Designer Marc Jacobs just proved that he has absolutely no idea how cultural appropriation works.
The designer’s Spring ’17 line runway show at New York Fashion Week featured a number of models wearing pastel dreadlocks. They were mostly white models. That already earned the designer some criticism, but when called out on it in a now-deleted Instagram post by Healthy Hair Journey, Jacobs responded with the classic “I don’t see color or race.”
Jacobs tried to make the argument that white people wearing dreadlocks isn’t cultural appropriation because “you don’t criticize women of color for straightening their hair.” In response, black women and others have been declaring he’s officially “cancelled.” Others have taken to Jacobs’ Instagram page to call him out. “Black women also have straight hair, blonde hair and blue eyes. To have dreadlocks, a look specific, historic and ancestral to black people and use them on white people is cultural appropriation. You love black aesthetic but not black people. You do in fact see color,” writes one commenter. “If you don't see color, why are all your models white?” asked another.
Jacobs apologized on his Instagram. “Of course straight hair isn’t a white thing,” he wrote in the comments of one post. “I was referring to hair styling and texture for my fashion show and defensive. I apologize if I offended anyone at all. Certainly wasn’t my intention at all.”
Nobody criticizes women of color for straightening their hair because women of color are often punished for wearing their hair naturally (and, you know, many black women have hair textures that straighten easily, just like white women). Recently, black students at a South African high school have protested the school for suspending girls wearing their hair naturally. Google Image searches for “unprofessional hair” bring up images of black women in braids and afros.
In an op-ed for the Daily Dot, Alexandra Samuels wrote about a spread in Allure that taught white women how to wear afros. “When magazines like Allure offer afro tutorials to white women, it says that black culture is only cool, mainstream, and acceptable when white people can take it for themselves. When white women have afros, they're on trend; when black women do it, they're on the market for a new job.”
Marc Jacobs is no stranger to controversy. In 2011 he was criticized for using a 17-year-old Dakota Fanning in a perfume ad in which she posed with the bottle between her thighs. A line of “faux fur” jackets were found to actually be using the hair of raccoon dogs from China in 2013. BuzzFeed praised his Spring 2016 line for using a diverse group of models … even though one of them was an Asian woman wearing dreadlocks.
Some things never change.