I was lucky to catch Knotty Boy co-founder, Adrianna Hepper, the night before she took off from the Dread Quarters on a wonderful jaunt through California and down into Baja.
During our hour long phone chat I discovered Adrianna is a vibrant, charming and very knowledgeable businessperson who has a very hot and happening hair care product.
Her partner Andrew Power is also an interesting and fascinating character.
Note: On a heartbreaking note Andrew, aka Jakob the Baker, aka Knotty Andrew, aka The Original Knotty Boy passed away from this world May 10, 2003 at 1 am, after peacefully saying goodbye to his family. Andrew suffered for a very short time from a rare and deadly form of heart and lung cancer, and his passing was sudden.
At the beginning of our interview, which was historic, I asked Adrianna to give me the complete history of how the Knotty Boy Dread Wax product came into being. She graciously shared all the amazing details of this fascinating story.
How Knotty Boy Came To Be - Instant Dreadlocks
It all started in 1989, when "20s something" Andrew Power (the other Knotty Boy co-founder) decided he was tired of having hair "he was never quite happy with".
Andrew decided that dreadlocks were a great solution to taming his thick naturally curly hair.
Not only would dreadlocks provide Andrew with a hot new hairdo, it would provide him with a better route to growing his hair longer.
It would also solve Andrew's ongoing need to deal with his curls, which could be a problem at times.
For his official "dreading" Andrew enlisted the help of his friend Adrianna to hang out at the professional salon where he forked over approximately $100 and a couple of hours of his time to have his hair put into "instant dreadlocks".
What Are Dreadlocks?
Although I have been aware of dreadlocks since I first got interested in Bob Marley many years ago, some people may not know much about dreads.
Dreadlocks, dreads, African or Nubian locks date back to some time in the 1920s when the Afro-Caribbean religion, Rastafarianism (Rastas) was founded.
Religious Beliefs & Dreadlocks
Part of the Rastafarian's religious beliefs were centered around avoiding any combing or cutting of their hair.
This belief was tied a specific biblical reference in Leviticus 21:5: that says "They shall not make baldness upon their head".
The term dreadlocks was actually adopted to reference the fact that nonbelievers' had an aversion to the unusual hairstyle.
Reggae King Bob Marley popularized the dreadlocks term with his 1975 song titled Natty Dread. The "natty" referred to "knotty" which is a key description of the twisted style. Bob also became a well-known poster boy for dreadlocks eventually sporting some of the best locks on his album covers.
As Adrianna pointed out, it is easy to see the transition that Bob's style made over the years by checking out his different covers. Bob's Catch A Fire work shows him with skinny little dreads and as his career progressed and grew so did his fabulous locks.
Although the Rastafarians originated the hairstyle for religious purposes, the look became very popular in the 80s when a large number of non-Rastarian blacks began adopting the look as a hot fashion trend.
From the 80s the look spread. By the early 90s, trend-aware whites followed by adopting the exotic look in droves.
In 1999 the music industry provided a lot of "dreadlock awareness" with many industry stars sprouting dreadlocks. Images from the media that pop up on Rolling Stone and Spin magazines have popularized the concept of the exotic, chic, tangled hair look.
Hip Hop queen Lauren Hill wore a beautiful dreadlocks do. A lot of other Hip Hop and Rap music stars sport dreadlocks. The group Korn and White Zombie had members who have adopted dread styles.
Anyone who has seen any of Whoopie Goldberg's movies or television appearances knows she has successfully sported dreadlocks for many years. Whoopie does a fabulous job of wearing her dreads in many different styles with all sorts of different adornments.
Dreads continue to be very hot, happening and definitely part of the fashion scene. They show no sign of losing their attraction. They are most popular with the 12-23 age range.
Dreadlocks are very popular with both males and females. While parents and some parts of the population are less than thrilled with locks, they remain a major hair fashion trend.
Creating Natural Dreadlocks
In the original days of the Rastafarians, the creation of the dreadlocks were done over a long period of times that could literally take years. The hair was allowed to twist, knot and matte up in its own time. This resulted in tight, matted hair that was all natural.
