At a time when we’re being made more aware of racial injustice and society is being asked to reexamine its treatment of certain groups, cultural appropriation is a term that has recently become a part of popular lexicon. Defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “the act of taking or using things that from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing or understanding that you respect this culture.” We’ve certainly seen many examples of this in popular culture, among the most infamous is the use of indigenous head-dress at Coachella. Yet, it seems that despite the growing conversation around the topic, the cycle continues.
Jane Taylor, a popular milliner in the UK is perhaps best known as the hatmaker for the Duchess of Cambridge, has announced that the “showstopper” trend of the year is the turban. Turbans are traditionally worn as a religious symbol by many groups, namely the Sikh community, of which over 400,000 members call Britain home. However, Taylor appeared to make no mention of this, stating that the headpiece was “chic and timeless” and “can be worn during daytime teamed with jeans and a white top for a comfortable style.”
Ms. Taylor is not the first person who has attempted to portray the religious headgear as a fashion statement, as just last year, a Gucci fashion show featured models sporting turbans. The incident was met with backlash from many within the Sikh community. BBC presenter Tina Dahley in particular criticized what she perceived to be the brand’s slight of Sikh culture.
These controversies come at a time when Sikh’s have begun to advocate for greater visibility in Britain. According to an article by Vice, many in the community felt “next to invisible” as there is “little discussion around anti-Sikh hate crimes, or specific government initiatives to prevent Sikhs from being subjected to religiously motivated attacks.” Most occurrences of such attacks are either misinterpreted as anti-Islamic or outright neglected. The British government has only now made an attempt at addressing the issue, putting aside a sum of 375,000 euros for a program centered on making it easier to report hate crimes.
Sikh men, who do not cut their hair, wear turbans as per the teachings of the final Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. The Telegraph explains that, according to historians, that the turban is meant to be a “unifying symbol of Sikh faith” that is meant to “elevate them all to a level of nobility in the eyes of God.”
There are some who do not view Ms. Taylor’s comments as offensive. The spokesperson for the Sikh Media Monitoring Group, Ashish Jhosi, stated that “Overall…It moves the exoticism out of headgear-which could only be a good thing.” He reasons that the more common turbans become, the less people will ostracize those who wear them.
Other, such as Lord Singh, a Sikh member of the House of Lords, states that “it would be nice if [people who seek to wear turbans] stood up for the principles of that wearing the turban entails.” However, whether or not most who wish to incorporate the turban into their wardrobe are ready for that responsibility, as we see in most cases of cultural appropriation, remains to be seen.
Featured Image via Pixabay/Jeevan