Controversy At Marc Jacobs’ Show Over Culturally Appropriative Hair Style

By Brina Jeffries, Contributing Writer

It seems that this year’s fall NYFW was filled with scandals and criticism. While Kanye West may have grabbed the most headlines with his casting call for “multiracial” women, the accusations of Marc Jacobs culturally appropriating drew attention to a problematic practice on the runway.

Jacobs closed NYFW with a ‘90s rave-style show that involved several multi-colored looks. His designs consisted of copious amounts of patterns, including: camouflage prints, metallic colors, lace and fur. However, it was not the platform shoes or the vibrant designs that the public was talking about. What became Jacobs’ most noticeable piece in the show was the hairstyle that topped every model’s head: dreadlocks.

Although the cultural origin is not exact, with many believing it came from ancient Egyptian culture, the modern dreadlock hairstyle is typically associated with people of African or Caribbean descent. Popularized by the famous Bob Marley himself, dreadlocks are a part of a long line of braid-oriented hairstyles of black people.

Jacobs’ show immediately received backlash. Social media was booming with comments regarding the lack of black models, insensitivity and more. If that wasn’t enough, the aggressive reaction of Jacobs added fuel to an already heated fire. After several comments from the public on his Instagram page, Jacobs retorted in an Instagram comment with this statement:

“And all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in a particular style or 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.”

Needless to say, this did not work in favor of Jacobs’ argument. Social media responded with even more attacks upon the designer with many women of color feeling especially offended by these statements. Given the debate over cultural appropriation in society right now, especially with other creatives such as Beyonce, Amandla Stenberg and Frank Ocean speaking publicly about representation of black culture in popular culture — many saw Jacobs’ response as being insensitive coming from a designer who is supposed to represent forward thinking in the design world.

Regardless of the later apology given by Jacobs, it is clear that the show and the scandal that came along with it will be on the minds of the public this fall season.

Email Brina Jeffries at [email protected]