Arguably the most anticipated show of New York Fashion week is Marc Jacobs. He closes the weeklong affair every season, and his shows always feature a slew of buzzy models with only single-name monikers such as Gigi, Bella, and Kendall.
Last year, however, Jacobs received a different kind of media buzz—namely, over the hairstyles models wore for his spring 2017 collection. Models of all ethnicities donned dreadlocks, and many media outlets called out the designer for appropriating Rastafarian culture. He later offered a sincere apology in an interview with InStyle, which also featured a photo shoot with hip-hop artists wearing a hip-hop–inspired line from his collection.
This season, the models walked down the runway in what are described as "hair wraps." No hair is visible. Instead, all hair is slicked back with hair gel and tucked tight inside beautiful silk wraps made out of scarves by British milliner Stephen Jones.
Redken Global Creative Director Guido Palau says that after working on a summer beauty shoot with the designer where they used a lot of scarves, Jacobs took a liking to them and wanted to use them in the hair look for his show. "It's very '70s in a way," says Palau about the look. "It was such a big fashion thing back then, when girls would wear scarves on their head—whether it was a braid or just twisting it up." However, he mentioned that Jacobs himself did not cite a specific inspiration for the hair wraps.
While Jacobs is getting rave reviews for his show as a whole, reactions have been mixed over his use of hair wraps as an accessory. Famous white '70s icons such as Diana Vreeland and Angelica Houston have been known to don these headpieces as a chic accessory (the former of whom Palau cited as inspiration), but the styles Jacobs marched down the runway also felt slightly reminiscent of African headwraps and Middle Eastern turbans.
Turbans can be traced back to ancient times in African, Middle Eastern, and Asian cultures. Each culture uses the headpiece for different reasons (turbans in Sikhism are worn to protect men's long hair, which may not be cut out of respect for God's creation), but a turban holds great significance in all of them. According to Helen Bradley Griebel, author of The African American Women’s Headwrap: Unwinding the Symbols, headwraps originated in Sub-Saharan Africa, where they showed Sub-Saharan worldviews.
In the U.S., however, she says, "White overlords imposed its wear as a badge of enslavement."
This cultural and religious history, coupled with the not-so-long-ago media uproar over his hairstyle of choice for his spring 2017 collections, explains why some are again upset to see him use head wraps on the runway with no accreditation to their roots.
Do you think these hair wraps crossing into cultural appropriation or simply paying homage to style from another decade? Sound off in the comments.