posted by jroselkim
Thanks to my barely employed/”working from home” days, I have fostered a new internet hobby: reading fashion blogs. I know, I know. Can’t I read about more important things, or do something more productive with my time? I often wonder about the same thing.
But on one of my morning browsing photos of high-waisted skirts and vintage dresses, one thing caught my eye – a video tutorial on “How to Wear a Headscarf, Turban Style.” Yes, you guessed it; the use of a religious garb as a fashion statement (by a white woman, nonetheless) made me feel rather…uncomfortable. But I watched it, and to be fair, this isn’t tying a “complete” turban, and I could even argue that this style itself doesn’t appear very problematic (as the style itself does not resemble a full turban), save for its name.
However, as I dug around to see the posts where the blogger actually experiments with this style, I was met with this phrase: “Just yesterday my friend and I were saying how we couldn’t rock turbans.”
Now, this is where I have more of a problem. To say that one can’t “rock” a turban without even slightly thinking about how people in other cultures/religions wear them seems like the fashion world has stripped this religious garment of all its significance, only to reappropriate it as it sees fit. Then again, my quick Wikipedia search of “turbans” also reveals that women in the Western world also wore a modified version of “turbans” at the turn of the 20th century as a way of keeping hair out of their faces. I also admit that I do not have an extensive knowledge of turbans myself, so perhaps I shouldn’t be speaking too much on this matter.
Reappropriation (and its problematic implications) is what I’ve been thinking about a lot these days, with hipsters wearing native headdresses and the popularity of keffiyeh as scarves. You might say, but wait! people in Asian countries and African countries wear western clothes all the time. But the difference there is that many of those countries’ citizens were also forced to wear Western-style clothing and banned from practicing/continuing their native cultures as a means of colonization. The effect of such practices is that while “Western” clothes are the most affordable and available clothes there, while traditional garments have become more of a luxury and special occasions items.
So where do you draw the line? How might you distinguish between paying homage or tribute to a culture (or making “XX-influenced” things without making it totally problematic) and disrespectfully ripping off a culture?