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Is it offensive if other cultures wear a head wrap?
Head wraps hold cultural significance to many people and cultures across the world. You’ll see them worn in rituals, to special celebrations, or even as everyday wear. A beautiful and symbolic expression of identity and style, the traditional African headwrap is so much more than a fabric to cover the head.
We’ve received many questions and comments about who is “allowed” to wear head wraps. As a Black owned business that deliberately celebrates Black women through the images on our site, many people understandably assume that the products we make are primarily for other Black women and no one else.
For us, YES, it is acceptable for all people to wear whatever they choose and no, it’s not cultural appropriation for white people to wear head wraps. “White” is a phenotype, not a culture. White people belong to many cultures, including cultures in which turbans and head wraps are worn. People all over the world have been wrapping their heads in cloth for thousands of years.
To prohibit “white people” from wearing certain clothing and hairstyles, listening to or performing certain kinds of music, or eating certain foods is just pure racism. If “cultural appropriation” were really a concern the prohibition would apply to everyone who is not a member of the specific culture claiming ownership of these things, and not just to “white people” based on their physical appearance.
We’re all members of a worldwide human culture, regardless of where we live or what we look like. We all enjoy and benefit from things that were not originally created in the place we currently live or by people who look exactly like us.
If you go and look at media from the 1980s and before, you see TONS of white, western women in headscarves to do everything from look beautiful to preserve their hairstyles in the wind. Women ALL OVER THE WORLD have been covering their heads for generations.For us Cultural appropriation is an act of adopting elements of an outside, often minority culture, including knowledge, practices, and symbols, without understanding or respecting the original culture and context.
To us, it’s clearly appreciation if you’re doing it just because you find it beautiful.
Selma Blair, an American actress, wrote, “Covering one’s head is not appropriating anything but warmth and a wig alternative...or whatever makes you want to wear a scarf on head." Selma also went to bat for women with alopecia who choose to wear headwraps: "What do you want a woman with no hair to wear," she wrote. "Just an itchy wig? Why not tie your own scarf and bejewel it. I think it's a pretty alternative."
Christian Lacroix, a French fashion designer, was also a fan of African head wear. Christian Lacroix showed the West African head wrap on the Paris Fashion Week runway - showing everyone just how influential Africa is becoming in the fashion world. White female models were seen with brown hair pulled back by mulit-coloured scarf wrapped around their head and sunglasses.
The easiest way to ensure you’re not appropriating a culture is to have conversations, friendships, and interactions with people of the culture you’re curious about online and/or in real life. Through these exchanges, you’ll learn the history and significance behind the head wrap or hair covering which makes it very difficult to appropriate it.
Headwraps and headscarves have also become an important fashionable accessory nowadays on runway for many big brands too.
Recommending headwrap styles: