Cultural appropriation is a popular topic these days with the high racial tension within America. Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture by another. Usually the culture being copied is a minority group, while the culture that takes from that group is the dominant or mainstream culture. This can be seen as negative, because the minority group that has its culture adopted usually is not given credit for the aspect that is adopted, or the aspect of the culture that has been adopted has significance and is not intended to be consumed by outsiders of the culture.  Several instances of appropriation have even appeared in the fashion industry. Here are some specific trends that the mainstream culture has adopted from black women.

1. Manicures

For decades, black women within black communities have experimented with bold nail art. It wasn’t until around the year 2012 however that the mainstream fashion world got a hold of the trend. Various brands have produced stick on manicures that feature bold patterns that in the past was deemed tacky. Longer nails and bold shapes have even become a social norm, especally among Instagram models, when once upon a time they were seen as hood and ghetto.

Recently, Kim Kardashian showed off her new pierced manicure on her snapchat, where her coffin shaped silver nails are seen with gold hoops in each one. Articles quickly jumped to say that Kim K was starting a new trend. Many annoyed African American chimed in on twitter however to say that Janet Jackson  did the same look first in the music video for the Busta Rhymes song that she’s featuted on, “What’s it Gonna Be” from the late 90’s. Seems like something is only seen as iconic when a Kardashian decides to wear it.


2. Chunky Jewelry

For a long time, door knockers and long chains have been associated with the rap culture that began in the 1980’s. Female rappers like Salt n Peppa popularized black women wearing this flashy jewelry as it was a sign of status. As hip hop culture became more prominent, the fashion of it was accepted by other races. Taylor Swift even rocked the look of door knockers and gold chains in her music video for “Shake it Off” while dressed in an “hip hop” outfit that some considered stereotypical. Swift received some backlash for this portion of her music video as they claimed it to be appropriative of black culture.


3. Corn rows

For as long as anyone can remember, black women have corn rowed their hair. The purpose behind this hairstyle has been more for necessity rather than fashion, as it kept the curls neatly pulled back out of one’s face. Corn rows first had their rise within non black communities in the 90’s. Fashion icons of that time, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera were some of the celebrities to rock this style.


Today, the Kardashians managed to popularize the style again among other races. However, this time around, the braids were suddenly renamed boxer braids by various media outlets in their articles as if they were something that had never been done before. Obviously this was met with criticism from those that saw this as cultural appropriation considering they Kardashian/Jenner clan was being praised by a hair style that has been worn for years. Youtuber Arika Soto even made a hair tutorial video on how to do corn rows but referred to them as “Kim Kardashian braids”. The hairstyle reminds popular today among black women and instagram models who usually hop on any daring new trend.



4. Afros

The natural hair movement has been around since the 1960’s with the rise of the black power movement as a way to rebel against white beauty standards and has to this day remained relevant and growing within the black community.

With the continuous growth of the natural hair movement, other cultures have begun to embrace the natural hair texture of black people as well. These other races have embraced it so much that they have even started mimicking the look themselves. One article from Allure magazine even gives detailed steps on how someone with naturally straight hair can achieve the appearance of having an afro. Kendall Jenner also rocked an afro during one of her photo shoots. Without a doubt this had black people in a fit as black hair is very significant to the culture.

5. Baby Hairs

It has been a common practice amongst black women for ages to lay down ones baby hairs with the help of edge control, a small brush, and a head scarf. In recent years, the fashion community has caught wind of this practice and it has been done on overkill ever since. Models with “baby hairs” slicked down on there forehead started to be seen around 2014. The difference between how black women slick down their edges and how the fashion industry does it is that they are gelling down more than just baby hairs. These models are walking the runway with full bangs glued to their forehead. Some may see this as just a dramatic runway beauty look, however some take it as mockery or misinterpretation of the culture. Below you can see the difference how singer Kehlani, a mixed race woman wears her baby hairs vs. a runway model.



6. Bantu Knots

Bantu Knots can be traced back to the Zulu tribe of South Africa where the hair is sectioned off and sectioned into parts. This hairstyle is still practiced by many black people around the world to this day. The purpose of this hairstyle is two give one’s natural curls more definition, meanwhile some like Rihanna at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards simply wear it for style. The fashion world eventually adopted bantu knots as their own, calling them mini buns. Mini buns appeared on models in many runway shows at NYFW in 2015 in DKNY and Marc Jacobs’ shows. While they look similar, mini buns are not done as neatly as bantu knots and they are done for appearance rather than to define one’s natural hair texture.



About The Author

Fashion Major, University of Alabama, Chicago, Photography

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