Rastafarians would sometimes use various juices such as aloe or cactus to create and maintain their locks. Mud or clay was also used to tighten and dry the locks.
It literally could take more than 5 years for dreadlocks to matte and lock together for the best look.
Some people really get into the purity of dreadlocks and will wait years for them to form naturally into knots.
There is a tremendous amount of pride in growing beautifully formed and maintained locks.
Anyone who wants "instant" dreadlocks without the pain, hassles and long waiting periods, can pay stylists to create the locks. Some people who are lacking the appropriate hair length or quantities will actually have pre-made locks of real or synthetic hair grafted onto their heads to create big dreadlocks.
Most salons will charge in the vicinity of $100-$400/hour or a flat rate. A lot of times salons will charge based on the length or thickness of the hair to be dreadlocked since this determines how long it will take to make the dreadlocks. Usually a session will consist of 4-6 hours. It is very labor intensive.
The hair must carefully be sectioned, backcombed and then covered with goop. The dreadlocked sections can be all sizes and shapes from very small (1/2 to 1 inch) or very fat and large (3 or 4 inches). The tresses can be sectioned in a variety of ways to create an overall grid type of dreadlocks pattern.
Dreadlocks Are A Work Of Art
Dreadlocks are truly a work of art. They can be carefully planned so the locks are laid out in a grid around the head to form different patterns and arrangements.
Dreadlocks affect everyone's hair differently. Fine hair will normally shorten dramatically. Thick hair will also shorten in the vicinity of 30%. One added benefit of dreadlocks is they will help grow hair longer.
Both men and women will add all sorts of adornments from little jewels to beads and clips. For a wilder look some dread heads will add strips of maniac panic color or temporary hair mascara. The only thing limiting how people dress up their locks is their imagination.
Till Cutting Do You Part - Dreadlocks Are Permanent
Dreadlocks are permanent......well sort of...... Adrianna explained you have about a 1-3 week window, give or take, to change your mind before you are forever wedded to dreadlocks.
After the first few weeks your hair becomes so matted it's impossible to remove the dreadlocks except for cutting the hair.
The time window you have to change your mind about your new dreads depends on a lot of factors. The most important factors is whether your hair knots have solidified or not.
Once your knots are solid, they can't be washed out. While this usually doesn't happen in the first week, it can happen at different times for different people. It may be 1-2 weeks for some or even as long as 3-4 weeks for others.
Bottom line, once your knots are solidified, you have permanent dreadlocks.
How do you remove the dreadlocks during the first few weeks? You use lots of hot water to melt the dread wax out of your hair. Use a large wide tooth comb and slowly pick all the tangles out. It could take a lot of time and energy to remove the dreadlocks, but if you wait past the point where they're solid knots, the dreadlocks are hard to remove without cutting.
When Andrew made the decision he wanted dreadlocks, he decided he wanted to bypass the natural approach for the modern. He chose to have well sectioned, attractive dreads formed within a few days of having the dreads created.
The salon where Andrew and Adrianna visited told the couple about their "secret" method of creating the "instant dreadlocks" which could not be duplicated at home.
Undaunted by the salon's claim, Andrianna watched everything which was done to create Andrew's dreads.
She watched as the stylist applied "a horrible, slimy, petroleum jelly type" type of wax to Andrews hair. The wax actually consisted of approximately 95% petroleum jelly, lots of perfumes and a tiny bit of wax, to create color.
The salon's dreadlocking "secret" actually consisted of glopping the waxy gel onto Andrew's carefully sectioned and twisting hair. After all the hair was covered in the gel and twisted, he was put under a hood style dryer to accelerated the hardening of the newly formed dreads.
Necessity Is The Mother Of All Invention
Although they didn't know it at the time, Andrew's dreads became a life altering experience for the couple.
Both Andrew and Adrianna were less than impressed with the dreadlocks waxy product which was used on Andrew. It was oily and it caused the dreads to mush apart. The original dreadlock product was not allowing Andrew's dreads to completely come together.
