To be fair, brotherlocks are a type of dreadlock. In fact, any form of hair that is knotted, woven (but not braided) or otherwise matted to form a lock can be referred to as a dreadlock. However, there are many techniques used to create dreadlocks, a term that generally refers to the traditional, palm-rolled hairstyle typically associated with the Rastafarian movement but more widely embraced as a natural African American or hippie style.
Brotherlocks is the male version of the sisterlocks technique developed and trademarked by Dr. JoAnne Cornwell. The sisterlocks technique was developed for women and uses natural hair texture to encourage the hair to create thin, flexible locks similar in size and texture to microbraids. Brotherlocks use the same technique but larger sections of hair to create a more masculine and substantial lock. But, even though brotherlocks are larger than sisterlocks, they are still significantly smaller than a traditional dreadlock.
The Difference in Technique
Brotherlocks use 400 to 500 individually locked strands of hair using a patented locking tool. An initial installation must be done by a sisterlocks/brotherlocks consultant and can take 10 to 20 hours depending on the length of hair and the total number of individual locks required.
Dreadlocks can use as few as 10 extremely large dreads but can easily use 100 or more, depending on the patients of the wearer. An assistant or loctician is helpful for the initial installation but not necessary. Initial locks are often palm-rolled to create knots and mats. Additional techniques such as crocheting and waxing help to build and maintain the shape of the dreadlocks. Creating dreadlocks requires little or no experience.
Dreadlocks are often perceived as the result of unwashed hair. In fact, neglected and unwashed dreadlocks will frizz, break, mold and even rot. Both dreadlocks and brotherlocks require careful maintenance to keep the locks tight and clean. However, the brotherlocks technique is designed to avoid the use of waxes, gels and other locking products that give dreadlocks a dull, heavy appearance. The health of your hair depends greatly on your ability to massage and clean your scalp. Because of the precision and minute size of the sectioning used to create brotherlocks, it is easier to wash and moisturize your scalp, preventing dandruff and infection.
Because dreadlocks are so much larger and heavier than brotherlocks, they have extremely limited styling options, namely up or down. Brotherlocks, on the other hand, resemble thick strands of hair and have a greater flexibility when styling. This freedom is more apparent with sisterlocks, since women tend to curl and braid their hair more often. Brotherlocks do have the advantage of working as a short spiky style, where the shear weight of dreadlocks only allows for a limp look. In addition, dreadlocks work best when the wearer has at least chin-length hair, while brotherlocks will work with shorter lengths depending on the hair’s texture and the experience of the consultant. Both styles can be worn by professionals if well maintained, though the thin, nontraditional appearance of brotherlocks may give a less radical first impression.
Monetarily, brotherlocks require the greater commitment. You must pay for the initial installation and retightening. Then, you either pay to retighten every four to six weeks by a brotherlocks consultant or pay to be trained in the technique in order to maintain the locks yourself. Both brotherlocks and dreadlocks are removable, though both require a tedious process of carefully unlocking the hair. Neither style is recommended as a temporary hairstyle but rather a lifestyle choice.
Transplanted Yankee Erin Watson-Price lives in Birmingham, Ala., and has been writing freelance articles since 1997. She worked as writer/co-editor for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue's newsletter, "The Long and the Short of It." In 2007 she obtained a certification as a copy editor. Watson-Price holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.