The Walking Dead has some of the best special effects on TV. The dreadlock wigs for Michonne (Danai Gurira), King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Heath (Corey Hawkins) however? Hmm. Anyone who's worn that hairstyle (like this writer!) or is familiar with how dreadlocks look and operate in real life probably has...had some thoughts, shall we say, while watching these fine characters. So here we go.
First off, it does make perfect sense that (some of) The Walking Dead's Afro-American characters rock locks; a post-apocalyptic society isn't brimming with salons where one could get a haircut or a new weave sewn in, I'd imagine. These characters had dreadlocks in the comic books, of course, and it's also true that dreads instantly bestow people with a perception of spiritual awareness and general badassery. But, contrary to misconception, dreadlocks can be a lot of work. Danai Gurira was only kinda right when she told Entertainment Weekly in 2014, "It's probably one of the more user-friendly hairstyles a black girl can have in the apocalypse, because dreadlocks just kind of do their own thing for the most part." Here's where we have our first hiccup.
Washing your dreadlocks (which people who wear them definitely do, so let's kill any contrary myth right away) can be really time consuming. And most people who wear them condition their hair with all manner of oils and pricey goop -- a luxury Michonne doesn't have. In reality, Michonne's look would be way more time consuming than Sasha's (Sonequa Martin-Green), especially since Michonne's locks look really good. Note how her locks are almost perfectly symmetrical, as if they're being tended to regularly. Her hair, overall, looks really healthy and shiny too, meaning her diet is full of veggies, proteins, oils and healthy fats. Or maybe walker guts make for a fantastic hot oil treatment?
"My concern is, she's a warrior," says Camille Robbins-Reed, who has more than 20 years experience as a natural hair care specialist. She tends to dreadlocks and other hair at Noire Salon in Silver Spring, M.D., just outside Washington D.C.; that area is home to one of the country's highest concentration of African-Americans, many of whom invest hundreds of dollars a pop in salon visits to have their hair washed, conditioned, colored, coiled and more. "I felt her wig looks like she works in a government job Monday through Friday and slays zombies on the weekend. It's a little too perfect for her character. I would've made her locks a little more raw -- given them a little more volume," Reed said.
Ah, volume. That brings us to Ezekiel, whose dreads definitely have volume a.k.a. that sort of puffy mass on the top of his head. (The wig, by the way cost roughly 50 grand, Payton estimated with USA Today.)
Two schools of thought here. In one, there's Bob Marley: the easiest, most recognizable example of how Rastafarians have traditionally worn their hair in untamed, thumb-your-nose-at-convention ways. In the more mainstream approach, created in part through people who wanted to express cultural identity and creativity while looking palatable for office life, dreadlocks are more manicured, sectioned-off and "neat" like say, Ava Duvernay's.
In that sense, Ezekiel's hair is a travesty. He's king! He can have people groom and fuss over him if he wanted. Plus, says Reed, "I can see the construction of the wig. You're never supposed to see that. It's supposed to be seamless. And it looks like they switched up the type of hair and used another. I have a little OCD, so that drove me a little crazy." A man Ezekiel's age (in his mid-50s or so) would have hair that's a little thinner and would fall more down his back too, she added. Maybe he keeps them trimmed for a Whoopi Goldberg effect? He is theatrical.
That leaves us with Heath (Hawkins), whose 'do is by any account simply a colossal letdown. It's realistic though, since this clearly looks like hair that started out as braids -- extensions, it appears -- and then lost control of new growth and the whole thing became like an untamed garden. That's a major no-no in the real world, but we can kind of give the guy a break since, you know, the end of civilization and all. Or, not.
"Yeah, he hurt my feelings," Reed said. He's kind of bookish, and bookish people are going to sit down and make sure they're presented well. I would have made his a little more manicured to look like the pictures in the comics. That braid thing bothers me -- the extensions with the curly cues on the back? The actor has a strong face, a strong jaw and that feminizes him a little bit."
Maybe that softer touch will come in handy. As you know, he's off in God knows where; maybe those dangling coils will convince whatever tribe he runs into that he's not threatening. Better still, maybe he's stumbled upon a utopian community that offers a whole suite of perks, including hair care. Wouldn't that be something?
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.