The Untold Story of African American Cultural Appropriation: African Fashion and Black Heritage

Is African fashion only appropriate for Africans to wear and not African Americans or people of any other culture? If you answer yes, as many are today. I completely disagree. In Black America, please stop appropriating African clothing and tribal marks, the author argues on our quick we are to embrace other culture without truly understanding the cultural significance while in the process using "fakes" that further demoralizes the original. The article made a few fair points. I agree with her on the valid point that prominent designers should not use and bring out the African designs when they think they will be trendy but I have to strongly disagree with all the other argument that follow. Let take it one at a time.

Understanding Culture and Fashion Culture and fashion unity are just one of many tools to mend the gap between cultures and be united as people of one nation rather than attempting to intentionally segregate. Willful sharing has never hurt anyone, regardless of what a small fraction people opinionate on social media. Although fashion means making a statement about you, it should not be associated with words like ‘Shock Value’ and ‘Media hype’. Fashion does make a statement but wearing what makes one feel confident should never be a topic of criticism for anyone, regardless of the fact that whether or not they know every little thing about the apparel’s origin or significance. Attempting to further segregate fashion trends amongst the population of a geographic area can only lead to a wider communication gap. Also, I am not really impressed by the fact that the author uses generalization of opinion as a means of supporting her argument. People have different mindsets, I for one, might not be offended by someone of a different race and culture wearing something from mine. And even when someone from a different race is wearing a symbol of a religion, as I do not know their intent or purpose to do so, I won’t accuse them of mockery or insensitivity because that just seems absurd to me. One can never be sure of other peoples’ points of view and their motives behind making fashion statements. A thought that clearly needs to be more out there and be thought upon: It’s not just about the optics. Fashion appropriation does not have to be always credited and guised as a negative thing in this day and age when the whole world is becoming a global village where people of all colors and races mix up. There should not be a cleft between people on ‘what is mine and what is yours’ mindset because it sounds a bit selfish. Wearing something and discouraging others to wear the same thing just because they belong to a different race seems unreasonable. American Africans and young people specifically are looking to be in touch with their roots and have a perception of their origin; it is not at all wrong for them to wear traditional African dresses, it is perfectly okay for them at the least of all the people out there. So I strongly stand against the author’s opinion that African tribal clothing and fashion, or something even slightly variant, should not be worn by people if they do not understand each and everything about African tribes.

What is African Fashion anyways? I would also like the author to educate people that even African fashion is not entirely African, and has mixed origins. Let’s take a stroll back to history to understand the origination of the African designs better. When the Europeans started infiltrating Africa, they started venturing out for opportunities to settle themselves in Africa. One such area which caught their attention was the fashion and designs inspired in Africa. In the meantime, batik- a print technique had already made way to Indonesia, which was a Dutch colony. In Indonesia, the batik technique was improvised upon by the locals and it evolved using wax resisting dying where wax was applied to a cloth, and then dyed to create a rhythm. The elaborated pattern of this clothing went on to become the face of the African print. These patterns are bold and elaborated; and with the intricate designing and handcrafting, it has become the mainstream of the African print. The African men in Indonesia, who were a part of the Dutch colonial Dutch army, then brought these fabrics and brought them home and that opened the floodgates of the trend to step in to Africa. It ignited the taste of West Africa for handcrafted designs from Indonesia. When the Dutch tried getting this business opportunity to the mainstream, they were countered with the problem of machines not being able to produce the quality of fabric people wanted! The fabric that these machines produced had cracks in the prints and the dye often seeped into the fabric. As a result, the market in Indonesia fell because the Indonesians declined to but the faulty fabric. With that, the Dutch was hunting for a new market; which they eventually found in West Africa. The imperfection in the fabric became the heart-throb of millions and that’s how African print was born! So as you can see, claiming that African fashion should only be limited to Africa is not only illogical, it is preposterous, and not just because of the origin. Saying that African fashion should just be for the Africans is like saying that only the Indians should eat Indian food or only the Brazilians should get to keep their production of the Brazil nut; it’s a very preposterous innuendo of subjugation and perpetuates not only societal stereotypes but even racism, if you think about it. The question here is about fashion in its entirety and not just African fashion. What is fashion? Fashion is a feat of personal expression through iconography and creativity. Well, should one limit themselves in this creativity and stick to one type of fashion? Most definitely not! Fashion is an all embracing phenomenon that comes to us humans somewhat naturally. African or African American or British, we are all humans and fashion touches the lives of us all because as mentioned before, it is all embracing. Thus, fashion can’t be confined to one area or region no matter how hard one tries. It is in our nature that the culture of others always intrigues us because we want to do something new. Fashion works the same way, once people go to another land and see another culture they want to bring a part of it to their own land too. And that’s how fashion spreads from one country to another. While some might feel that people need to stick to their own culture, there is nothing wrong with appreciating the diversity this world has to offer and the beautiful cultures of the people around the globe. The statement about African fashion only staying in Africa is absurd because no can stop African fashion to be worn by people in other parts of the world. It is inevitable. African fashion is a beautiful tapestry of colors, draped fabrics, enigmatic jewelry and much more and that doesn’t sound like something that shouldn’t be appreciated by the rest of the world; it should be! One argument remains and that is whether people will use African fashion in an authentic way or rip it off. If one decides to dress themselves in clothes from another country, it is essential that they keep it authentic and know what they’re wearing. It might offend people of African origin when they see someone ripping off their culture as it would to people of any culture. So, while it is vital that everyone should practice African fashion due its amazing creativity and uniqueness, people should also do their research and keep the fashion as authentic as possible. Nothing is more important than authenticity when it comes to fashion. Without its authenticity, fashion from all parts of the world would be somewhat the same. You can always browse our array of uniquely inspired styles now.