Cultural Apropriation by Marc Jacobs

| On
(from the Creators of Marc Jacobs for the brand Marc Jacobs which is in collaboration with Marc Jacobs of Marc Jacobs, for the collection M.A.R.C Jacobs by Marc Jacobs)

So I usually don't post on weekdays and leave my blogging schedule for Sundays only, but I just had to talk about a significant event seen at Fashion Week. This Fashion Week we saw lots of stuff. Some goods stuff rolled out during Fashion Week , some interesting and conceptual stuff and some...terrible stuff. Oh no, not terrible as in the fashion was bad, I meant the terrible stuff as in the fact that Marc Jacobs basically put dreadlocks on his mainly all white model group and pretended like there was some connection between the cultural appropriation of dreadlocks and the fact that black women straighten their hair.
Mendel did not study these peas....
A mess, but not one I haven't seen before. This is old talk, but yet, it seems that Marc Jacobs thinks this is something new. Please! Cultural appropriation is one of the most heavily talked about topics in socially minded circles. The appropriation of black hairstyles is nothing new and neither is his response. Whenever outrage is expressed at the appropriation of black hairstyles, people time and time again, try to create a false equivalency between black hairstyles worn by non-black people and the fact that black people (women specifically) straighten their hair.

A point, that was ignorantly made by Marc Jacobs once he faced serious backlash for deciding that his white models would wear dreadlocks. As with many modern makeup trends, fashion trends, and of course hair trends, it has been taken from people of color and put on a white body. The repercussions of the use of black hairstyles on white models is this: You are essentially telling black people, that your hair is beautiful and it's creative and artsy EXCEPT when it's on your own body.  I mean if we liked it on your body we would have hired/showcased/bought attention to you, now wouldn't we? *condescending smile*.

Quick Interlude:  The Hairstylist for Marc Jacob's show Guido Palau even said: "The interesting thing about Marc is how he takes something so street and so raw, and because of the coloration of the hair and the makeup, it becomes a total look". "Something that we've bypassed on the street and not really looked at, or seen a million times, he makes us look at it again in a much more sophisticated and fashionable way. (Harper's Bazar, How Will the Internet React to Marc Jacobs' Rainbow Dreadlocks?). This whole statement is side-eye worthy.

Back on track, the simple fact is that things on black people are only seen as artsy and creative and beautiful when it's on a white (eurocentric-beauty-standards-conforming) body.  Marc Jacobs had the damn audacity to do two things which really put an itch under my skin. Not only did he say he was colorblind but he mentioned women of color (we all knew he meant black women) straightening their hair and how that should equally be  called cultural appropriation.

First off! Black women have only straightened their hair in order to assimilate to white spaces. We had to straighten our hair just so that we could be more readily accepted into white spaces and so that we can properly navigate through society in a way that would benefit our survival. We couldn't wear natural styles (and still can't, to a degree) because it is deemed unkempt, dirty , unprofessional and there's a high chance that black people wouldn't get employed because of their hair.  Marc Jacobs also neglected to realize the fact that women of color (including yes! Black women) can be born with straight hair.

Second Off! While being a white man with a ton of privilege, Marc Jacobs, mentioned that he is colorblind. Being colorblind (the act of not seeing race) is actually terrible. I get that people want to see people for who they are but in doing so you miss the point. If you are colorblind then you cannot see  the discrimination that POC face on a day to day basis. It's impossible for you to see that my race is the reason I get followed around in stores. The simple fact is that the moment you take something with cultural significance/importance then you have a problem on your hands. There's a thin line between appreciation, inspiration, and appropriation. Marc Jacobs completely ignored all those lines and firmly planted himself in the Appropriation section.

Black Women? Colorful Dreadlocks? Yo..I gotta tell someone about this...

He added insult to injury by utilizing a white Etsy shop owner in order to create this look, when he literally could have gone to any black hairstylist who specializes in dreadlocks, who could have created the same thing, in a way that wasn't a distasteful representation of dreadlocks. He isn't even the first celebrity to face public backlash for this. You would think he would have heard the word on this at least once before coming to this decision, but I guess he didn't. And more to the matter is that he didn't care to properly listen to the people who were telling him what he did wrong. It just seems that he doesn't care at all.

Edit: So Marc Jacobs has 'apologized' for his lack of sensitivity regarding this whole issue but here is the thing, I don't see it as an apology. And it's not because I don't think that he hasn't read people's comments. I think it's more like damage control and how to get the comments to stop. He states that he believes in the freedom to expresses oneself, however, they want (which is fair!) but not once does he sincerely state that he realizes what he did was wrong. He really doesn't apologize for the original offense of putting white models in dreadlocks or the major offense of comparing the assimilation of black women via hair to cultural appropriation. I read it as a way to placate the 'overtly and extremely angry black people' who are genuinely upset by the fact that yet again something that holds such significance in our community, (not even going into the very spiritual importance of dreadlocks to Rastafarian culture/beliefs) is being used for fashion without our faces behind it. He states that he does not discriminate and that nothing is gained from spreading hate. This is where I really feel that he doesn't care about cultural appropriation, but rather cares about him being seen as a 'bad man'. He'd rather focus on what makes him a good guy and focus on spreading "not hate" than actually taking what people said to heart, and learning from us. I mean, he didn't even take the time to issue a proper apology or at least attempt one.

If you want to learn more about black people and assimilating through hair, this is a good post by Tumblr user Thatadult on Black Hair and why black people are forced to straighten their hair.

Anyway, what was your take on the Marc Jacobs Runway debacle? What was your favorite thing from NYFW? (Mine was the great street wear I saw and I love Eckhaus Latta's looks)  Whose looks were you surprised by, whose looks disappointed you, which designer pulled a fashion faux pas and stole/profited off of a style/look that could be found in another culture?  Give me a shout in the comments!

Be First to Post Comment !
Post a Comment

Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon