Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before? Gillian Orr wonders when the fashion world will realise some things really are sacred

They have been sported by some of the most influential (and, it would seem, clueless) people in entertainment – including Pharrell Williams, Drew Barrymore and supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio.

But now someone is – fingers crossed – finally putting an end to the trend for wearing native American headdresses as fashion accessories.

At music festivals this particular cultural appropriation is unfortunately as ubiquitous as flower headbands and underbutts, so it makes sense that it has taken one to step up and do the right thing.

So, fed up with the increasing numbers of disrespectful party-goers who deem it appropriate to turn up to mosh and drink beer while sporting a feathered war bonnet, Bass Coast festival, an electronic-music festival in Canada's British Columbia, has banned them outright.

"We understand why people are attracted to war bonnets. They have a magnificent aesthetic," reads a statement from the organisers.

"But their spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance cannot be separated."

Pharrell Williams in a native American head-dress on the cover of Elle magazine Pharrell Williams in a native American head-dress on the cover of Elle magazine While images such as the one Khloe Kardashian posted to Instagram earlier this year – of her in a huge bonnet – might look like harmless fun, Native American headdresses are a sacred ceremonial artefacts reserved for respected figures in the community.

That Native Americans are a minority group who have been oppressed and exploited only further marks out the insensitivity of stealing such pieces and turning them into mass-marketable playthings.

Cliff Matias, cultural director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, called Kardashian's use of the war bonnet "insensitive" and implored the famous not to pretend they are ignorant about the issue.

"It's absolutely terrible that they have no conscience to discontinue to do such things," said Matias.

"But it's also sad. It's really sad that people who are celebrities don't take the responsibility and understand that they are trendsetters and they influence people."

But people in the United States are not the only ones excelling in cultural insensitivity. No doubt spurred on by all the 'slebs stateside, this year I have noticed a definite rise in headdresses at festivals such as Glastonbury and Field Day.

Perhaps the inappropriately feathered festival-goers were taking style tips from former Disney star Vanessa Hudgens, who paraded around Coachella festival wearing one in April.

While the late 2000s might have seen the rise of the "hipster headdress", its roots in fashion go way back. Those Corinne Day shots of a young Kate Moss donning feathers, one of which appeared on the front cover of The Face, have a lot to answer for.

Astonishingly, big-name brands are advertising their ignorance as much as the dopey individuals who are wearing theirs to party in fields in Hampshire. Cambridge students wearing Native American headdresses Cambridge students wearing Native American headdresses

Last December, Karl Lagerfeld presented his Pre-Fall 2014 Paris-Dallas Métiers d'Art collection which featured Native American headdresses and left some of the more knowing fashion insiders clutching their (Chanel) pearls.

Obviously the French fashion house wasn't paying attention when, just a year earlier, there was an outcry after Victoria's Secret sent the model Karlie Kloss down the runway in jewelled underwear paired with, you guessed it, a huge war bonnet.

And high-street store H&M quickly pulled a line of headdresses from its Canadian branches last year after shoppers were less than impressed. Every incident is quickly followed by a half-hearted apology.

Presumably in response to this madness, Belgian designer Walter van Beirendonck had two men model headdresses that read "STOP RACISM" in his show during men's fashion week in January. Revellers wear Native American head-dresses as the temperatures remain high at the Glastonbury

"Natives are not costumes one can take on and off," says Ruth Hopkins of the website Last Real Indians.

"When people dress up in stereotypical 'Indian' garb, they're not only denying the existence of 566 distinct Tribal Nations, they're mocking an entire group of human beings based solely on their race and heritage."

What is especially shocking is the recurring narrative at play; the here-we-go-again of it all. How many people must fauxpologise before the message finally gets through?

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Event Management and Marketing Admin Support

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

    Recruitment Genius: Events / Conference Operations Manager

    £25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot