To Braid Or Not To Braid…

By Malieva Hedberg, ’17

Where is the line drawn between borrowing and cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by people that aren’t directly involved in that culture. In today’s generation, it mostly gets a negative connotation. Many people believe that it is a big issue that needs to be addressed more often and taken more seriously.

Recently, this was not a much talked about topic, but celebrities and trendsetters like Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber, who are just some of many, put hair braiding such as corn rows back on the map as “fashion statements”.

Meanwhile, braiding hairstyles were spotted at Coachella; one of the most famous music festivals in the United States hosted in Indio, California. Almost every other photo uploaded onto Instagram will show a hippy-dressed girl wearing corn rows, dutch braids, dreadlocks, etc.

On a more serious note, sometimes cultural appropriation backlash can be taken to another level. On January 27th, 2017, a 20-year-old Hampshire College student allegedly attacked a basketball player visiting the school, solely over the player’s “culturally appropriated” hair braids.

Saint Peter’s University students Crystal Carlucci who identifies as white, and Esther Ongeri who identifies as black, both have had braids of some type, either currently or having gotten them done in the past. They both believe that hairstyles such as braids are not as serious as people make them out to be, and shouldn’t necessarily be labeled as “cultural appropriation.”

“Hairstyles in the grand scheme of things… are they really that important? I mean, is the issue that great?” Ongeri says.

Carlucci has a similar outlook.

“I think it is silly to judge someone based upon their hair,” Carlucci explains.

Critics, however, have said that it is being used by fashion industries and people around the world solely for the look of it, without giving proper credit to its originating culture. However, it doesn’t look like this “beauty trend” is ending anytime soon, along with its criticism.