The Dashiki Trend or Appropriation?

Summer 2015 Trend  

Chris Brown DashikiThere has been much discussion and buzz around this summer’s trend: The Dashiki. It has many different names depending on what country in Africa you’re referencing. My mother’s native country, Ghana, refers to the attire as a Kente blouse. But the popular name we know it by comes from the Yoruba word Danshiki, which means a colorful tunic.

Now before I continue, let me explain what I am referring to when I use the term trend. A trend refers to the latest fashion at a particular time and that is how I will be referencing it. The Dashiki of course isn’t a new trend the way Elle Canada claims it to be. It was popular in the 60s and 70s, and has resurfaced again with the Millennials. I can go all over the 5 boroughs of New York City and see the rendition of the style in so many different ways. The recognition of the trend makes me smile from ear to ear. But for others, it calls upon the question of appropriation.  It goes beyond just seeing celebrities wear it because in America the Dashiki has a different symbolic meaning.

The symbolism of the attire has long since meant the disruption of respectability politics, free expression, and a unity that reflects the African Diaspora in a positive light vs. negative. I daresay that it is not by coincidence that the Dashiki has resurfaced into this summer’s popular fashion trend. With important causes like: #Blacklivesmatter, #Stoppolicebrutality, and #Blackout, the summer trend goes hand in hand with the identity and adopted meaning of the Dashiki.

I understand that the problem that some (not all) West Africans have with the “appropriation” of the Dashiki is the lack of knowledge that some, with or without realizing it, have when it comes to African culture and traditions in clothing and other things related. That is a valid argument, however it seems rather fixable with individuals who have their arms wide open screaming I want to learn about this or I have a missing connection from this. The attention should be focused on those who have interest in learning rather than those who do not. It has more of a meaning that over-rides the blatant plagiarism of the fashion that represents African culture. The more that true/real knowledge, understanding and education is given, the more it will spread. We’ve seen that simply in history.

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