Turbans: Religion, Appropriation and Nick Cannon
Five memorable cities in the world
1. The curious case of Gucci
Black History Month 2019 was one for the history books, so bad that even Don Lemon had to speak on it. From Jussie Smollet whirlwind assault allegations, to the shocking updates on Virginia’s political scene with its black face and sexual assault allegations, you hoped it wouldn’t get worse. Gucci said: Hold our sparkling mineral water.
The Balaclava as it is called was being sold as part of the brand’s Fall Winter 2018 season and although it came in many different prints and fabrics it also featured the one above with the red cut-out around the mouth. Citing the similarities between this and the racist caricatures of blackface, social media as well as Black fashion insiders such as Dapper Dan spoke up and demanded change.
Rappers like TI and members of the hip hop community called for a boycott while boxer Floyd Mayweather vowed not only to not boycott but to buy more Gucci.
Gucci acted swiftly putting out an official apology, removing the balaclava from its shops, and meeting with Dapper Dan and other fashion insiders. Gucci vowed after the meetings to step up diversity hiring around the world.
Now you may be wondering if the fashion show was for Fall/Winter 2018 why all the backlash now. In fact Rihanna sported a balaclava from the same collection in Coachella back in 2018 on a now viral photo. It was only when the balaclava became available at their online shop that it sparked the outrage of the internet.
Milan Fashion Week’s Fall/Winter 2018 Gucci show also featured a turban Gucci coined as the Indy Turban. Featuring a turban style that seems the mimic the traditional turban of the Sikh people, its a wonder that no one saw the possible backlash that would ensue.
There are many types of turbans that have cultural and style significance to many people and cultures around the world. However, the turbans worn by Sikhs are tied directly to their religion. Sikhs have faced violent attacks just for wearing their turbans. I am not a Sikh but I can certainly understand the frustration of a fashion house selling a symbol of their religion as an overprice fashion accessory.
2. Sikh turbans
H&M billboard at their Times Square Location featuring Sikh models in 2016
Rupinder Singh, founder of American Turban, social justice fellow at the Sikh Coalition says, “While the turban is a common and fashionable item of clothing for many cultures, for Sikhs, it represents our faith.” He wrote a very informative article on the subject : 11 Things You Wanted to Know About My Turban But Were to Afraid To Ask
I am not of the Sikh religion, although I do understand the frustration cited from the tweets and articles I came across. From what I read it wasn’t so much that a turban was being used as a fashion accessory but that the very distinct Sikh style turban. The same turban many still face discrimination and violence for wearing.
Gucci has made many turban hats before this and during the same show there were other hair wraps featured. These however were styles that we have become familiar with in fashion, television and passed down beauty rituals.
Singh says it best, “As Sikhs, we’re a very open religion,…“I’ve seen other headwear or head scarves folded in a way and they don’t look like a Sikh turban. If that cultural sensitivity was taken into account, I do not think this issue would have arisen to this degree because it hasn’t in the past.”
3. Turbans for fashion and Function
Turbans are not just a religious or cultural symbol for the Sikh and Moors. They have long been used by cultures throughout the world as a means of hair protection and decoration. From British Royalty, Hollywood stars, bohemian it girls, and beauty supply shoppers turbans are the must have fashion accessory.
Functionally turbans serve as a perfect head cover for those suffering through hair loss due to alopecia and chemotherapy. From hair loss to hair mishaps, bad hair days and protective styles, turbans have proven to be not only stylish but versatile as well.
4. Nick Cannon’s Turbans
For the last few years,jack of all trades, Nick Cannon, has been sporting hair turbans, not just in his personal life but on television and his professional life. During a People Magazine interview, Nick notes that the turban is not a mere fashion statement or an easy hair accessory while with his kids, but an expression of his own religion and culture.
Nick has stood proud in wearing the turban and educating those who think they can shame him from wearing it. In a response to Dane Cook criticizing his turban Cannon informed the former comedian that he could “explain this muthaf*ckin king business” to him hash tagging the moors, sikhs and reconditioning our communities.
5. Bottom Line
So what are the rules of wearing turbans without being accused of cultural appropriation? Well if we listen to those in the Sikh community who were rightfully outraged it would be don’t wear my religion like a passing fashion trend. Wear your micro fiber quick dry turbans by Aquis ,our satin lined Signature turban or other premade or wrapped turbans without shame. Just stay away from turban directly tied to religion like the Sikh and Moorish styles.