Cultural Appropriation (or Inspiration?) And Wigs

Image | Instagram

 

EDIT from founder:

Before we dive into this this is a side note from the founder of The Renatural.

"We have had a few comments that have made it clear some aspects of this post have been misconstrued. We do not dictate, determine or decide what one can and cannot wear throughout this blog post or any other blog post. We are further discussing a topic that has been researched by academic institutions such as Cambridge UniversityUCL and LSE  and global media publications such as Vogue magazine, Allure  and Grazia.

Highlighting the experiences and sharing the history of one demographic does not take away from the struggles experienced by another. The Renatural is for and has always been for, all people that wear wigs often. No matter your gender, race, religious affiliation or hair type, we want you to feel comfortable, confident and have the most seamless experience wearing wigs. 

To properly construe our sentiment this and avoid further misinterpretations we have changed the title from cultural appropriation and wigs to Cultural Appropriation (or Inspiration?) And Wigs. 

 

What is Cultural Appropriation? 

Before we can get started, it's important to know what cultural appropriation (CA) is. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture". 

For example, Karlie Kloss wearing a Native American headdress for a VS fashion show is a form of cultural appropriation. Why you might ask? Because by reducing the headdress to nothing more than a fashion accessory, it's stripping it of all the things that make it sacred to the Indigenous people of North America. The headdresses are reserved for the most powerful members of the tribe and are earned over a long period of time with different tribes of Indigenous people having different customs when it comes to their headdresses. If it hasn't been earned, one shouldn't be worn so for a model to parade around in a recreation of one is considered highly disrespectful.

cultural appropriation and wigs

Image | CR Fashion Book

Why Is It Such A Big Deal? Aren't They Just Appreciating The Culture? 

In short, no. There's a very fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Cultural appreciation involves educating oneself on topics like the history of the culture and its traditions as well as its significance to its people. Appropriation skips over all of that and erases all of these important factors to reduce certain parts of ethnic cultures into an 'aesthetic'. 

Someone once described it like this: Imagine someone copying your homework word for word only for you to be given an F and for them to be given an A+. That's exactly what cultural appropriation is like. 

So How Does This Apply To Wigs? 

In a past blog post exploring some of the reasons why wigs might have become more popular in recent years, we mentioned that influencers and celebrities have played a large role in popularising the wearing of wigs for the sake of fashion.

While it can't be denied they have done just that! It's also important to note that there is a strong a rich cultural history of wig wearing prior to them that did not receive the same acceptance and understanding. 

Wigs can be traced all the way back to 2700 B.C.E where Egyptians would construct wigs from human hair and even palm leaf fibres

Since then, examples of wig-wearing can be found in the histories of all parts of the world. Reasons ranged from practicality to fashion and differed according to regions.

Wig wearing for black women in particular has roots in protective styling and/or the pressures of assimilation.

Many black women still wear wigs for those two aforementioned reasons and many now wear them because it's fun. Regardless of the 'why', it ultimately boils down to the phrase "because they can". Hair is a form of self-expression. Whether it's a form of political activism or a way to elevate your outfit, hair styling and wig-wearing are a way to show the world who you are; something that has been celebrated widely within black communities. It shouldn't need a lengthy explanation. But when it comes to communities outside of this, they often (wrongly) assume that a black woman wearing wigs, weaves and extensions means she wants to cover up her natural hair and it's constantly questioned. 

Take Beyonce for instance, for years questions have circulated around her hair: is she bald? Is her hair real? Is she natural? Why does she hide her real hair? All she was doing was using her hair as another way to express herself and her creativity. However, her counterparts were not questioned on their hairstyles in the same manner. Keira Knightley for example has been wearing wigs for over a decade!

Similarly, Lil' Kim has always been a style maven even in her earlier years. Known for her bold looks consisting of brightly coloured wigs and outfits were a reflection of what was - and still is - popular within black communities. However, mainstream audiences often called her looks ghetto or tacky. Her iconic blue wig stamped with the tell-tale Chanel double C's wasn't to everyone's taste and neither was the blonde, Versace iteration. 

 
 
 
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A post shared by LIL’ KIM FANBASE (@lilkimfanbase) on

 

Will There Ever Be An End To Cultural Appropriation? 

What we can do is educate ourselves on the topic and encourage others to do the same. Likewise, amplifying the voices of those who experience cultural appropriation and not celebrating those that perpetuate CA, is another step we can take it reducing and eventually, eradicating it. 

  

What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation and wigs? Leave your thoughts in the comments! And don't forget, the Wig Fix now comes in skin-toned shades! 

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3 comments

  • Jeanette Reese

    I am a black woman that wear wigs. I have hair. I just get tired of the same hair style and want to change up sometimes. Getting a weave or having hair extensions put in can be very expensive. Buying a wig is cheaper. If you get tired of it, you can just get a new one. White women wear wigs and hair extensions to. Even white female celebrities wear them. They just don’t get put on blast for it. When a white woman wears fake hair, nobody questions it or demands an explanation. They just say it looks nice and talk about how beautiful they are. The only question they might ask is what hair salon she goes to. They can treat black women the same way. They don’t need to ask us wether or not our hair is fake or real. People can just tell us our hair looks good and how beautiful we are. As black women we get tired of having to explain everything we do. We shouldn’t have to. We don’t owe nobody any explanations. Society need to start asking white women to explain themselves. Why do they wear wigs and hair extensions. Why do the lay out in the sun and go to tanning booths. Why do they get lip injections to make their lips fuller. Why do they get but implants to make their butts big. The lists can go on. Enough said

  • sus

    Interesting…I always thought wigs were a 70s fashion statement or a product worn by 1)Actors/entertainers who were creating a ‘persona’ as part of their image for performance or publicity reasons, 2) Women who were undergoing chemotherapy, 3)Men and women who felt the need to avoid age stereotypes and 4) Conservative Jewish women intending to meet religious commitments without wearing a headscarf.
    Never realized skin color even entered the picture. If wigs are fashionable for any other reason, like if they’re fun, by all means, wear one…or 3.

  • Eli

    I’m a little confused- do you think its appropriate for white people to wear wigs? Is the explanation about their historical uses to educate the reader and so now they CAN wear wigs because they’re informed? Also I think it would really add to the article if you address the popular misconception that Egyptians were white so its clearer that wigs have always been abt black expression


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