Many people Andrew and Adrianna talked to expressed the same dislike for this original dreadlock product. Unfortunately, the first product seemed to be the only game in town.
Andrew and Adrianna talked to lots of people and asked for other wax products recommendations. They discovered there weren't any. At that time they decided to create their own deadlock wax. They realized there was a different market for a high quality dreadlock wax.
They turned their house into their original product lab and began experimenting, mixing and testing.
After lots of research and hard work, they invented the Knotty Boy (pronounced Naughty Boy) Dread Wax.
They discovered a special combination of 100% pure beeswax and hempseed along with other special ingredients became the basis for the secret formula which would provide a superior product for forming and maintaining topnotch dreads.
It;s important to note the secret Knotty Boy wax recipe was designed specifically for dreadlocks.
It took the Knotty Boy Kids quite awhile to perfect the formula that is now available. They wanted to make sure that they got it just right.
Sales & Marketing
Once the Knotty Boy formula was created, founding business partners, Adrianna and Andrew, really had their work cut out for them. They went about creating the first Knotty Boy web site in November of 1998.
The site was designed to allow people to order the product directly from the Net.
As the word of this superior product started to spread, the Knotty Boy formula started flying out the door. Although 50% of the sales of the product comes from the Internet, approximately 50 stores in Canada has started carrying the product. There are also stores in other locations listed on the Knotty Boy site that sell the product.
Since it was first started, the Knotty Boy site has continued to grow and evolve and add lots of information about the product, how to create your own dreadlocks at home and a listing of some commonly known questions and answers.
Creating The Knotty Boy Name
Adrianna is quick to point out the Knotty Boy product is not designed specifically for guys. She explained that the Knotty Boy name just worked so well that they couldn't resist using it for the product. Adrianna said that Knotty Boy is used equally by males and females.
The original Knotty Boy was created by Dustin Trenton, the main animator of the children's show, Reboot. Dusting sketched the original Knotty Boy logo over breakfast with Adrianna.
Once Dustin heard Adrianna's vision of what the little Knotty Boy should look like, Dustin breathed life into the character.
Adrianna had the vision of her ideal Knotty Boy as a bashful little kid with crazy big dreads, big fat pants and a little tummy poking out. Candice Dauncey took Dustin's ideas to completion to the current Knotty Boy image.
The Knotty Boy logo attracts a lot of attention and has been a wonderful beacon for attracting interest to the product. Adrianna explained she and Andrew do everything related to packaging, marketing, distributing and handling the product.
They designed the labels, the tins that hold the product and they personally package every single Knotty Boy order they receive.
Every package that goes out is like a special little care package with the special soap, stickers and little tiny gifts. They are fun packages and everyone enjoys them.
Living Out Their Dreams
The success of the Knotty Boy product allowed Andrew and Adrianna to fulfill their dreams of fleeing from the hustle and bustle of city living for a more serene experience on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.
While they love the success Knotty Boy has enjoyed, they also love their peaceful lives away from their native Toronto and Vancouver. Now they get to hang out, develop their wonderful products and grow their budding company.
As an added benefit of the development of the Knotty Boy product Andrew was able to show off his great dreads.
He enjoyed having the cool, unusual and interesting look and he loved how it works so well with his thick, curly hair.
All Natural Beeswax
Knotty Boy uses 100% all natural beeswax that is completely pure. There are no dyes or additives. Because the product is 100% natural, the color of the Knotty Boy will actually vary according to the color of the beeswax from a light tan to a rich golden yellow. Beekeepers collect the bulk of the wax at the end of August when the wax is most richly colored.
Andrew and Adrianna used to manufacture all of the original Knotty Boy products right in their home. There were very careful to provide only the best and highest quality manufacturing conditions.
The couple were very committed to keeping the product 100% pure. They were hesitant to add any colors for different hair types because it would take away from the purity of the product.
The wax is heat sensitive and needs to be kept cool. Everything in their house at the time they were making the formulas at home was geared to protecting the product.
