dread locs began in Jamaica amongst a very socially aware and conscious people who shared the same spiritual views (Rastafari). These people lived on the outskirts of society, partly because they were outcast, partly because they didn't believe in the corrupt and unfair ways of society in general. Locs were a statement of separatism, especially for Black people. Because for Black people to function and live in mainstream society and to be accepted by their white counterparts, it was...and is, required that the men cut their hair short and women perm their hair straight. Basically, it has never been acceptable for Black people to reveal anything of their culture, and in essence, who they are. Locs, in part, was a statement of non conformity, a way to give the white man, his laws, and his acceptance the finger. Now there is more to locs that this because there is a spirituality connected to them, and for many it is not necessarily to be rasta. However, it began in Jamaica, by Rastas, who also believe in living simply, naturally, and are vegetarians. Also ways of living and believing that do not coexist with mainstream society. Now, today, locs are different things to different people. They are not so taboo as they once were, and you may even find people with locs working as professionals at major corporations.
I think that today, for many black people who have locs, women in particular, are just coming to terms with accepting themselves for who they are and are finally embracing their beauty. I say such a thing because for generations black women have been mentally oppressed in to thinking that they are not beautiful and made to feel inferior compared to white women
"There is nothing dreadful
except to those who despise them."
History of the term "Dreads" by Melissa
As far as the history of the origin of the term "dreads", its really a short story but I'm sure could be fuller with the right research. I've heard this story told by mouth and read it on a couple of sites in passing so I'm passing it along to you:
Basically when the Europeans saw the matted hair of those who wore that style that claimed that they "dreaded" the sight of the hair. They were called the "dreaded" locks b/c they "dreaded" seeing them. The slaves adopted the term and then came the term dreadlocks. I was looking back to try to give you an exact site and came across another that said the Rastafarian's coined the term for themselves b/c they wanted people to dread them because of their warrior skills.