Cultural appropriation has been a hot button issue within the black community and along with any type of racial profiling or discrimination, it’s something that #woketwitter doesn’t take lightly.
In most cases cultural appropriation, which can be described as taking aspects of another culture’s style or tradition and introducing it as a new fashion statement, is committed by members of the dominant culture and it’s a concept that seems to be difficult for many people to understand.
It seems that every day more and more celebrities have been exposing themselves as being members of the clueless club when it comes to the topic of appropriation. One of the more recent cases involves fashion designer Marc Jacobs.
Jacobs, the designer behind some of our favorite clothes and accessories, caused a social media uproar after being called out for cultural appropriation during his show at the biggest fashion event of the season, New York Fashion Week.
The models in his show were all donned with chunky platform shoes and bright colored eccentric outfits, but it wasn’t the fashions that sparked the uproar; it was their brightly colored faux locs. The image of young white models wearing a style that black men and women have been ridiculed and discriminated against for years hit a nerve with many of his followers on social media and as you can imagine many people were upset by this and called him out on it.
Now it’s no secret that there are several fashion designers who draw inspiration from all types of cultures, but the story took a turn for the worst when Marc Jacobs responded to being called out. In a post that has since been deleted Jacobs defended himself with the following comment: "and all who cry 'cultural appropriation' or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner — funny how you don't criticize women of color for straightening their hair," Jacobs wrote. "I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don't see color or race — I see people. I'm sorry to read that so many people are so narrow-minded ... Love is the answer. Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing. Think about it."
Again, it is normal for fashion designers to base their designs off of inspiration from other cultures (i.e. kimonos and moccasins), however, Jacobs stepped into dangerous territory when he decided to emulate one of the most distinct black hairstyles. The reason why so many black women are sensitive to appropriation such as Jacobs’ infamous “twisted mini buns” commonly known as bantu knots, or the Kardashians “boxer braids” a.k.a. cornrows, is because these are styles that black women have worn to embrace their culture in a world where they are being pressured into conforming to the images that are deemed beautiful by the dominant culture. This is why Jacobs’ comment suggesting that black women have appropriated white culture by straightening their hair was a punch to the gut for the black naturals who are fans of his work.
Cultural appropriation is a big deal not because black women are hyper-sensitive, but because when it comes to aspects of black culture, in this case black hair, this is something that has shaped our identities. The black girls who embrace their roots by wearing those trendy “twisted mini buns” and “boxer braids” have been and still are being criticized and ridiculed for the same styles that are deemed trendy when worn by white high fashion models.
Jacobs has since issued the following apology on his Instagram page.
Marc Jacobs is known for being a repeat offender of appropriation and although his apology didn’t seem to change anyone’s opinion, he has acknowledged his own ignorance and “lack of sensitivity” on the subject which is definitely a step in the right direction.