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South African Thieves Stealing Locs to Meet Increased Demand for Loc Extensions

Avatar • Mar 2, 2013

via BBC News

Jack Maseko was recently mugged by three men in South Africa — they wanted nothing but his mobile phone and the dreadlocks he had spent three years patiently cultivating.

They had a knife and cut off my hair with scissors. I still feel pain when I think about that night,” the 28-year-old Zimbabwean tells the BBC.

I used to see people selling dreadlocks on the streets and didn’t know where it came from,” he adds, still battling to believe what happened to him as he was walking home late at night in Johannesburg.

Dreadlocks can take several years to grow but many people do not want to wait and it is this need for instant long hair that is pushing the demand for ready locks in the black market, according to hairstylists.

The thieves are quick and sometimes ruthless and will use anything from a knife to broken glass to steal the prized hair — known on the streets as a cut and run.

The gangs operate in Johannesburg but the practice has also spread to the coastal town of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Shoulder-length dreadlocks are sold for between 200 rand ($23; £15) and 700 rand, while longer ones cost as much as 2,000 rand.

So what happens to the stolen hair?

Stylists use a new method known here as crocheting — using a thin needle, they are able to convert relaxed and European hair into dreads by weaving additional human hair pieces into the straight hair — giving a client long-locked hair instantly.

Because this is a fairly new technique, stylists have not built up stockpiles of natural locks, competition is intense and whoever has the locks has the market.

Dreaded thieves
Most South Africans first heard of this phenomenon when the case of another Zimbabwean national Mutsa Madonko, who was attacked and had his hair shaved off outside a Johannesburg night club, made national headlines last month.

He had apparently grown his locks for 10 years.

Mr Maseko’s former stylist, Andile Khumalo, runs a make-shift salon on the pavement of a busy street in central Johannesburg.

At any given time all three of his salon chairs are occupied, a sign that business is going well, he tells me.

But word of the “hair jackers” is spreading and he is worried that this could affect his business.

Over the past six months I’ve heard of four other cases apart from what happened to Jack. This thing is getting worse and something must be done,” he says.

Mr Khumalo says he is worried that he might be the next victim.

I’m even afraid of walking through town with my locks loose especially at night. I make sure I cover my head. It is scary because you never know what they will use to cut your hair — these people are ruthless,” says Mr Khumalo.

Criminal’
The origin of dreadlocks is unknown — they have been most closely associated with Rastafarianism but many African communities have a long history of wearing them.

Some people grow dreadlocks as part of their ethnic identity, cultural or religious beliefs such as Kenya’s Maasai warriors who are instantly recognisable by their red-tinted locks.

But for many people around the world, locks are no more than a fashion statement.

South Africa hair guru and businessman Jabu Stone, affectionately known as “Mr Dreads” says this type of hair was not always popular.

In the mid-90s people would rather burn their scalps with chemicals to straighten it to confirm with the Western standard of beauty than have natural hair and that pained me,” he says passionately.

Locks were perceived [as] unkempt, dirty and only for Rastafarians. It took a lot of hard work over the years to change that perception,” says Mr Stone, who has made it his life’s work to change the stereotypes about locks.

He has been in this industry for decades and has taken his hair business to the United States and Europe. He says reports of the hair snatchers came as a shock.

It is not fair because when you grow your locks you get attached to them, you spend years investing in them and for people to just take them from you by force is unacceptable, it’s criminal,” he says angrily.

It is a criminal activity and it should come to an end.”

No police charge
Mr Stone owns salons in South Africa and abroad and says he does not buy hairpieces if he does not know their origin.

My policy is simple: If you want to sell hair to me you must produce a photograph of yourself with dreadlocks to prove that they were yours or you come into any of my salons and we cut it off ourselves,” he tells me.

He encourages other salons to be as strict — saying that would kill the demand on the black market.

Meanwhile, those who have fallen prey to the hair thieves are not hopeful that their plight will be taken seriously.

I didn’t go to the police because I didn’t think they could do anything about it. I just don’t believe the police would follow up a case about missing hair,” says a distressed Mr Maseko.

The police however are calling for people to open cases of assault.

We have only heard stories but no cases have been reported to us,” says Johannesburg police spokesman Captain Lungelo Dlamini.

The police say that victims would be assisted in opening a case of assault, but add that there is no suitable charge for the theft of hair.

Other police officials said they believed people were reluctant to come forward out of embarrassment.

Embarrassing or not, many people are fearful of the now notorious hair thieves. For Mr Maseko, just the thought of having locks again is traumatic.

I’m afraid to have dreadlocks, I’m afraid that they are going to cut them again. My friends have warned me not grow them, next time they might kill me,” he says.

Crazy! Hope this trend doesn’t carry over to other countries! Ladies, what do you think?

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Le
Le
7 years ago

thats insane!

MissJo
7 years ago

I’ve heard of similar stories in South America of women being held at knife- and gun-point for their hair. The only silver lining is the fact that the demand for the hair stems from a growing appreciation for locs. It’s sad to see that people would go to these lengths to get their hands on them though.

Nomski
7 years ago

Hahahahahaha oh dear god, what people wouldn’t do for vanity and hair. I can imagine them selling this to the same people who put bull sperm on their head lol

Stace
Stace
7 years ago

This is madness. Its interesting though, and people should question where human hair comes from. Before Good Hair I had no idea that indian human hair came from the practice of sacrificing hair for religious reasons. At least that method is voluntary. This is barbaric.
All of this stemming for a desire to have instant long hair. I wonder if the people who are getting the dread extensions worry that they might be robbed for that hair as well.

Vânia
7 years ago

Here in Brazil, is happening theft cases smooth hair.
That is sad and depressing, see to what degree humans is coming …

kay
kay
7 years ago

wow…I guess they haven’t learned the technique that you don’t have to use human hair for loc extensions…smh

Cece Danielle
Cece Danielle
7 years ago

OMG. So sad. Now I’m worried about my hair…hopefully this doesnt travel and people start cutting natural hair!

Val
Val
7 years ago

Wow has it really come to this? Its just hair

Alexandrea J. (@Ajwilson412)

This is terrifying and makes me sad. My brother has dreadlocks and when I think of someone attacking him for his hair, I can’t fathom it. I know how much hard work dreadlocks take and how many YEARS are spent devoted to locking.

What I hope happens from this is that in people knowing more about how the hair is being acquired that people will boycott getting hair from others so they don’t continue the need for this. Man, I wish that the laws were changed as well so people could be safer.…

zigzag
zigzag
7 years ago

Another reason why you shouldn’t by real hair.

MichelleF
MichelleF
7 years ago

disgraceful

Sue
Sue
7 years ago

The violent manner with which this hair is obtained is most worrying. The victims must be very traumatised psychologically, there is also potential for serious harm because if one resists, the thieves could become even more violent.

In terms of getting long locs this is a quick fix solution. The buyers of the hair may not really appreciate the effort it takes to grow them. They are more interested in getting in on a trend.

Tia
Tia
7 years ago

oh dear!!! Can’t people make locs extension out of synthetic hair…wouldn’t that be less costly to create and less cumbersome to find?? People would just do ANYTHING to make a buck!!! The idea of wearing someone else’s hair is creepy enough for me…now wearing someone else’s stolen hair is just ugh!!!

khanyi
khanyi
7 years ago
Reply to  Tia

Speaking as A Zimbabwean who has seen how the crocheting method is done i can tell u is that this grafted hair will blend in with the rest of your hair as it grows and there will be no difference in the end. So these people who have them blended are looking for a more natural look and so they wont have synthetic locs esp when they intend to have them for years just like they would their own. Also one is bale to cut their won locs and keep them for as long a s they want and re-graft… Read more »

sashafierce89
sashafierce89
7 years ago

its pathetic its crazy what people will do fo money these days, watched a documentry about albino hunters in africa, alot worse then losing your hair

African
African
7 years ago
Reply to  sashafierce89

And in America people are having sex with corpses, someone else killed his mum and took a photo of her head.

those are just two countries, South Africa and Tanzania, not the whole continent.

My point is no place is perfect.

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago
Reply to  African

exactly! and here in france i watched a documentary about how a red-haired boy killed himself after months of being bullied at school by other kids for being red-haired. it doesn’t mean france or europe aren’t a safe place for red-haired people or they went back to the times were they burnt red-haired people under the belief that red-haired people are witches or wizards. there are many places in africa where your dreads won’t be cut and no one hunts albino people. be careful with generalizations.

Rou
Rou
7 years ago
Reply to  eve-audrey

In the States, they steal weave from beauty supply stores and Black hair salons. The only difference is that they didn’t rip it off a live human’s head. But, in the end, it is just as pathetic and sad! SMH!!

Hopw
Hopw
7 years ago

I think I would go to prison if I caught the person who even TRIED to cut off my locs. This year will make 5 years and mine are thick, dark, and healthy.

The idea of someone robbing me for my hair makes me sick and I would probably lose it.

Yocheved
7 years ago

Frightening!

Nikita Little
Nikita Little
7 years ago

Here in Cameroon we’ve had numerous cases of assault for Brazilian hair extensions because they are extremely expensive.
Scary thing I swear!

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago

This is really disturbing! People will do anything for money. I bet the local government doesn’t want to address the problem because it is embarrassing that citizens will do such pitiful things. It’s really a reflection on the bad government (and police) and bad economy.

fluffy-in-flight
fluffy-in-flight
7 years ago

I really thought that I heard everything! This is bizarre.

Brittany Logan
7 years ago

That is sick man. Another thing why would you want loc extensions? Grow your own hair..

Siatta
Siatta
7 years ago

There is nothing “dread“ful about locs. The term dreadlocks came from Europeans who saw Blacks in Jamaica and said, “Their hair looks dreadful”. I believe that wording is important.

Sunnei
Sunnei
7 years ago
Reply to  Siatta

While I agree with the fact that my locks aren’t dreadful, there is some ‘debate’ as to where the term originated. Additionally, many have embraced the term. When I hear Bob Marley singing about the ‘Natty Dread’ I am not offended. Dreads have taken on an entirely new meaning. Some even use dreadlocks to refer to the authentic natties. I don’t get upset or correct folks anymore. Call them what YOU want. I wear them proudly!

kmurray
kmurray
7 years ago

This article was VERY INTERESTING! thanks so much for posting it. It had me and my son thinking about people that travel abroad with afro long hair (locked or not).

Tameka
Tameka
7 years ago

Sad. First they want our skin complexion , our lips and our butt. Now our hair!!! If they start getting bigger nose implants ITS TRULY OVER!

Tamika Jones
Tamika Jones
7 years ago
Reply to  Tameka

I don’t think the article had any mention of white people wanting our locs over there. I could be missing something from the article, but our Kinky hair, wouldn’t do any good for a white person with straight hair.

Micheleantoinette
Micheleantoinette
7 years ago
Reply to  Tamika Jones

i believe that it mentions right in the article.….“Stylists use a new method known here as crocheting – using a thin needle, they are able to convert relaxed and European hair into dreads by weaving additional human hair pieces into the straight hair – giving a client long-locked hair instantly”

europeans are the wealthier population in most places, while they may not be leading the loc stealing trend…they may certainly have something to do with feuling it

cacey
cacey
7 years ago
Reply to  Tameka

most black people i know have noses about the same size as white peoples. albeit a different shape. why do people keep saying black ppl have big noses? i’m confused, because i don’t

Tamika Jones
Tamika Jones
7 years ago

It’s a shame, that our culture has found another way to bring harm to our own. It only makes it harder for a person to travel, and feel unsafe over their hair (locs).

bobbye
bobbye
7 years ago
Reply to  Tamika Jones

I agree Tamika. I’ve actually been looking to go to South Africa(been to North Africa) but now as a long haired naturalista, I don’t know.

NiftyKeisha
7 years ago

That’s soo crazy. First Indian women with long hair walk out of theaters to find their strands cut so that they can become weaves, now this. Doing that to someone is horrible. Every morning when they look in the mirror, they have to think about what happened to them. Can’t even imagine the emotional scar that would leave. 🙁

Rou
Rou
7 years ago

As the days go by, I am becoming more and more disgusted by human behavior! this is so sad! No one has personal boundaries and respect for other people anymore. I worry about the world we are living in. SMDH!!

Lola
Lola
7 years ago

Well, as far as using synthetic hair in the extenstions (as others have mentioned), it is plausible. In fact, preferable for a quick lock-job. For years (decades really), in the goth community and alternative fashion, synthetic hair has been used to make locks. I used to make them for some time with all kinds of funky colours and styles. So this is a method that has been known for some time. The question has to be, why is it important that it is human hair? There are people who naturally grow their locks long that will tell you that their hair has… Read more »

Chachamusicgirl
Chachamusicgirl
7 years ago

Oh hell no. I really wish someone would attempt to cut my hair. I would go Texas Chainsaw Massacre on them. I am from the Caribbean and do not play that. Take anything you want from me, but touch my money or my hair and you will get SLICED.

Pinchez
Pinchez
5 years ago

Hahahahaha!! Too funny my fellow Caribbean sister

drenie beans
drenie beans
5 years ago

wow how the tide has changed!!!

Poetic Justice
Poetic Justice
5 years ago

As an American I try not to believe foolishness like this happens overseas in the motherland, so I’m going to wrap my locs up and act like I didn’t see this.

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