The Normalization of Cultural Appropriation

  • March 17, 2021 

From the shoes on your feet to the style of your hair, your style choice is likely inspired by trends, celebrities, and your environment. You may also be unknowingly appropriating another culture. Wearing do-rags, the bindi, a feathered headgear, etc for merely their “aesthetic” is cultural appropriation. Using elements of a culture to disrespect the cultural significance, not giving credit where it is due, and essentially reinforcing stereotypes of other cultures are all part of cultural appropriation. And that is recycled in recent trends. 

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Photo Obtained from campaignlive

The fashion industries, celebrities, and the general public have stolen aspects of another culture to fulfill their own desires for “aesthetics” which disrespects the cultural significance.​ Fashion Nova, a retail company, is selling Geisha costumes for $49.99. The Japanese Geisha are respected artists and performers and the clothing worn is remade and sold as “costumes.” These costumes are generally shortened and can be labeled as “sexy geisha” that blatantly sexualize another culture. The clothing of the Japanese Geisha has cultural significance to the Japanese people.  So, inappropriately remaking it is disrespectful because something that has cultural significance to them is being portrayed just like a garment for “dress-up.” Appropriating a culture by wearing cultural clothing as “costumes” is common because popular clothing brands, like Fashion Nova, that make and/or sell these clothes, especially during Halloween, further encouraging this behavior.

Based on the discussions made on Essence, the trend with baby hairs and edges was considered “ghetto” when black people did it for years until it was done on runways. Big companies such as Vogue partook in this aspect of black culture, and now it is considered fashionable in society. Not only baby hairs and edges, but other aspects of black culture as well like hair, clothing, style, music, etc was once not favored by the public but have now become trendy. Expert hairstylist Nigella Miller states, “We’re not always thought when it comes to the industry. Look at everything that’s happening now with the labels on our hair, our style, the way we do our nails. All these ways we choose to express who we are, are all on-trend now…We just do what we do because that’s our culture, other people didn’t appreciate what we were doing up until now. But, everything that’s in now [as a trend] was ‘ghetto’ at some point.”

Miller’s statement demonstrates how various cultures are not given credit to the fashion that is popularized from their creation. People reproduce styles influenced by other cultures and once it becomes popular, less appreciation is given to that culture because there is not enough recognition. 

Involving elements of another culture in your style can be a good thing if done respectfully and with knowledge. One should educate themselves when exploring cultures to be careful to not be offensive.

Ultimately, it is crucial to be mindful and informed about any cultural significance behind the elements of a trend.