A note to Employers - Dreadlocks in the Workplace - Dreadlocks FAQ's

Dear Employer,

My name is Jonny Clean and I'm writing this letter on behalf of your employee, who would like your approval to get dreadlocks. I've given him or her the information on how to start clean groomed dreadlocks. As an employer you may also stand to benefit by deciding to allow your employee to wear dreadlocks, and that is the topic of this letter.

I want to start out by saying that dreadlocks are not right in every workplace and it's not my intention to convince you otherwise. I only want to point out that in a great many workplaces there are benefits to allowing dreads and while these benefits may not always be apparent they can be significant. As someone very much in tune with dreadlocks and their current status I feel qualified to give you the facts so that you can make an educated decision.  

What should you know about dreads?

There's one big thing about dreads that throws many people off so I want to clear that up first. Dreadlocks can be divided into 3 categories. You have probably had very little, if any, interaction with two of these types of dreadlocks. The dreadlocks of the past that many remember from the 70's are those started by neglecting the hair. These are often unsanitary and can range from messy to downright scary. This is not the type of dreads this letter is about.

The other two types are natural dreadlocks and chemically assisted dreadlocks. Both of these are started purposefully, either at home or in a salon. The real difference between the two is in the products chosen to create them. Natural dreads are started without permingor processing the hair. The hair is usually combed backwards to start knots and then products can be used to create an environment that helps the knots tighten into attractive dreads. Chemically assisted dreads are permed using a perming solution before or after the initial knots are created. Both of these types of dreads are maintained regularly and the end goal is to have groomed, mature, dreadlocks. These maintained dreads are the subject of this letter. Your employee has "done his or her homework" and has began learning about how to properly start and maintain dreadlocks.

Since creating and maintaining dreadlocks is not very common, most common knowledge and rumors about dreadlocks refer to neglected dreads rather than maintained dreads.
For example you've probably heard that dreads are dirty. The truth is, dreads lock faster when they are clean. We actually provide a residue free soap because the dreads get tighter when soap residue is not present. Speaking of clean, dreads never shed, this is a benefit in any work area where stray hair is an issue. When dreads are maintained they are a sanitary and healthy hairstyle much like braids, but dreads do not need to be taken out. While braids must be redone periodically to maintain a clean look, mature dreads look great every day and never need to be redone.

Dreads can also be removed without cutting the hair. This means they can be worn for a trial period and if they are not "a fit" the previous hair style can be restored. Starting and removing dreads is not easy so we don't recommend dreads as a temporary hair style but the option to remove them is always there if it is needed.

We have an entire website dedicated to helping people start and maintain healthy, great looking dreads. Dreads are a process and we realize that while mature dreads look clean, tight and smooth, new dreads are always going to look less desirable. For this reason we recommend several types of dread specific head wear so that dreads can be out of sight until they have matured and you are comfortable with them being seen in the workplace.  Of course it is up to you whether dreads should always be kept covered or if there are benefits to having them seen.  

The Perception of Dreadlocks

After safety concerns, which can almost always be resolved by keeping dreads tied back or in a hat, the biggest factor in the workplace is often the customers perception of dreadlocks.

Public response to dreads varies based on location, ethnicity and interest. Very little can be said about the general public except that the condition of the dreads is extremely important. The better the dreads look, the more positive attention they receive.

Location. Of course dreads are less common in rural areas so they get more attention, but this attention is overwhelmingly positive, especially when the dreads are well groomed. They are a novelty and will readily start conversations. People with more exposure to dreads, like those in large cities, pay less attention to dreads in general unless the dreads look truly outstanding. Dreads are most popular in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Washington and Oregon.

Ethnicity. All ethnic backgrounds seem to hold dreads in the same regard except for African Americans. Many African Americans are familiar with maintained dreads they are very fond of them. They will readily offer compliments.

Interests. Dreads are very popular with groups of people who share certain interests. Many of these groups have little in common. Those that participate heavily in art, music and certain sports like climbing, skating, and snowboarding, are often big fans of dreads. Those that value natural and health conscious lifestyles such as vegans and vegetarians are often into dreads.

Benefits of dreadlocks in the workplace.

There are several ways you stand to gain if you decide to allow dreadlocks in your workplace. The first is a long shot, but for some businesses it's very real so I'm going to mention it. In short dreadlocks are very cool in the eyes of some people and because of their association with the interests above they are going to give your employees instant rapport with other young customers.  Most employers whom this would benefit don't need me to point it out, I'm sure you're already aware of it, but there, now it's been said.

Because the decision to get dreads is never one taken lightly I'm willing to bet that getting dreads is quite important to your employee. Now while I highly doubt they would consider leaving if you did not permit them to get dreads, I can assure you that permitting dreads would be an important benefit now and in the future, which, depending on the value of the employee, may be of considerable value to you. After all, not every employer is as open minded as yourself.

The simple fact that many employers would not take the time to read this letter, and you have, demonstrates that you are willing to give this decision some consideration. More likely than not you have made similar decisions in the past which have increased the satisfaction of your employees and you now have a happier, more productive team as a result. If that is the case , you are already aware of how this will translate into a long term benefit.  
And finally, the permission to get dreadlocks can be used as a motivational tool to reach a certain goal, a reward for good performance or a favor to be reciprocated in the future. All of these things can be of significant value.

The most reasonable argument for allowing dreadlocks is that, depending on your workplace, these benefits probably come with no downside, especially if you have a clear agreement with your employee that the dreads are permitted on a temporary basis contingent on their well groomed appearance or the presence of a hat.

If you have any questions regarding dreads I'll be happy to answer them. Thank you for reading this letter and giving thought to this decision.

Jonny Clean



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