking locs vs. dreads: What’s the difference?

Although both locs and dreads don’t look very different to the untrained eye, as both are made by braiding hair, they are quite different. The most crucial difference is the way that they are structured.

Creating dreads is a long process as they take time to form. People can spend days, if not weeks, to get them. Locs, on the other hand, can be patterned easily and quickly within less than an hour, depending on the hair length.

Dreadlocks last much longer and are more difficult to remove than braids. Braided locs can easily be undone, and your hair can return to its natural structure soon after.

While dreadlocks and braids look similar because locks of hair are bunched together, the patterns are different. Braided locs have a specific zig-zag shape that’s created by weaving hair strands.

Lastly, the maintenance of both hairstyles differs. Dreads are easier to maintain and offer a complete and permanent look compared to braided hair.

This may be why the Vikings preferred dreadlocks. They required less upkeep which made it a convenient choice for them.

How to create Viking dreadlocks

If you’re interested in trying Norse dreadlocks, these four steps will help:

1. Keep hair texture in mind

This will determine the dread style that best suits you and how long it will take you to create it. In general, softer hair can take longer than a year, and coarse hair can lock in within a few months.

2. Get the tangle on

Coil like and curly hair tends to naturally tangle and twirl around other hair strands, a key component of the Viking dreadlock hairstyle.

If you have naturally curly hair, you can choose to not comb it for a while, and your hair locks on its own without any effort.

3. Use locking tools 

To morph longer locks, you’ll need to create a coil pattern. The locking method is different for long hair, which is easier to grab and shape.

Use clarifying shampoo to remove any build-up or oil from your hair strands. Avoid creamy and thick conditioners as this can cause build-up.

4. Take shortcuts if you need to 

Starter locs take time to transform as they mat and develop into mature dreadlocks. If you’re short on time, you can use hair weaves or extensions to create a natural-looking Viking dreadlock.

Did Vikings have dreadlocks?

We may never know for sure, but plenty of evidence suggests that both Viking men and women sported this popular ancient hairstyle.

Norse dreadlocks were practical and enhanced their fierce, rugged, and bold look, making them a force to be reckoned with.

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