Do Rainbow Dreadlocks at Marc Jacobs Prove That Cultural Appropriation Is Still "In"?

POPSUGAR Photography | Julie Ricevuto
POPSUGAR Photography | Julie Ricevuto

Less than a month after Free People was slammed for selling dreadlocks as a hair accessory, the models at Marc Jacobs wore a rainbow version of the style on the Spring 2017 runway.

Guido Palau for Redken told POPSUGAR that the inspiration for the hair was "ravers/'80s clubgoers," with a grungy, Marilyn Manson-esque feel. "It's all about the color and the volume, it's not about the shape. The shape should feel abstract, like they did it themselves," he said. Each loc was handmade and hand-dyed by Jena Counts, a Florida-based artist who owns the DreadlocksByJena Etsy shop.

"The wool [for the locs] comes in long roping, so you have to cut it to the length you need. Then you boil it, roll it, put it in vinegar, and dye it," Counts said. "Marc wanted to use tons of pastels and ombré in the dreads, so I dyed it multiple times over the course of a month to get the right shades." POPSUGAR has reached out to Counts for further comments on the look.

Jourdan Dunn, Adriana Lima, Kendall Jenner, and Gigi Hadid were among the models cast for the show, all of whom wore the colorful locs. While it's exciting to see rainbow hair and diverse models, the look also has potential to generate controversy.

Dreadlocks are traditionally worn by men and women of color. However, in recent years, the style — along with cornrows, twists, and more — has become mainstream among white people, too. Many stars, like Katy Perry (who wore cornrows in her "This Is How We Do" video) and Kylie Jenner, see these traditionally black styles as trendy. But as Amandla Stenberg pointed out in her now-iconic "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows" video, braids and locs are "not merely stylistic. They're necessary to keep black hair neat."

Even worse, when black women or men wear locs, it often generates negative attention. Just last year, Zendaya wore the style to the Oscars, and E!'s Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic stated her hair looked as if it "smells like patchouli or weed."

Palau made it clear to our backstage reporter that the hair from the catwalk was not meant to be copied.

"It's a fantasy. I don't think that women are going to go home and try this," Palau said. "I don't think that the look always has to be transferable. But there are girls and boys who wear their hair like this, so it's a reality, it's just not everyone's reality." He added, "Someone asked me, 'How do I do this at home?' And I said, 'You don't.' Some fashion is just a great visual, it's a fantasy, it's fun, it's kind of a nod to certain people, it's something that people recognize and makes it feel new again."

Many runway creations are meant to be artistic statements impossible to replicate. That said, they are also often misinterpreted by the general public. Fashion Week is seen as the birthplace of the hottest new styles, and trendsetters eagerly watch the runway for the next It look. But if you're keeping a close eye on the catwalk, keep the cultural context in mind as well.

UPDATE: Allegedly, Marc Jacobs has responded regarding the claims of cultural appropriation. In a comment on Instagram, he said, " . . . All who cry 'cultural appropriation' or whatever nonsense about any race or skin color wearing their hair in any particular style or manner — funny how you don't criticize women of color for straightening their hair. I respect and am inspired by people and how they look. I don't see color or race — I see people. I'm sorry to read that so many people are so narrow-minded . . . love is the answer. Appreciation of all and inspiration from anywhere is a beautiful thing. Think about it."

— Additional reporting by Julie Ricevuto