CULTURE VULTURE: MARC JACOB, CREATOR OF THE “TWISTED MINI BUN”.
On Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 a controversial picture of two white models hit the internet and went viral. Their high cheek bones, rosy hued lips, and striking eyes were not the issue, but the focus on the model’s hair was the topic of conversation in the black hair community. The caption on the photo reads, “Twisted Mini Buns inspired by Marc Jacobs”, when actuality they are “bantu” or “zulu” knots. I had to admit, I took a double take, and was rather astonished because I have seen this style so many times and in the beginning of my natural hair journey, rocked the style myself. I stared at it for about two minutes before rolling my eyes, and mumbling under my breath, “cultural appropriation.” What else could it be? This was it in its raw form. As a lover of anything fashion, and beauty related and proud consumer of products by Marc Jacobs, the line in the sand must be drawn here. Marc Jacobs did not create this style. It reminded me back of a time when braids were suddenly “popular” or “beautiful” when Kendall Jenner sported them. The issue here is cultural appropriation, and thanks to Amanda Stenberg, (watch her video if you have not already, where she eloquently points out examples of cultural appropriation in American Pop Culture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1KJRRSB_XA ) I have been more aware when I see cultural appropriation in media, and in our culture - and call it out when I see it. My anger stems from other races that are not of African descent that chooses to try and coin a look as their own. We are looking at an industry that is a melting pot of different cultural influences, then why not give credit where it is due?
For some of you that do not know what bantu knots are, they are a style that has been in African culture for thousands of years. They were worn by women to protect their hair, and have their hair out of their face as they completed daily tasks. They are also called “zulu knots”. The hairstyle was created by the ancient African group, the Zulu tribe that are one of the largest ethnic group in South Africa…so not Marc Jacobs. The lack of appreciation of black culture’s influence in the fashion world is more common than not. When an artist decides to display their work on a runway, there should be extensive study of their inspiration as well as accreditation to where their inspiration originated. Just because you change the name, it does not change the style. Give credit where it is due. Braids did not just start being cool because Kendall Jenner is fair skinned and wore them, nor did these models make Bantu knots cool. Braids, Bantu (Zulu) knots have ALWAYS been cool, and will continue to be a beautiful work of hair art in African and African American culture.
I feel as though this rant will never end, there will be another picture, another designer in which reflects the African culture but will be casted aside and praised because it is misconceptualized as “white” creation. White supremacy covers a multitude of facets in our everyday culture, but we have a voice to call it out when it happens. Keep speaking out, never be silent or passive about cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to something as dear and touchy as OUR HAIR.