Ahh, another day, another dollar of cultural appropriation accusation.
A few days ago, fashion designer and icon Marc Jacobs found himself in a bit of a controversial mess after being accused of participating in culture appropriation of an African Amerian hairstyle. In Marc Jacobs recent Runway show, all the models (majority white) wore faux dreadlocks. Needless to say, the media, in particular black media, lost its collective mind. They accused Marc Jacobs of whitewashing a look — a look predominantly associated with Black people of African descent — without much consideration to the fashion of dreadlocks historical roots.
Yes, dreadlocks are more than a look, please educate yourself on this.
Marc Jacobs closes New York fashion week with glorious mess of ideas https://t.co/AidBGa2KOM
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 15, 2016
In response to the backlash, The Advocate reports March Jacobs responded with defiance to the criticism via his Instagram.
“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. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see color or race — I see people.”
Basically, “shut-up,” was March Jacobs’ message. Burn. Except, one little problem. The criticism isn’t just for giggles or due to an “always-enraged” society of liberals, or people demanding a safe space. The roots of cultural appropriation of minority communities’ creations in America is long, hurtful, and scarring. Sadly, Marc Jabos doesn’t care.
Some would claim this as typical of White America, who’ve long given themselves permission to take, claim, and benefit from other ethnicities. From magazine’s blackfacing white models and calling it “African Queen” — to Beyonce volunteering to have her skin darkened as a supposed celebration of dark skin — or painting a white model in black paint and throwing an Afro on her head to make her look like a black woman.
Cultural appropriation is real, and it’s neverending.
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) September 15, 2016
Long before the big behinds and other curves of Jennifer Lopez and the Kardashian’s were celebrated in the mainstream, Black woman possessed this body form. Except, instead of being celebrated for their curves, Black women were vilified and over sexualized. Black women were deemed dirty, unpretty, and unhealthy. However, since Diddy recognized Lopez’s curves publically and Kayne told the world of his preference for light skin and White women with a big a** to match, suddenly, this round brown body type was acceptable, as long as a round brown person isn’t representing it.
Here’s a recent example of how Black women are mistreated for their curves: recently, #teacherbae was ridiculed and reprimanded for having curves and wearing clothes that fit her body right. None of her clothing is revealing. In fact, she’s covered from head to toe. Still, society lost its collective mind because they deemed her not appropriately dressed considering her round figure. However, the Kardashians are millionaires for having the same body type and wear far more revealing clothing. And I guess, nevermind the fact that #teacherbae won teacher of the year and parents of the children she teaches haven’t complained about her work attire. In America. black women have no business showing their curves, in the classroom or otherwise.
— AskMen (@AskMen) September 16, 2016
Back to Marc Jacobs.
Amy Zimerman of The Daily Beast covered the “dreadlocks” controversy, stating March Jacobs response was “tone-deaf.” She is right, especially with Jacobs accusing Black women of culture appropriating too, as a way to deflect from himself. In the article, Zimmerman digs into the college history of appropriation.
“Of course, as any college freshman who’s “really into Eastern philosophy” will happily tell you, white dreads are a relatively common fashion statement. The controversial hairstyle has become emblematic of the ways in which Black culture is co-opted and commodified, with white folks profiting off of stolen cultural and creative labor. Despite the consistent backlash, white celebrities, and sort-of celebrities continue to rock historically black coiffures.”
“Marc Jacobs’s runway was, unfortunately, a relatively tame example of cultural appropriation and racial insensitivity from the tone-deaf and insular fashion industry.”
Valeriya Safronova from The New York Times covered some of the social media ire regarding March Jacobs use of deadlocks.
“A Black woman wrote in a Twitter post: ‘An unknown Black man/woman has dreads, it is assumed they smoke and are unprofessional. Marc Jacobs has a model with dreads; it’s boho chic.'”
“So, I guess this means POC can wear our loss freely now and not be blocked from a promotion or job in general?” wrote another, using an abbreviation for “people of color.”
@kiidiosa wrote, “You don’t see color, huh? How convenient for you. Cuz Black women are reminded abt their hair and skin everyday. But your privilege has allowed you that option. I loved you, also didn’t take offense to the dreads, but your comment was redundant and ignorant. Shame.”
The most glaring, last year Zendaya Coleman dreadlocks were described as looking like they “smelled of patchouli oil and weed.” but Marc Jacobs is a fashion genius for the same? Welcome to America folks. The land of the free and culturally appropriated.
*FYI, the reason some black women straighten their hair is due to societal expectations that they fit into a “white mold” of beauty standards in order to be accepted.
[Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]