Are Cornrows Cultural Appropriation

The “cornrows” hairstyle is well-liked all around the world. Cornrows are a popular way for people to improve their appearance. In addition, it’s a controversial haircut because of cultural acceptance. 

So, here comes the question, are cornrows cultural appropriation? Wearing cornrows isn’t culturally appropriate, but spreading wrong information and calming it down is.

This article will discuss cornrows and how they became controversial. Let’s get started.

Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Exchange

Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Exchange

Generally, when two cultures try to understand one another, it’s what a cultural exchange means. Sharing information about each group’s culture is vital to cultural exchange. 

On the other hand, adopting something or an idea from a culture without acknowledging the culture itself, understanding or appreciating the underlying concept or custom, or both is known as cultural appropriation. 

Kim Kardashian shared a video

For example, American media personality and businesswoman Kim Kardashian shared a video of herself on Snapchat wearing cornrows. “So guys, I did Bo Derek’s braids, and I’m enjoying it,” she says in the video, adding that Bo Derek used cornrows for the 1979 movie 10. The problem here is that Kim Kardashian doesn’t know about cornrows. She gives this credit to Bo Derek and introduces cornrows as Bo Derek braids. She doesn’t know the origin of cornrows, which is where cultural appropriation occurs. 

You can see black women view black hairstyles as a part of their identity because they were created by them, depending on social standing and privilege. When black females wear cornrows, they get ridiculed, but when white girls wear cornrows, it’s fashionable. 

Since 1997, certain braid bars have been operating in America to provide opportunities for black celebrities with trendy black hairstyles to be positively recognized for their braids. 

Why Do They Call It Cornrows

Cornrows are also known as “Canerows

Cornrows are a traditional hairstyle that braids the hair near the scalp in an uphill, underhanded motion to create a continuous, raised row. Today cornrows are also known as Stitch Braids.

The term “cornrows” dates back to the 19th century. Most Black Americans at the time worked in agriculture to support their families. 

In America, people call them “cornrows” because they resemble cornfields. Cornrows are also known as “Canerows” in the Caribbean due to their resemblance to sugar cane fields or corn fields. 

Are Cornrows A Cultural Thing

Cornrows A Cultural Thing

Cornrows hairstyle has a rich history and importance in black culture and continues to do so. There is no denying the significance of cornrows in black history.

America and Britain, who tortured enslaved Africans for many years, later used cornrows as a map to navigate the escape of enslaved Africans seeking freedom.

Cornrows on women have been around since at least 3000 B.C. and for males as long back as the 19th century, particularly in Ethiopia. 

Due to the brutal history of cornrows in America and Britain, white hairdressers claim cornrows as their own or celebrity style, which is unacceptable. That’s why white hairdressers rebranded cornrows as ‘boho braids’ to avoid cultural appropriation so that blacks couldn’t claim them as their own.

Cornrows Become Popular in American Society 

Cornrows Become Popular

Cornrows gained popularity in three time periods. It started in the 1960s and 1970s due to a desire to embrace Black pride and natural hairstyles. During this period, the natural hair movement returned love and fun to Black hair that had previously been torn away by Westerns.

After the black pride movement, Bo Derek wore cornrows in the 1979 movie “10,” cornrows have grown in popularity among women of all ethnicities.

Now cornrows are a recent fashion week trend in today’s modern world, including America, which again gained popularity in the late 2000s by Kardashian.

Cornrow Wearers Accused of Cultural Appropriation

Cornrow Wearers Accused of Cultural Appropriation

It’s not uncommon for celebrities to be called out for cultural appropriation for blackfishing, especially when they sport a hairstyle that people of black color historically wore. 

Some famous white celebrities (such as Zendaya, the American actress and singer) have been publicly disparaged by blacks for wearing cornrows or other African/Caribbean hairstyles on their Afro/curly hair. For example, Giuliana Rancic mentioned in an interview that Zendaya’s cornrows look messy, and her hair smells terrible. 

We can see also Kylie Jenner accused of cultural appropriation for uploading a photo of wearing cornrows. Against her post, a black American actress, Amandla Stenberg, stated she has never seen kylie take any steps to benefit Black Americans or against racism. 

At that time, Justine Bieber posted that he didn’t see any racism in kylie, so if any of his followers accused kylie, they could unfollow him.

In another story, Russian producer Nina Kraviz posted selfies on Twitter and Instagram with her hair braided into cornrows. After this, Nina Kraviz has been accused of cultural appropriation, as the style is deeply associated with black hair and its history. 

But she responded, “I can wear whatever I want!” In a tweet, Nina Kraviz later drew backlash, writing, “I’m not a white European,” cornrows are part of many cultures. 

Once a  New Jersey salon owner, Martino Cartier, stated on television that no one “owns” a hairstyle. Cornrows are not a racial phenomenon. People who still think of cornrows as a cultural practice are uneducated. During the holidays, millions of Americans style their hair in cornrows, and not all believe it is ethnic; instead, they see it as a fashion choice.

However, they delivered the wrong message about cornrows. It’s not right because it’s a black culture thing. 

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A popular and unique hairstyle is cornrows. The world has heard of it. Since it represents black culture, wearing it improperly or misrepresenting its meaning could constitute cultural appropriation. And that raises the question, “are cornrows culture appropriation?”

Well, we’ve discussed all of it. Now that you’re aware of cultural appropriation, you can wear cornrows in a way that is respectful of other cultures. Cultural exchange is the ideal method for adopting new cultural concepts.

By Cindy Mahlangu

Hey there! I'm Cindy Mahlangu, a pro hairstylist with a serious passion for natural hair care. My mission? To inspire and educate others on the beauty and benefits of protective hairstyles. Through my creative writing, aim to empower individuals to embrace their unique hair texture and confidently care for their locks. So, whether you're rocking locs, braids, or twists, join me on this hair journey and let's achieve healthy, fabulous tresses together!

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