Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

What is cultural appropriation? And most importantly how does it correlate with the fashion world?

Cultural appropriation can be primarily perceived as members of cultural majorities trying to adapt cultural elements of a minority. Cultural appropriation has been huge in fashion, and there are many examples of cultural adaptations in the name of style, which seem to disregard and completely overlook the history behind them. Here, SUBCULTURED presents some of the history behind these cultural adaptions.


It seems like cornrows are starting to become a fashion trend lately, with many celebrities seen wearing them or posting pictures wearing them. Unfortunately most of them fail to use their position and influence to educate people on the trend’s cultural origins and raise awareness. Having cornrows was not only a way of styling hair for African people but also one of the main ways to show resistance after the era of the Middle passage, where Africans had to shave off their heads (primarily for sanitary reasons), something which took away their cultural individuality and pride.

Getty Images via Huffington Post

Getty Images via Huffington Post


Another hairstyle that originally comes from the Zulu tribes in Southern Africa was seen in runways in 2014, and ended up being referred to as ”twisted mini bans” ( Marc Jacobs inspired ) by Mane Addicts.


Bindi has been worn by many celebrities purely as an accessory to an outfit, but it is easy to forget to see the importance behind this symbol. It represents a woman’s marital status and it also possesses multiple meanings for Hindus, having a great spiritual significance.

Getty Images via Business Insider

Getty Images via Business Insider


Often only worn by men known for their bravery, courage and pure prowess, the Native American Headdress or War Bonnet has also fallen under the cultural appropriation spectrum.

Respecting the fact that minorities have their own image that cannot be turned into a ”fashion trend” isn’t about not braiding your hair or not wearing a bindi. It’s about knowing the history behind each culture, and not being ignorant; recognizing the purpose and importance behind culturally driven looks and taking the time to share that with the society while promoting a healthy cultural exchange.

Text by Elpida Komianou