On Thursday, Marc Jacobs concluded New York Fashion Week with his Spring 2017 show. However, the woke side of the Internet is offended because of one particular reason.
All the models (the majority of whom are white) wore fake dreadlocks. The line was crossed when the lead stylist could not point out a Black person.
Now why is the Internet upset over the use of a Black hairstyle at a high-end brand’s fashion show? This is none other than an act of cultural appropriation, which is the adoption of cultural customs without giving credit. I like to call it “plagiarism with style.”
These “dreadlocks” are composed of multicolored yarn that towers above the models’ heads, which gives off an unrealistic and misleading perception of the popular Black hairstyle. However, real dreadlocks are composed of matted and sculpted ropes of hair. It may sound gross, but the hair is regularly washed to ensure shape and cleanliness.
Dreadlocks are then formed by braids, rolls, backcombing, or crocheting. You may have seen them on director Ava DuVernay, the Cosby Show star Lisa Bonet, eight-time Grammy Award-winner Lauryn Hill, and Zendaya at the 2015 Academy Awards.
The problem with cultural appropriation is that it creates double standards. Kylie Jenner can wear dreadlocks and Amandla Stenberg gets attacked for her two cents. Meanwhile, Zendaya wears dreadlocks to the Oscars and some narrow-minded big mouth says she “smells like patchouli oil or weed.”
Black women are not criticized for straightening their hair is because society teaches them that their natural hair is not beautiful. They have to straighten their hair to get a job, let alone validation.
Another problem is that the people who steal these customs do not understand the meaning of what they are wearing or doing, but are only doing it because it “looks cute.”
The fashion designer took to Instagram and replied to two comments to address the criticism.
Based on the show and his reply, this demonstrates how ignorant privileged people like him are. The reason why women of color (specifically Black women) are not criticized for straightening their hair is because society teaches them that their natural hair is not beautiful.
They have to straighten their hair to get a job, let alone validation. Another problem with the reply is Jacobs’ colorblindness. Yes, he can see people — but when he cannot see color, he cannot see the issues people of color face every day. I can agree that love is the answer and that inspiration is everywhere. However, Jacobs confuses “appropriation” with “appreciation.”
A little piece I would give to Marc Jacobs (and any other fashion designer) is to follow the commenters’ advice and that if you want to use culture as an aesthetic trend, the very (very) least he can do is use models of color who are a part of that culture.
For example, if tribal prints give off a trendy feel for the upcoming season, hire Native American models. Afros will top off a look? Hire black models with natural hair! Does Southeast Asian attire blow you away? Easy! Hire Southeast Asian models! It does not get simpler than representation.
The best part is that there are advantages on both ends: the underrepresented prospective model lands herself the job of her dreams and the brand gets positive reception for an inclusive image. That is cultural appreciation and it is a beautiful thing.
Speaking of which, last Monday, Anneisa Hasibuan made history at NYFW by featuring hijab-wearing models. The next day, H&M model Mariah Idrissi became the world’s first hijabi to sign a modeling contract.
It is not every day that Muslim women are represented, but we are making progress. In fact, Teen Vogue released a piece on cultural appreciation featuring real women of color. Maybe the popular fashion designer and modeling agencies should take notes.