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Jack Price Comments on Cultural Appropriation and Fashion


America is amalgamation. We are a land of mimics, early adopters. We cull, combine, and improve. This melting pot nature is apparent in every part of our national DNA, from our government,  which borrowed as much as it did from Thomas Paine as it did from Plato, to our food: this is the country that invented the cronut.

Everyone copies everyone in America, and nowhere is this more apparent than in our style. In the 1990s, African-American rappers wanted to present themselves as wealthy. They needed to convince the public that they were as rich as they said they were, and to do that, they mimicked the wealthy white elite. They thrust heritage sportswear brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger back into popular culture. And teenagers ate it up.

As rappers such as the Notorious B.I.G and the Wu-Tang Clan became themselves icons of wealth, the Coogi sweaters and Clarks Wallabees they wore became equally desirable. In the same way that early humans often donned lion- and bearskins, hoping the skins would imbue them with the power of the predator, white suburban youths began to buy Polo sweaters and six-inch Timbs. But instead of transforming into an army of albino Method Men, all the poor white boys ended up looking like their grandpas. White people were very sad for a while, but then they discovered The Smiths and Urban Outfitters.

But the times are changing. Rap is still a dominant force in American culture, but its style has evolved, splitting and diversifying alongside the genre. For every kid in Polo shirts and Air Force 1s, there is a Kanye West Zara knockoff in Air Force 1s (see Deandre Cash for future reference).

The internet has made style more accessible, more democratic; the nobody in an Ohio cornfield can influence a CEO. If what’s popular isn’t your cup of tea, you can find something on Tumblr or some lame blog that isn’t as good as mine. The Internet democratized the Middle East, and now it is democratizing fashion. Anything is possible. Except for Diamond Supply Co. You all can stop with that.

As appeared in the September 27 issue of The Beacon

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