In today’s cultural appropriation news, Elle Canada questions “Is the dashiki the new kaftan?” in an online trends feature published Wednesday. Once again, another mainstream media outlet shows just how little they know about the African diaspora or for how long the dashiki has been in.
Even the title is a bit offensive, as if the dashiki needs to be the new anything. The African dashiki has been a staple in African/African American dress for centuries and now Elle wants to call it a trend as they put it on their “style radar.”
Elle Canada joins the ranks of Allure magazine who recently draped a white actress in an Afro with no nod to the cultural tradition of the hairstyle. Elle did at least state where the “new” dashiki style comes from.
“Originating from West Africa, this tribal printed shirt is on our style radar,” stated the feature. Unfortunately, their radar is a bit out of date.
The slideshow shows Sarah Jessica Parker in a pink and purple dashiki as Elle writes, “When SJP starts rocking it you know it’s hot! She even wore a dashiki to her collection launch at Nordstrom.” There is so much wrong with this caption, from giving Parker credit for making the traditional African dress “hot” (face palm) to saying she “even” wore the top to her launch.
The slideshow does feature beautiful Black women such as Rihanna, Zendaya and Beyonce, but their inclusion does not excuse the lack of truly acknowledging how long the dashiki has been a part of African culture — and why. It definitely does not excuse letting Sarah Jessica Parker serve as the reigning stamp of approval.
Elle magazine is no stranger to biting off of Black folks. Just last month Elle UK called “baby hairs” a new trend, as if Black and Latina mothers and girls across America haven’t been laying down edges with a toothbrush and Prostyle gel since the beginning of time.
The problem here lies in America’s fascination and love for Black culture, but not respecting its history. When a publication can grab a part of your lineage and call it a fashionable new trend, there’s a problem.