Trend or Takeover? | Culture Appropriation

Always a hot spot for fashion trends this year’s Coachella leaves us in a wake of cultural appropriation.Where is the line between appreciating another culture and appropriating it? And why are so many celebrities jumping over line in the sand? Although Coachella is not the only home to this new trend, it seems to be a sore spot for a lot of cultures, and rightfully so.

 Cultural appropriation is described as “adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group.” It most often describes a dominate culture taking and using items of cultural significance from a minority culture. These items once removed from their original culture often, if not always, lose their historical or religious meaning.The Native American headdress has been perhaps one of the largest appropriation cases against the Californian Music Festival. These headdresses, also known as war bonnets, are worn by Plains Indian men most often in ceremonial settings. These bonnets cannot be worn without the consent of the leaders of the Warrior’s tribe, and each feather is to be earned through brave deeds in battle.With no regard to the cultural significance or religious symbolism, men and women alike have been donning the feathered headdresses as a fashion accessory, some even going as far as sexualizing this religious adornment. This trend is, of course, not limited to the festival; in the November 2012 Victorian Secret fashion show, model Karlie Kloss walked the runway in an over the top and borderline racist outfit featuring a feathered headdress. While Victoria Secret and Karlie Kloss both apologized for this occurrence, one has to wonder why it was considered for the runway in the first place.
With their Native American appropriation under fire, it seemed like the guests of Coachella looked to another culture for ‘inspiration’. This year many celebrities were seen sporting bindis, a religious symbol of the Hindi people.However, there seems to be disagreement whether this a problem or not. While many people say this fits into the exact definition, Anjali Joshi, writing for the Huffington Post, says otherwise. Joshi argues that even the Hindi people have lost focus of the religious aspect of the symbol, many East Indians using it themselves as a fashion accessory.In the past the bindi was meant to be a physical representation of the sixth chakra, the area just between the eyebrows where energy is focused during meditation. This role has however changed over time and bindis are now worn by women throughout South Asian regardless of religious background. They can be purchased in a variety of colors and styles and are often themed to a women’s outfit.Appropriation or not, it’s always best to understand the significance of a symbol to another culture, and to make sure you’re not defaming it with your fashion statement.

written by Taryn