Cultural Appropriation: Marc Jacobs and Dreadlocks

I always found Cultural Appropriation to be a topic that is highly controversial and quite scary to discuss. However, today I just couldn’t stay quiet. I have always been scared to discuss my opinions on this matter, but when I heard about the Marc Jacobs and Dreadlocks situation, I just had to vent my frustration.

For those of you who may not know, this season is home to multiple Fashion Weeks across the world.Whether it is from my blog, YouTube video or window shopping in Oxford Street, I have always loved fashion. One day, I hope that I will be able to watch the shows in fashion week and see all the amazing work by such creative designers. One of these designers, for example, is Marc Jacobs. With such talented designs, his brand and work is iconic. So when I saw a video about his show on NowThis Entertainment I was more than happy to watch. However the caption of the video got me the most: “Hey Marc Jacobs, dreadlocks on white models was probably not a good idea.” As soon I read that, things began to take a turn for the worse.

Basically, the video demonstrates the backlash Marc Jacobs has been facing for featuring white models wearing faux dreadlocks in his latest fashion show.

Initially, I  just felt like “here we go again…another Cultural Appropriation issue” because I have literally reached a point where I am just too frustrated to care. However, when I kept watching the video and researching about this issue, I just found myself getting even more angry. I am not the sort of person who gets angry very easily so when I do get angry it takes something big to do that. Not only were the comments I read beneath the video quite disgusting and ignorant but it was the fact that STILL in 2016 people don’t understand why people are so frustrated! One of those people being Marc Jacobs himself.

Image result for marc jacobs and dreadlocks
Source: The Mirror

Whilst reading the Mirror article: Marc Jacobs defends using dreadlocks in fashion show featuring Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner after sparking row, it mentioned Marc Jacobs response to the backlash. He stated:

Image result for marc jacobs and dreadlocks
Source: Refinery 29

“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 colour 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.”

This whole entire argument is in no way justified for what he has done. It’s clear to me that he doesn’t understand the concept of ‘Cultural Appropriation’ and he doesn’t seem to care. As a matter of fact, on his Instagram page he has just been sharing articles which argue that what he has done isn’t wrong and “Cultural Appropriation” isn’t a ‘big deal.’ Moreover, on his Facebook page he has just been sharing images of the show and made no additional comments which clearly shows how little he cares about the situation.

  1. First of all he states:  “funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.”

Well Mr Jacobs, if we take a little trip down memory lane to a period called slavery, maybe I can give you a little insight to why many women of colour (WOC) straighten their hair. During the slave trade, WOC (black people in particular) were ridiculed for their Afro-centric features i.e. dark skin, big lips and natural hair. Natural hair has collected numerous insults some more direct e.g. ‘nappy hair’ but other more subtle suggesting that natural hair isn’t ‘tidy’.

Dreadlocks usually occur when natural hair (which is of curly kinky texture), begins to lock in to place. Back in the day, hair tools such as comb and brushes were not readily available so this was just a natural thing to occur. As a matter of fact it collected the term ‘Dread’locks because people were actually scared of it’s appearance. Consequently, such hairstyles were usually frowned upon. In order for a slave to SURVIVE, it was better to look more white/Caucasian. Thus, over the years the creative protective styles from the various tribes of Africa soon became a part of history. Consequently, straighter hair wasn’t a choice simply from desire but a choice to SURVIVE! Unfortunately, this is still a part of our society today where certain institutions such as schools and the working environment still dismiss natural hair. For example, in South Africa where black girls protested against having their hair straightened.

So Mr Jacobs, it is very easy to point the finger to sway the blame but actually addressing the issue at heart is the tricky part!

2. Secondly he also claims that: “I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don’t see colour or race”

Source: Gossip on this

Very funny you should say that Mr Jacobs because I can’t see any colour either from your fashion shows. Out of all the multiple designs you would like to present I find it interesting how I don’t see many Asian people or black people also gracing the stage. I mean what is so wrong with some colour? Do we not fit your aesthetic? Does our skin colour not work well with your design?

I find it quite difficult to believe that you can argue that “Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing.” because I don’t see you appreciating it that much. From what I gather, you only perceive other cultures as  beautiful when they come from a white person. Maybe you should take the time to practise what you preach by actually sharing “love” for all cultures by displaying all cultures on the catwalk (not just on a white person).

The thing that frustrates me the most, is the fact that you are capitalising on something inherent to another persons culture and that is really offensive. Especially because in this current day and age, I still can’t go anywhere without having to ‘whiten’ my appearance in order to be accepted. It’s funny how although slavery has ended, the mentality of it still prevails. To be specific, we still see other cultures being treated as inferior to the white culture. If he really wanted to appreciate dreadlocks then he should have featured a black model which actually has REAL dreadlocks on her head.

I know this piece is very different from what I usually write but I thought it was important to share my opinions. Please feel free to share yours below!!! If you still don’t understand ‘Cultural Appropriation’ I will be writing a post about it soon so look out for my upcoming posts!

Featured Image Source: The Guardian

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