Marc Jacobs Weighs in Again on the Runway Hair Controversy
Photo: Getty Images
The lines between artistic expression and political or cultural correctness are growing murkier.
I felt this deeply today when I stepped backstage at Marc Jacobs’ spring 2017 show. The look was all about meticulously-weaved, colorful dreadlocks, which took hours to craft. Once all the extensions were secured, the pastel rainbow ‘locs were tied into a knot on top of the models’ heads. Was the hair beautiful? Absolutely. But that didn’t stop my stomach from dropping the second I saw them.
I couldn’t help but wonder how people would react to a hairstyle that holds such an important place in certain cultures. And despite references of club kids and Harajuku girls being thrown around backstage, the issue of cultural appropriation was never mentioned. Even though hippies, ravers, and other fringe cultures have appropriated this Rastafarian style for decades, it is a staple of the African-American community; a cultural touchstone.
Let’s just look at the facts: the colorful look was inspired by Lana Wachowski, who recently starred in one of Marc Jacobs’ campaigns. “We were also looking at other girls that were inspiring to Marc, and certain types of cultures, like rave culture, club culture, acid house, Boy George and Marilyn,” said hairstylist Guido Palau backstage.
To achieve the look, the team needed a massive amount of wool hair extensions. After a Google search online, Guido stumbled upon Dreadlocks By Jena, a small Etsy shop run by Jena Counts, based near Jacksonville, Florida. Counts and her daughters spent days dyeing and re-dyeing the wool extensions to get the colors just right.
“The interesting thing about Marc is how he takes something so street and so raw, and because of the coloration of the hair and the makeup, it becomes a total look,” explained Guido. “Something that we’ve bypassed on the street and not really looked at, or seen a million times, he makes us look at it again in a much more sophisticated and fashionable way.”
As soon as the first model hit the runway, comments and questions about the controversial hairstyle began blowing up on social media . Here are a few Twitter reactions rolling in immediately after the show:
*sits back and waits for my timeline to fall apart once they see Marc Jacobs is featuring a dreadlock only runway. pic.twitter.com/GvuQBu3fFb
- Colin Anderson (@BallinWithColin)
An unknown black man/woman has dreads it is assumed they smoke and or are unprofessional. Marc Jacobs has a model with dreads its boho chic
- IgottheKeiz (@keikei_xo)
@marcjacobs So, I guess this means POC can wear our locs freely now and not be blocked from a promotion or job in general?
- Imani Ashante (@dopuhmean)
Everyone has dreads at the Marc Jacobs show including the non-black models. Well that’s over, it’s cancelled!
- daphne (@heavenlyjenner)
A few hours after the show, Marc Jacobs jumped on Instagram to offer his response to the allegations of cultural appropriation.
@marcjacobs response to cultural appropriation during his @NYFW 16 show. Your thoughts? pic.twitter.com/At4kLj1EGT
- SAFashionBook (@SAFashionBook)
Then, on Sunday, Marc Jacobs posted on Instagram again to clarify his earlier comments and encourage fans to keep the conversation about cultural appropriation going, but in a productive way.
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