Native American/American Indian/Native War Bonnets aka Hipster Headdress

A few people decided to skip past the caption I made about the men in headdress in my Coachella post, so I decided to address the issue here by re-posting a Tumblr post I made about my thoughts on fashion and cultural appropriation. I admit not to being the most perfect person in the world, but we should all try to educate ourselves on things we don’t understand. [Originally posted at Oh! Eyemusing Muses]

A couple of days ago, someone asked me why I would feel offended that someone would choose to wear a headdress for fun. To be honest, I didn’t know what to say. This debate has been going on for years now, and generally I try to avoid the subject. I avoid because I am associated w/the fashion and hipster circles, and it’s difficult explaining to a large group of ego-centric people (oh but I love them…) why wearing a headdress is offensive. Call me meek or lazy – it’s just intimidating trying to educate people who don’t really understand. But I’m going to try now via this post.

Though I am not connected to any of the Plains cultures, I do feel sensitive when others appropriate cultural items, such as the headdress, as fashion. For example, I also had a problem when hipsters and fashionistas started wearing keffiyehs around their necks, not understanding that the keffiyeh was also seen as a symbol for Palestinian nationalism. I’m sure activists were amused to see Americans saying they were against terrorism, while sporting keffiyehs around their necks. And you see that’s what the problem is: people not taking the time to understand that what they are wearing and representing – and more importantly designers and buyers not understanding what they are selling their customers.

Think of it this way, do you get angry when you see a girl sporting a torn Black Flag shirt (or whatever your favorite band is) – w/o knowing a single song from that band? She only sports it because it’s cute. Kind of like that – but with an entire generations worth of offensiveness.

But back to the headdresses. American society has taught us that playing “Cowboys and Indians” was totally OK. That wearing a headdress is fine because it is make-believe wear found in your costume box. But this is no Hawaiian lei and grass skirt. These aren’t even a cute pair of moccasins to keep your feet warm. The war bonnet has significant meaning, and is a restricted item. If you do a bit of research, you will find that war bonnets are earned, not just made for dances around the fire.

Thankfully, someone who is of a Native culture has spoken out on her Tumblr and blog. It is “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses” – and I suggest you read it. She explains appropriation and cultural celebration far better than I can. And if you still feel the need to don a feathered headdress for your own fashionable needs, then so be it. Just don’t set foot near anyone who is educated let alone set foot near a reservation.

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