Wearing a turban: is it cultural appropriation?

african women turban

In addition to illuminating our style, the turban protects the hair from external aggressions. Yet many stereotypes about cultural appropriation remain in vogue. Moreover, the turban has a cultural significance among certain peoples. Not taking these precautions can be the subject of controversy on social networks. How do you know if wearing a turban is cultural appropriation? Reply !

What is cultural appropriation?

To begin with, cultural appropriation is the act of appropriating the material or immaterial concept of another culture. Generally, these cultures come from non-white people, ie African, Native American, Asian and Maghreb tribes.

Nowadays, copying certain cultural elements to develop the cultural industry can be offensive to the tribes. Indeed, a wave of protests can quickly appear on social networks or the media. This is the case of the Gucci brand, accused of cultural appropriation during its show in autumn 2018.

The brand has been heavily criticized on social networks by putting on stage Sihks turbans, sold at more than 700 dollars. These accessories are seen as a counter-culture insult to the Indian community.

Anyone can denounce abusive cultural appropriation and spark controversy. These accusations risk damaging the notoriety of the artists, brands or industries concerned by the spoiling.

Wearing a turban has a special meaning for many peoples

Turbans are part of traditional attire in many Western countries. For example, the Yoruba people in Nigeria call their turbans “ geles”.

Turbans have a special meaning in many cultures. They can represent wealth, ethnicity, marital status, mourning or respect.

Wearing a turban is also a personal choice

Black culture is idolized. It's no wonder our style is often copied by other communities. The most important thing to remember here is context. Many women choose to wear a turban for its practicality and versatility such as:

  • a protective cap
  • keep hair out of face
  • adopt a chic or streetwear look

Also, women choose to wear the turban simply because they feel like it. The thing to remember is that wearing a headband is a personal choice.

In the whole world, there is no people being the only wearer of the headscarf. Anyone can wear a turban , even white culture. Again, the turban has been worn for many centuries, in many styles, among different ethnicities, with different fabrics, for many reasons.

Prohibiting other civilizations from wearing certain clothes, hairstyles, playing certain styles of music, or eating certain foods is pure discrimination. If cultural appropriation were a big concern, then the ban would apply to anyone who is not a member of a specific culture claiming ownership of these items.

The White, like the Black, is a phenotype and not a culture. As a reminder, Black people belong to many cultures. Merely being black does not confer exclusive ownership of the turban. Being black is not necessarily part of the culture that originally developed turbans.

Differentiate between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation

three african women

Turbans have long been worn for many reasons, including:

  • fight for freedom of expression,
  • accompany a traditional dress,
  • show their cultural identity,
  • protect braids, dreadlocks, etc.

It is pertinent to know that the line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is very thin. But to tell the difference, cultural appreciation is a person appreciating a culture by politely borrowing it, which leads to cultural assimilation.

The best way to wear a turban legitimately without insulting a culture is to learn about the item being worn. Just do a search on Google to find out what the turban symbolizes among a people, and its meaning when worn by foreigners.

On the other hand, it is considered cultural appropriation if the wearer uses this look to intentionally offend a people or appropriate history. For example, we speak of offense in the case of racist acts, humorous disguises, or copying a culture as a whole to appropriate their identity.

The history of the turban

Originally, the word turban comes from Turkey. In the 1200s, men wore turbans to protect themselves from the weather . As Islam spread, they also started wearing them for religious reasons.

During the pre-war period in South America and the Caribbean, many slave masters required black female slaves to wear turbans. These scarves served functional purposes like protecting the scalp from sun, sweat, dirt and lice.

During slavery, the headscarf represented the inferiority of slaves, dominated by the colonialists. However, black women have been creative in showing their resistance. For example, in Suriname, black women used the folds of their headscarves to communicate coded messages to each other, incomprehensible to their masters.

In 1785, Spanish colonial governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró required Afro-Creole women to wear tignons, a turban-like headgear, intended to undermine their exotic elegance. The Tignon laws aimed to reaffirm the social order in order to mark the dominance of people of color. The latter contested, adorning these hairpieces with jewels, ribbons and feathers. Also, showing off those chunky hair has been a provocative fashion statement for the black community.

Wearing a turban has become a real fad

Around 1970, turbans became a real fashion accessory marking freedom of expression. “ Black is beautiful ”, as the saying goes. This headgear has been adopted with style, an African art yet formerly used by the Colon to oppress our descendants.

Again, anyone can wear a turban . It does not belong to a particular culture. You need to know the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

If you want to try a turban, but you don't know where to start, discover our turban models by clicking on the link. Show us how you wear your scarf, it can be a new page of future fashion!

turban two women red satin caribbean guadeloupe grandmother

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