Faux Fashion: Appreciation Or Appropriation?

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cartoon by Jada Henry

Jada Henry, executive editor

Highly accredited fashion designer, Marc Jacobs, has gotten himself into hot water (more than once). If people aren’t angered by his lack of diverse tones in his new foundation line, which carries various shades for fair and pale skin tones, then they are raging over the incorporation of faux dreads in his fashion show.

The issue with fashion fanatics lies in the display of dreads on non-black models in his Spring 2017 show. Opposers of Jacob’s decision to use the multicolored dreads as a fashion staple believe that he failed to portray just that, as well as abusing a cultural hairstyle worn in many black cultures and displaying it as an “urban accessory”.

Meanwhile, fans flocked to Jacobs’ defense, citing that the designer was merely appreciating the popular hairdo and claiming that allowing one race to wear a hairstyle while others are forbidden creates a double standard. Netizens shot back stating that the real double standard is other races being praised for black features and hairstyles as “urban” or “hip”, while blacks continuously face scrutiny for natural features and cultural hairstyles.

Although Jacobs is encountering international backlash, he hasn’t been the first person in the spotlight to face such controversy. Most notably, host and TV personality Giuliana Rancic faced backlash for her crude comments about actress Zendaya Coleman’s dreadlocks while attending the Grammy Awards in 2015, but praising Kylie Jenner’s attempt at dreads just a few weeks prior.

The unsettling double standard goes on even today as many high profile media outlets were called out by readers for also praising Lady Gaga’s “fashion-foward” locks, while being uncertain with Rihanna’s new do of the same caliber.

Defending himself, Jacobs further argued towards his critics that the logic being implied could also (in his mind) work both ways for black women who straighten their hair.

When replying to an unsatisfied Instagram user, Jacobs stated that it’s funny how people don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair, implying that Caucasians are the staple of straight hair. His attempt to call out many women of color only scratched the surface of his poor argument, as users quickly shot back with statements underlining that black women have multiple reasons for straightening their hair; whether it’s from the easy ability to manage, being born with it, or just because they’d simply like to.

It seems as if Marc Jacobs statements are the equivalent to shooting oneself in the foot, because it has prompted netizens to point out the Eurocentric standards (sharp features, narrow noses, lighter complexions) imposed on society by the fashion industry. That being said, preposterous standards have caused people of color to become insecure or feel unappreciated with their features and has created the realization that they’ve been stripped of their looks only to be recycled onto their white counterparts as a new type of fashion (talk about invasion of the skin snatchers). Whether you believe that recent attempts in fashion have come off as capitalistic costuming or as fun new trends, the debate over cultural appropriation continues to rage on.