Marc Jacobs, responding on Instagram to critiques of appropriation after he wove wool dreadlocks into the hair of his majority white runway models this week in New York: “funny how you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.”
Jacobs has built an empire by mining subcultures to create his pretty, expensive garments—in this Spring 2017 line, he went straight to the street style of Harajuku and staged what appeared to be an approximation of a hardstyle quasi-rave. As my friend Judnick Mayard pointed out, “women of color have straight hair too,” and also that’s not the point: the point is, “love” and “appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere” almost always works from a position of power. Which is to say white people are afforded the range of motion to adopt black hairstyles such as dreads and rows without the punishment that black women get for wearing natural or protective hairstyles in society, but most especially in the workplace. (For a recent and public example, it was not two years ago that Giuliana Rancic said the dreads on fashion goddess Zendaya looked like they smelled of weed and patchouli oil, prompting Kelly Osbourne to quit Fashion Police in protest and Rancic to make a public apology.)
It’s a tiresome conversation to continue to have, the appropriation one—cultural exchange is real and important, but becomes thorny when done without respect and understanding, or when used as a kind of fad (a la cornrows on Kardashians, etc). Jacobs’s response, though, just shows how clueless he is to any of this argument, despite it being reiterated again and again to the point of exhaustion. And anyway, these clothes are ugly, and don’t hold a candle to the real life Harajuku candy girls from which he’s taken inspiration.