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Western People Appropriate the Shit Out of Everything

You know what's cool? Disrespecting someone by wearing their cherished, centuries-old culture as a fashion accessory. With that in mind, here are a few ways in which Western culture has made a complete ass of itself by re-appropriating cultures and...

by Lore Oxford
Aug 21 2012, 2:40pm

This might come as news to you, but religion isn’t that cool anymore, and people trust their elected representatives about as much as razorblade toilet seats. Society's traditional keepers of mutual respect are UNCOOL, possibly more uncool than they've ever been before. So we strut around our chaotic cities disrespecting whomever and whatever the hell we want. Because you know what is cool? Disrespecting someone by wearing their cherished, centuries-old culture as a fashion accessory.

With that in mind, here are a few more ways in which Western culture has made a complete ass of itself by re-appropriating cultures and religions it doesn't even care enough about to want to understand.

FEATHERED HEADDRESSES



OK, feathered headdresses aren’t exactly massive this season, but they definitely had their day. Kate Moss did it, creepy child model Thylane Blondeau did it, and every university-age girl in Surrey has at some point in her life been photographed in one while high at one of the shittier music festivals.

Originally, though, they weren't designed for models or sold at Forever 21—only those Native Americans who had earned them through battle, or by finding the biggest Yucca, or by eating the most paw paws were allowed to wear them. They were also made from things like buffalo horns and porcupine quills, and the natives reckoned these materials carried the powers of the animals from which they came. It might be useful to fatally gore anyone who gets in your way on Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, but it's not considered good etiquette.

It’s not only the headdresses that have made their way into the wardrobes of fashionistas. It's a tonne of "Navajo-print" stuff in general:



Actual Navajos got hella mad when the "Navajo hipster panty" went on sale at Urban Outfitters, wafting a number of irate smoke signals aimlessly into the air. And don't even get me started on the "Navajo hip flask." That's about as culturally sensitive as Henry Ford at a Bar Mitzvah.


BINDIS



The bindi was born as a Hindu sacrament, but it still got pretty trendy amongst Islamics and South Asians long before No Doubt were even a twinkle in Gwen Stefani's curiously doll-like eyes. The bindi sits on the Kundalini-channelling spiritual hotspot between the eyes to make everything A-OK. Gwen, that pariah of cultural appropriation, did wonders for the bindi's image among tweens, a little before popularizing harems of subservient Japanese girls dressed as cartoon characters. Oh, Gwen!


KEFFIYEHS

Remember the Keffiyeh? It was the scarf everybody wore to display their solidarity with Palestine in self-shot MySpace profile pictures the world over. Often in the same pictures they'd also wear fake canines and colorless contact lenses to show their solidarity with vampires and people who don't have eyes.

Traditionally, the scarf was worn by Arab men to protect themselves from the dangers of desert dwelling: sun, sand, flying crabs, aggressive mirages, etc., so you can totally see why they were so eagerly adopted by the first generation of kids to turn staying at home by yourself into a cultural movement.


HASIDISM



Hasidic Jews are some of the most stylish zealots out there. I used to have a Hasid neighbor whose coat was embossed with the Gucci logo, but for some reason he never let me take a photo :(

It's taken a while, but the fashion world is finally catching up with their progressive yet conservative style. Japanese designer Ryohei Kawanishi’s show opened with not just one part of Hasidic attire, but a downtrodden adaptation of the whole thing:

And the model looks so happy about it.


BURQA/NIQAB/HIJAB



There are some places where it is straight up NOT COOL to wear a burqa, like France. In other places, it’s quite the opposite. In some more nationalist Western enclaves, it’s seen as a bit of a terrorist uniform but parts of it have unsurprisingly been cropping up all over the fashion shop. Post-Hussein Chayalan's niqab nudity show, Nasrin Ijaz, played up to the terror-connotations of the dress, combining burqa headwear with sashes of bullets for his final collection. Radical. Then, M.I.A. did the same in her "Bad Girls" video. I guess nobody is going to identify you on CCTV in one of these guys.

It's a little-known fact that while the face must remain covered in Islamic Law, the vagina must be exposed.


NECK RINGS



Putting Slinkys round the neck is a tradition of the Kayan people of Burma. They start when the girls are 2 so their necks are long enough for flirting by the time they are in their teens. Apparently, it doesn't actually stretch the neck so much as push the body down, but to me that sounds pretty similar. But the latest trend can be observed among suburban housewives, who stretch their necks in order to look "as cute as Asian women."



Instead of messing about with metal spirals, this American device makes stretching your neck as convenient as possible. Contrary to common knowledge, it was actually one of these devices that allowed Prince to suck his own penis.


LIP PLATES

Absurdly, lip plates were invented and used independently in six different places before 500 B.C. They took ahold of Africa when slave traders wouldn't take slaves who'd had body modifications because they were scared of their potentially anti-capitalist, punk ethos. 

In an extension of TV dinners and those trays with cushions underneath, some elite slobs have taken to stretching their lips so they can put a dinner plate directly into their mouths and not have to deal with cutlery or using their arms. They simply tilt their head back and gobble, which doubles as a workable enough metaphor for me to end on.

Follow Lore on Twitter: @loreoxford

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