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?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
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: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick