This is when a character wears his/her hair in a dreadlocks style, thus visually standing out from other characters, as a sign of rebellion, independence, devotion to religion, or just being free-spirited.
In fiction (and for the specific purpose of this trope), dreadlocks are worn most frequently (but not exclusively) by black characters, though said characters may not necessarily be Rastafarians by faith, or even be religious at all. Said characters tend to be laid-back, anti-authoritarian (to varying degrees, depending on the work in question), users of..."interesting" substances (as per the stereotype that dreadlocks-wearers almost always smoke cannabis/weed/ganja/hashish/marijuana note ), or some combination of the three.
About dreadlocks: the style involves letting the hair on one's head grow for a long time without cutting it, then twining the hair into several long matted strands. The strands may be very thick or moderately thin, and may vary in length from shoulder-length to going all the way down the back in some cases. When worn by a male, the locks may sometimes give him the appearance of a lion, especially if accompanied by an unshaved beard. (As a side note, some Rastafarians wear their locks in a turban; this trope focuses primarily on those who wear their locks loosely.) Putting one's hair into a series of small braids is not dreadlocks, although it's sometimes used to evoke the style without actually having to get the hair matted.
In Real Life, dreadlocks are most commonly associated with practitioners of the Rastafarian religious movement and, to a lesser degree, with Jamaicans, reggae musicians, and hippies. Bob Marley is quite possibly the most famous dreadlocks wearer, as he was a devout Rastafarian.
The reasons for wearing of dreadlocks may vary across different groups, ranging from "deep religious and spiritual conviction" (as in the case of Rastafarians and some Hindus) to "symbolism of rebellion against authority, especially that of the government-controlled type" (as exemplified in Bob Marley's music, and explained above).
Please note that for a character(s) to specifically qualify for this trope, just wearing dreadlocks is not enough: see the text above, and contrast the Dreadlock Warrior, who wears the same hairstyle for very different reasons.
The trope name comes from a line in Bob Marley's 1983 song "Buffalo Soldier", which was released posthumously on the album Confrontation.
- Referenced in an old Bud Light commercial where a man sees a "no pets" sign outside a pub and is upset that he can't go inside because of his Puli (a type of dog known for their long corded coat) until he has a Eureka Moment. Cut to him walking inside with the dog on his head imitating dreads while he uses a Jamaican affectation and talks about "jammin'."
- Bob, one of the main supporting characters in Tenjho Tenge, wears his hair in dreadlocks (though he cuts them off later). He's rebellious against school rules when first introduced, and is something of a Deadpan Snarker, but at the same time he acts as a Blue Oni to Souichiro's Red Oni.
- Kaname Tousen of Bleach sports dreadlocks, and betrayed Soul Society in rebellion against their system of government that refused to punish his closest friend's husband for her senseless murder.
- The dreadlocked (Word of God is they're technically micro-braids) Izumi Curtis of Fullmetal Alchemist certainly qualifies, with her philosophy on the circle of life and deep distrust of the Amestrian military government even before she learns of their Ancient Government Conspiracy. She even chides her student Edward Elric for stooping so low as to become a "dog of the military" and becoming a State Alchemist.
- Agon Kongo's most memorable feature is his very long, very thick, dread-locked hair. Some of his nicknames include "reggae head", "rasta head" "reggae guy" and "fucking dreads". His hairstyle choices are probably meant to be seen as a sign of rebelliousness, as his previous haircut was also associated with delinquency (long, wavy bleached blonde hair). His dreads being shaved off could be seen as symbolic of his attitude (slowly) improving. Ironically, he's quite obviously NOT a Rastafarian as he attends a very strict, ascetic Buddhist school.
- Tom Tanaka of Du Ra Ra Ra has a generally laid back personality and is one of the few people able to keep Shizuo under control. He also generally comes off as free-spirited but he's a Loan Shark by profession, albeit a pretty reasonable and friendly one who mostly uses Shizuo's reputation as a deterrent to anyone who might try something. His ethnic background isn't explicitly stated in the series, though due to his darker skin tone and Multiethnic Name it's speculated that he's partially of African descent.
- Galahad of Gangsta. appears to be ethnically of African descent and falls more under Dreadlock Warrior than this trope, but his protege Doug, who was inspired to lock his hair by the former and rebels against the Paulklee Guild by taking a contract to kill someone he knows is off limits, definitely fits.
- Taisei Yoshida of Assassination Classroom wears a hairstyle that consists of short dreadlocks, and is initially one of the more rebellious students of Class 3-E, hanging out with Terasaka and taking a little while to warm to Koro-sensei's efforts to reach them.
- Bishop has been known to wear dreadlocks. He's also well-known for rebelling against the status quo of his native time period (which usually comes about as a result of something happening in his past, our present, that shouldn't have).
- Drew Macintosh, the protagonist of the Jamaican-inspired Dread & Alive series, wears dreadlocks but holds beliefs based on those of the Jamaican Maroons, who were runaway slaves who fought against the British and who today live in relative isolation from modern society.
- Brother Voodoo, aka Jericho Drumm, as fits his station as the foremost Haitian magical practitioner. Combines his with Skunk Stripe for an interesting visual effect.
- Dooby from Pocket God wears dreadlocks and is a zen Granola Boy who dislikes violence, but will fight if he has to.
- Countryman, a Jamaican-made film about a fisherman who gets entangled in a political drug-running conspiracy, shows the titular protagonist and several minor characters and extras wearing dreadlocks. The protagonist is also a freedom-loving character who makes full use of what the mountains, the sea and the wilderness can provide him with.
- One Love, a romantic musical film set in Jamaica, has the main character and his reggae band sporting dreadlocks and being of the Rastafarian faith. This is a source of conflict between him and his love interest's Christian-pastor father.
- The Harder They Come, a 1970's Jamaican film starring musician Jimmy Cliff, has several minor characters involved in the ganja trade and opposing the police (and each other) from time to time, who wear their hair this way.
- The Big Bad of the Steven Seagal film Marked for Death, plus the mooks and one supporting character for the good guys. In the case of the antagonists, they're involved in a drug and weapons business that swiftly becomes personal when they injure Seagal's character's niece as reprisal for an earlier assault.
- From 10 Things I Hate About You, there's a clique of white guys with dreads described thus: "These are your white Rastas, they're big Marley fans, they think they're black. Semi-political, but mostly..." "Smoke a lot of weed?"
- Predator 2. King Willie and some of the members of his Jamaican Voodoo Posse drug gang have dreadlocks. They like smoking marijuana, and are very violent toward the police, but believe in voodoo rather than Rastafarianism.
- The Black Lectroids in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension have the appearance of Jamaican Rastafarians. They are a peace-loving race, but they will fight to protect their own independence if need be.
- In the Chris Farley comedy Black Sheep (1996), Mike Donnelly encounters some rastas at a "Rock the Vote" style political rally, and he gets high with them, discussing things like how the white man is keeping them down. Later, when he's mistaken for his brother running for governor, he sees the rastas from onstage, and yells "Kill Whitey!", much to the horror of everyone, especially the rastas and his brother.
- Jackie Chan's character sports a dreadlocks hairstyle in The Forbidden Kingdom, and is presented as a somewhat independent spirit.
- Whoopi Goldberg, who wears dreadlocks, is often cast as a cool-headed and free-spirited person in her films. One of the best examples is Sarafina!, which is set during the Soweto Riots in Africa; Goldberg plays an independent-thinking teacher whose imprisonment inspires one of her students, the titular character, to lead her fellow students in protest.
- Iroh in The Last Airbender has the Dreadlocks of Spirituality variation.
- In Cool Runnings, Sanka is the only member of the Jamaican bobsled team with dreadlocks and is also the most free-spirited and easygoing. Derice even calls him "Rasta" occasionally. Sanka himself says, after arriving to Canada, that he's "freezing [his] royal Rastafarian nay-nays off!"
- Robert Marley in John Dies at the End is a typical example. And yes, David is surprised that his name really is Robert Marley when the cops show him his file.
- Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is a Chaotic Neutral Cloudcuckoolander with the requisite dreads.
- The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban adds a talking skull with dreadlocks on the Knight Bus. J. K. Rowling wishes she had thought of it herself.
- Undercover Brother The title character disguises himself as this at one point, even quipping, "Ja Mon! Rasta!".
- Discworld characters Peachy in Hogfather ("a huge man with dreadlocks and a beard you could keep goats in") and Dave (of Dave's Pin Exchange) in Going Postal ("a huge bearded man with dreadlocks, a pin through his nose, a beer belly belonging to three other people and the words 'Death or Pins' tattooed on a bicep"). Race isn't mentioned for either of them, although Dave is played by a black actor in the TV adaptation of Going Postal (Peachy was cut from the adaptation of Hogfather). Religion isn't mentioned either, although it's possible the Disc has some Crystal Dragon Selassie equivalent.
- Barrington in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men. Specifially described as a Rasta on several occasions, despite living centuries before Rastafarianism existed. He sometimes acts as a sort of narrator for the ongoing events.
- Dave Lister in Red Dwarf. Not a Rastafarian - he's either an atheist or a pantheist. Not to mention being a deity in his own right to a lost race evolved from his pet cat. He is rather anti-authoritarian, however.
- Wife Swap featured a family like this.
- The Bible (2013):
- John the Baptist has dreads, appropriate for a wild mystic who lives off in the desert.
- Samson, unusually, combines this with Dreadlock Warrior. As a Nazirite, he has untrimmed, matted hair as a symbol of devotion to God. But he also kicks Philistine butt. When he loses the dreads, he can't fight.
- Barry Allen's friend Julio Mendez in The Flash (1990) episode "Flash Forward" wore dreads ten years into the future when Central City was taken over by Nicolas Pike. Being a former cop that was demoted to a garbageman in that future time period, he is against the Nicolas Pike regime.
- Glee played with this trope a little with the character of Joe Hart, a Caucasian, devoutly christian student who was home schooled until he was 16.
- Cosima Niehaus on Orphan Black wears dreadlocks, in keeping with her Erudite Stoner aesthetic.
- Nova, one of the three protagonists of Queen Sugar, wears her hair in long dreadlocks. She's a spiritualist and herbal healer who sells weed off her front porch. This contrasts her with her sister Charley, who wear straightens her hair and is more uptight.
- Bob Marley is the Trope Namer in his song "Buffalo Soldier" from Confrontation. His sons Ziggy and Damian, who are famous musicians in their own right, also wear dreadlocks and follow in the Rastafarian beliefs.
- The members of reggae band Morgan Heritage wear dreadlocks, but they subvert the religious aspect of the trope with their song Don't Haffi Dread. As the chorus lyrics say:
You don't haffi dread to be Rasta; don't haffi dread!
- The white rasta stereotype is parodied in (white) rapper Sage Francis' song "Slow Down Gandhi"
"give me ethnicity, or give me dreads". A trustufundian rebel, without a cause for alarm. Because when push turns to shove you jump into your forefather's arms. He's a banker. You're part of the system. Off go the dreadlocks, in comes the income
- Also parodied in The Lonely Island song "Ras Trent". The video has Andy Samberg walking around in terrible-looking dreads past some actual Rastafarians who are shaking their heads at the ridiculousness of it. He also doesn't appear to wash his hair, as he smells it at one point and jerks away.
- Cielo in Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga has sky-blue dreadlocks and a stereotypical Jamaican accent, and is described as having a cheerful personality.
- The villainous Damnd (or Thrasher in the Bowdlerised version) from Final Fight, being the first boss you fight from the Mad Gear Gang, smiles a lot and is somewhat carefree.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Word of God states that the fur on Knuckles the Echidna's head are dreadlocks. Knuckles himself is an Ineffectual Loner when he's not willingly being The Lancer. He counts due to there being a deep spiritual connection and importance placed on his job as guardian of the Master Emerald, detailed in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Chronicles.
- Street Fighter: Dee Jay hails from Jamaica and is extremely laid-back, always smiling and never letting anything worry him.
- An Enforcement of the trope occurs over the course of Super Robot Wars Original Generation's journey from concept to export. The Mauve Shirt Giado Verendi, as his name suggests, was originally designed to be Italian. But he was given dreadlocks for some reason. The colorist saw the dreadlocks, and made him Black. When the game was exported by Atlus, the writers saw a Black man with dreadlocks, and gave him a Jamaican accent.
- StarCraft II has Gabriel Tosh. Dreadlocks,
Jamaican Trollsome accent, liberal use of Terrazine, and really hates Mengsk's Terran Dominion. For the haircut part, Un-infested Kerrigan in the Heart of the Swarm part seems to fit.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: "Little" Jacob Hughes expresses some anti-authoritarian attitudes in-line with Rastafari beliefs, and uses marijuana liberally, but isn't exactly the most peaceful person around. He's still better than most of the psychos running around Liberty City, though.
- In Eagle Eye Mysteries, Randy Hicks sports the hairstyle in his avatar picture. He's a dog trainer who uses, at least as far as his competition is concerned, "unconventional" means of training dogs (that is, he treats them as though they have spiritual energy that can be positive or negative depending on how they're treated).
- In SSX, we have Moby Jones. He sports dreadlocks of variable length and doesn't let anybody push him around. However, he's British, not Jamaican, although he does listen to Bob Marley.
- Lúcio from Overwatch has these.
- New-Age Retro Hippie Flow from Splatoon 2 is an anthropomorphic sea slug whose tentacles resemble dreadlocks.
- Mona, a secondary character in The Quick and Dirty Life of Fritz Fargo, has dreadlocks. Although she's probably not Rastafarian, she's laid-back and unconventional. In addition to the dreadlocks, she has about half a dozen piercings.
- Tree Hugger of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic wears long red dreadlocks under a flower bandanna, as a way to signify her status as a Granola Girl.
- Hermes Conrad from Futurama wears short dreadlocks, hails from Jamaica, and is a Rastafarian. Although in a subversion of other stereotypes he's an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
- Rocko's Modern Life has Rocko listening to music on an airplane. He turns into a character associated with each type of music, and one of those was a Rastafarian wallaby guy with dreadlocks.
- Major Lazer and Old Rasta from Major Lazer.
- Bismuth of Steven Universe has what appear to be rainbow-colored dreadlocks, and is one of the more overtly rebellious Crystal Gems in the series.