Fashion Girly Stuff and Cultural Appropriation

At the moment, I am severely lacking in summer clothes. Because of this, I’ve decided to go on something of a shopping spree this weekend. Since I’m a massive nerd, and an even bigger procrastinator (I should really be working on an essay about the nature of narrative methods in various biopics right now, you see), I tend to look at stores online before I actually go shopping. So I’ve been looking on stores’ websites, and one thing that I’ve noticed a lot of is “Aztec” prints.

Personally, I really like the look of these prints. I like the geometry of them, and the earthy colours that they’re often paired with. It’s kinda my thing. Plus, there are a lot of feather prints out there right now, which I also really like. However, I’ve read some blog posts and articles about how many Aboriginal people find these clothes offensive. They say that the white CEOs of Forever XXI and H&M (although I think that the CEO of Forever XXI is actually a Korean family of born-again Christians) are banking in on hundreds of years of oppression and cultural genocide. And obviously I’m not an authority on this, but I kind of think they might be right.

As far as I can tell, the patterns used on these clothes aren’t authentic Aboriginal patterns designed by people with any sort of authority on the matter, and even if they are, I’m sure these companies didn’t check with various Native tribes to see whether or not the patterns were suitable to be labeled as “Aztec”.

Moreover, doesn’t it seem a bit ironic that we, the white people who haven’t done a whole hell of a lot to rectify ourselves for the cultural genocides we committed, are now wearing symbols of the very cultures that we squashed across our chests? Shouldn’t we have a little more tact than that? Maybe some courtesy?

And sure, you could argue that Aboriginals don’t have the patent on feathers or earthy geometric prints, but we do clearly associate these things with them. They are symbols of Aboriginal cultures. Maybe if that association for some reason disintegrates in the next few years, I’ll buy in on this trend, but for now, I’m not going to.

And so, even though I think Aztec patterns are, like, totally cute, I don’t think I’ll be wearing them this season. (Although I may still break out the feather earrings. They were a gift, and I really do like them a lot.)


*What I’ve called “Aztec” prints in this post are also often called “Tribal”, which raises a whole new issue of lumping in hundreds of different cultures together.


If you want to read more about this, I’m going to recommend this blog. They talk about a lot more than fashion, although there is some fashion stuff on there. You can also take a look at this article, which discusses theories presented in a book by James O. Young. Also, you can use Google.


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