Agu Dawn, Abuja
Being fashionable may be fun. But it may also be sorrowful, especially when men compete with women in hairstyles.
In Nigeria, weaving, also known as cornrows, dreadlocks are popular hairstyles among Nigerian women. These are protective hairstyles made to maintain and preserve their natural hair texture.
From time immemorial, some male children are born with dreads. In some milieu, children born with the knotted hair are revered and welcomed as a gift of the gods and not a product of the wild. Their hair was not to be groomed and only their mother could touch it; as such children are believed to be descendants of the Yemoja; the goddess of the sea in Yoruba land.
However, when a grown man wears dreadlocks, it is bound to attract attention in Nigeria and it is usually not a positive one. A lot of Nigerians, regardless of their exposure, educational qualification and status, still view men on dreadlocks as dangerous. Men on dreadlocks have been perennially stereotyped as volatile and dangerous and unruly in many parts of Nigeria.
While some men in certain professions like entertainment and sports are less criticised about their choice of hairstyles, those in the corporate sector are under heavy backlash. However, to most people dreadlocks is a fashion statement.
Daily Sun gauged the feelings of the wearers and non-wearers of dreadlocks about their perception of adult males wearing them.
Dele Adekoya from Karu said: “I decided to grow dreadlocks last year. I started by keeping an Afro to let the hair grow properly before I locked it. I locked it in December and it has been good. I no longer worry about cutting my hair. I am a nail technician so no one bothers about my hairstyle.
“I chose this hairstyle because it is in vogue and everyone is doing it. I have a wife and children and I am not irresponsible. It’s just a hairstyle and I enjoy the look it gives me. The police have stopped me a few times to search me and question me, I was uncomfortable the first time it happened but now I am getting used to it.”
George Attang from Apo: “I started growing mine two years ago. I went through a life-changing experience and well I am getting better. I stopped combing my hair and it tangled and formed dreadlocks.
“I am a civil servant and a photographer. Both jobs do not pose a threat to my hairstyle. Although at the office, I have gotten a bad vibe from some elderly people but my choice of hairstyle does not affect the quality of my work.
“I don’t think I have been harassed in Abuja so far by the police. However, when I went to Benin last year, I saw the police picking up men who had dreadlocks and asking them to get into their van. It restricted my movement and if I had to go out, I had to wear a cap to avoid harassment.
“People need to be more accepting that a hairstyle does not serve as a criteria for judging a man. Ladies have dreadlocks too and I don’t think I see them getting harassed about their hair choices. The same respect should be accorded to men because only a person’s action should be used to judge them.”
Eno Micheal from Kado a banker said: “I don’t see anything wrong with men who have dreadlocks or keep their hair. Some men really look great in them. I think to keep a dreadlock men generally need to invest more in good dressing to help keep away the negative judgements they get.
“When a man keeps dreads and looks very professional in their dressing, no one will talk to him with any hint of disrespect. I think it is time we stopped judging people by their appearance. However, we should note that not everyone looks good in dreadlocks and if it doesn’t fit the individual; the person should cut it off immediately. Finally, men who can pull off dreadlocks should be aware that they need to maintain it well to avoid looking wild.”
There are several stigmatisations about people who have dreads. Some are seen as drug addicts or being involved in crimes. In Nigeria, there is a practice of double standards on dreadlocks because the women are appreciated with their hairstyle while the men are asked to cut theirs and not keep any form of hairstyle.
Sergeant Zubairu Mahmood from Games Village Police Station said police do not choose to arrest men only: “However, the men are a bit more likely to be involved with something that is not right with the law. It is not everyone that is wearing dreads that is stopped.
“If you dress well and responsible and you have dreads on, no one will bother you but when the person is dressed shabbily, the individuals can draw attention to themselves. We come across well-cultured individuals who have dreads and they are not stopped and questioned.
“The police stopping someone is usually based on individual perception. We reckon that it is a fashion statement and we are here to protect everyone not harm or hurt any individual.”
John Okogun from Gwarimpa said: “I think dreadlocks in men should not be allowed. I won’t allow any of my children to keep such a hairstyle. Men are meant to cut their hair while women plait theirs. We are Africans and should act like it.
“Even people who are born with it should cut it regularly, so we can respect them. When I see young men with hair, I take it that they have lost their way and home training as well. Men should cut their hair and look respectable at all times.”