In an episode of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw once said that fashion was similar to politics, in the sense that they are both about, “recycling shop-worn ideas and making them seem fresh and inspiring.”
In truth, while this may be a similarity between politics and fashion, the politics of fashion, particularly as it pertains to culturally specific styles (e.g. cornrows, afros, turbans and hijabs) are more demonstrative of a global mindset that dominates racks, boutiques, salons and runways. Too often, styles that are othered and penalized when worn by people of color, are adopted and popularized by white celebrities and designers as “new,” “edgy” and “exciting.”
However, in an era where braids and dreadlocks can get people fired from their jobs and certain cultures and vernaculars are still openly mocked and persecuted, commodifying these styles for fun or an experience reeks of privilege and ignorance.
Halloween is soon, so instead of candy, I want to give a different treat — a good old fashioned history lesson. So buckle up and get ready for a crash course on the historical context of some of the most frequently appropriated cultural attire.