Another day, another example of cultural appropriation in fashion. Marc Jacobs' Spring 2017 show was one of the hottest tickets in town — and this year, said ticket came with a side of major insensitivity. Marc sent a flotilla of white models with multicolored fake dreadlocks down the runway — then gave the worst defense ever.
Let's begin with the hair.
The majority-white MJ models, including Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss, and Gigi Hadid, wore hand-dyed wool dreadlocks made by an Etsy seller named Jena.
This hairstyle, according to the hair team, was inspired by '80s English ravers, Club Kids, Burning Man, Boy George, Marilyn Manson, and Lana Wachowski. Which, OK. I went to raves and goth clubs back in the day; people definitely wore these wool locs.
The problem is that time has passed, and we recognize that this is culturally appropriative. We are now woke.
This is not right. Locs have a long cultural history in many cultures — white kids didn't invent them in the '80s. They are, as Harper's Bazaar notes, a "staple of the African-American community; a cultural touchstone." To reduce them to accessories is to strip them of their meaning.
And that's not the only problem.
But when women of color wear these hairstyles — hairstyles that originated with them — they're told it's unacceptable. Cornrows, bantu knots, and locs are routinely banned (even in the military) and women who wear these "too ethnic" styles are often shamed. Let's not forget when E! correspondent Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya's Oscar night dreadlocks made her look like she smelled of "patchouli and weed."
This NYFW show isn't the cause of all racism, obviously, but it IS symptomatic of a bigger problem. Many people online feel that if Marc Jacobs wanted to send locs down the runway, he could have cast more models of color.
Further complicating matters is how Jacobs himself has handled the criticism he's received over this show. After being throughly roasted online by fans angry about the cultural appropriation issues, Marc logged into his personal Instagram and jumped into the comments to defend himself.
If you read that and were like, THIS WON'T END WELL, you are correct.
Here is what Jacobs had to say:
"All who cry "cultural appropriation" or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any 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. 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."
But many people already *had* thought about it — because, as people of color, their entire lives sometimes revolve around thinking about issues of race and privilege. As of right now, there are nearly 1,000 comments on Instagram in response to Marc's statement, not to mention a lot of conversation on Twitter.
After some people started calling for a boycott of the brand, Jacobs went BACK to Instagram to clarify his original remarks:
He wrote, once again from his personal account:
"I will read and learn. My remark had to do with hair and inspiration. I did not intend to offend ANYONE at all. It's not my nature."Even though it is 100% not the job of people of color to educate a rich white dude on what is and is not cultural appropriation, it's at least *something* to know that he has taken this onboard, rather than dismissing it.
I know; it's a low bar.
Again: Marc Jacobs, the man and the brand, are not solely responsible for all the issues of cultural appropriation and racism in the world. Let's hope that this is the last time a wealthy white fashion person tries to tell the world that their ART is more important than the actual experiences of people of color.
In short: no more fake dreadlocks on white people, please. No more stealing Black culture while ignoring or disrespecting Black people. We have to do better; enough is enough.