Adrianna explained the wax may be visible in the hair for the first day or so, but will eventually fade into the hair and become invisible. Due to their concerns with an all natural product they avoided adding any dyes to the product.
The Knotty Boy Wax is like soft putty which is worked into the hair to form the dreadlocks.
Wash Your Dreads Or Not?
There is a lot of different opinions on whether it is advisable to wash dreadlocks or not. The goal is to have tight locks. Using the right soap and applying it correctly are important.
Beeswax is non-water soluble. So if you use the Knotty Boy Wax which includes 100% pure beeswax, you can safely wash your hair.
Beeswax will only come out with very hot water.
As Adrianna explained it to me, the key is not so much to wash the dreadlocks themselves, but to keep the scalp washed and clean.
Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo
The Knotty Boy folks released the official Knotty Boy Tea Tree Oil/Rosemary Dread Shampoo. It contained anti-bacterial products like Tea Tree Oil which keeps the scalp healthy and clean.
The new shampoo is designed to help eliminate and dandruff, flakes or itchiness that sometimes happens with dreadlocks when you stop washing your hair. This is an important note.
If you have dreadlocks you don't automatically get dandruff or itchies unless you stop taking good care of your scalp. The itchies and dandruff are a result of ill scalp health which is a product of not washing your hair.
The new Knotty Boy shampoo contains no conditioners, and is completely natural.
What's On The Horizon For Knotty Boy?
Besides their new anti-bacterial shampoo, Andriana & Andrew unveiled Knotty Boy tees emblazoned with the shy and cute symbol of Knotty Boy himself. Additional products will include a sea salt spray to dry up the dreads and make them even tighter.
The Knotty Boy team knows that within the next 9 months they will have to do production somewhere else.
They hate to do that since right now they feel that they have a better chance of controlling the quality of the product and they like being in touch with all the buyers. They also really enjoy making the products themselves from scratch.
Because of the intense popularity in the product, it appears that anything can happen in the next 9 months. They know that they need to be realistic.
Common Questions & Answers
I asked Adrianna what are the most common questions that people ask about dreadlocks. She said that everyone experiences their dreadlocks a little differently and may therefore have their own set of questions. She did agree that there are core of standard concerns and questions that she and Andrew are asked on a regular basis.
Adrianna gave me the list of most commonly asked questions and some of her personal answers to pass along to HairBoutique.com visitors interested in dreadlocks.
Question: Why would someone cut their dreadlock?
Answer: They are not always considered socially acceptable by everyone. Some people find that they are not professional and it could be career limiting. People cut their dreadlocks off for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they just get tired of them and want something different.
Question: How long would someone keep their dreadlocks?
Answer: Many people will keep them for years, if not a lifetime. People with dreadlocks develop a very special pride in their hair and it takes a lot of time, commitment and maintenance to keep them looking great. People put tremendous love, care and pride into their dreadlocks.
Question: What is the most common concern that people have with their dreadlocks?
Answer: The roots are always something that people worry most about. Everyone with dreadlocks has roots. That is just how hair grows. It is impossible to get the hair matted all the way into the roots.
There is always some root area showing. No matter what, there will always be from 1-2 inches of hair at the roots. It is the biggest problem. Friction and rubbing the hair together is what causes the matting. It is impossible to get the hair to mat past a certain point. Even Bob Marley who had world class dreads, had roots.
The mistake people make is to try and add extra goop. All this does is make the hair oilier and it does not add more matting to the root area. The key is to Love Your Dreadlocks.
Question: How do you find salons that do dreadlocks?
Answer: Most salons that do hair extensions or unusual braiding will also do dreadlocks.
Question: Do you personally create dreadlocks for customers?
Answer: Sometimes when there is time. It is very time consuming and labor intensive to create dreadlocks. It can take anywhere from 4-6 hours to complete the process. The longer and thicker the hair, the longer the process.
Question: Why are dreadlocks so popular?
Answer: They are considered very chic. They provide a fresh new look that is individual and can not be copied exactly. No two dreadlocks look exactly the same and are as individual as the person wearing them.
The music industry has embraced dreads and they promote the look because their fans want to copy their hairstyles.
Question: What type of maintenance is involved?
Answer: You have to tuck in the hair and keep it waxed and keep the dread locks dry and tight. You also have to keep the scalp clean and cared for.
Question: Who is the biggest consumer of Knotty Boy?
Answer: Younger people are currently most interested. The fashion magazines are starting to show more dreadlocks.
Question: How often should you shampoo when you have dreadlocks?
Answer: About once a week is acceptable.
The goal is to keep the scalp clean. The best thing to use is regular bar soap that does not contain any type of conditioner of softener because it will soften the locks.
Use the bar soap on the scalp and then let the suds gently wash over the rest of the hair.
Don't use the soap to rub the locks. It is also important to remember that the water should be lukewarm since the wax can melt under hot temperatures.
Question: Is there a specific type of hair that would benefit most from wearing dreadlocks?
Answer: Naturally curly hair is great for dreadlocks because the dreadlocks basically remove the curls and allow the hair to grow longer and straighter.
Question: Would the dreadlock style not be advisable for anyone?
Answer: People who are losing their hair should probably avoid it since there is a risk that all the rubbing and friction and tightness of the hair could pull on the scalp and speed up any existing hair loss.
Question: Should any oils be used?
Answer: Rosemary oil and tea tree oil can be used for keeping the scalp free of any itchiness or bacteria.
Question: Why do people disapprove of dreadlocks?
Answer: In general people have the wrong misconception of dreadlocks. They assume that they are just naturally dirty and unclean.
Most people with dreadlocks take very good care of their hair and wash their scalps and dreads carefully to prevent dirt or other problems with the locks.
Many teens and young adults love dreadlocks but have problems with parents or teachers over the hairstyle because of the misconception that dreadlocks are naturally smelly or dirty.
Once a non-dreadlocks person understands how much work and effort is put into having great locks, they understand that they are just as clean as cornrows.
In a lot of ways, dreadlocks are similar to cornrows which were so popular in the past.
Question: How did people react to the Knotty Boy product when you and Andrew started selling it?
Answer: People went nuts when they heard about the product. We started receiving orders for 1,000 products at a time. The people in Japan and Europe just love the product. Andrew and I were so lucky to discover a part of the market that was in need of a good wax product. There just was nothing else until Knotty Boy that worked as well and was 100% natural.
Question: How do people wear their dreadlocks if they want to dress them up?
Answer: We get all sorts of email from Knotty Boy customers who tell us of new ways that they decorate their hair. Many people like to tie the locks back to give them a Hippie look. One female wrote that she decorated her locks with tiny little cars that she pinned throughout the knots. The jeweled accessories from HairBoutique.com also would look great as accents for dreadlocks as do all sorts of little beads and decorated clips.
Many people experiment with tons of different styles for their locks. They will tie part or all of the hair back. They will wear it under their caps. Or they will decorate it with an amazing assortment of things.
Question: How long does it take for new dreadlocks to settle down?
Answer: After the dreadlocks are created it generally takes about 3-7 days for them to calm down and lay down well. You can wear a stocking cap or a tube cap to help them lay down. Dried wax binds the tangles together and helps form the dreadlocks. The wax also helps them calm down. Wax them up. Dried wax disappears after a few days.
By the time I had finished talking with Adrianna I was fascinated with the story of Knotty Boy.
I was also very impressed with the knowledge that Adrianna shared during our phone interview. I did not get to personally chat with Andrew although we have exchanged email and I did hear him in the background.
The Knotty Boy team has tremendous passion for their product and they sincerely care about the quality of the product that they send to their customers.
They personally produce the product and handle every step from packing the individualized care packages that customers receive to working with the beekeepers to get the beeswax. Their dedication and commitment to this product is incredible.
I feel very fortunate Adrianna spent so much time with me so that I could get the scoop on Knotty Boy and dreadlocks for the HairBoutique.com visitors.
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- Revised Publication Date: 01/15/11
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