You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you definitely can’t judge a person by their haircut. And yet, Black Twitter has noticed there’s a striking correlation between a certain hairstyle and cultural appropriation… and once you see it, it cannot be unseen.
Twitter user TrashyeWest posted yesterday: “This the hair cut you get when you about to use black culture for a come up,” along with photos of Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Julieanna Goddard (better known as YesJulz to her many Instagram followers), all sporting the same bleached-blonde undercut. The tongue-in-cheek, now viral tweet has over 103,000 likes as of this writing, and it’s one of those things you can’t believe you never noticed before.
The tweet is obviously a joke, but sure enough, each of the artists pictured has a history of using black culture to further their careers. Miley Cyrus bounded through black culture like she was on a shopping spree starting in 2013, rebranding her image with hip-hop producers and twerking, before flippantly dismissing the culture she benefitted from as “misogynist” and going back to her country roots on her new single. Julieanna Goddard promotes hip-hop parties and gets name-checked in rap songs, but recently came under fire for Tweeting a T-shirt that read “N***** lie a lot.” And then there’s, well, Justin Bieber’s whole career.
Meanwhile, Katy Perry is currently the subject of an Internet-wide roasting for her performance of her new single “Swish Swish” on Saturday Night Live, in which she surrounded herself with a multicultural group of drag queens and incorporated some hip-hop-inspired dance moves alongside Migos.
In the past, Perry has been accused of appropriating other cultures, such as her mash-up of Chinese and Japanese cultures in a “geisha” performance at the 2013 American Music Awards.
So, what’s the correlation between this hair and cultural appropriation? Both are born of a desire to be seen as “edgy.” The bleached-blonde crop is androgynous, unusual, and often a calculated rejection of the artists’ earlier, more traditionally “pretty” look. It’s hair as rebellion. A white artist’s use of black or hip-hop culture often serves the same function — it’s a calculated act of transgression to cross racial lines and one that white musicians have been using for their own gain since before Elvis. The problem is (such as in the case of Miley Cyrus) it’s often cynical — these artists can just grow their hair back out and strip their music of hip-hop influences once they’ve acquired their cool points and are ready to be embraced by the mainstream again. We reached out to user TrashyeWest and they told Allure that they feel the artists mentioned in the original tweet are “using the culture for their benefit.”
Now you know Twitter loves a good pile-on, so the dragging did not stop at these four people. Other Twitter users have jumped in to point out the long history of this haircut as the official look of the culture vulture. Yes, we’re looking at you, Gwen Stefani, Macklemore, and — who can forget the true originator, Vanilla Ice?
So, thanks to Twitter we’ll now be giving subtle side-eye anytime a white musician suddenly gets an edgy undercut, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this look might have a dip in popularity. Swish Swish.
More on Cultural Appropriation:
- Chanel Is Accused of Cultural Appropriation for Selling Boomerang
- Kim Kardashian’s “Bobby Pin Hairstyle” Is Coming Under Fire for Cultural Appropriation
- Vanessa Hudgens’s Box Braids Called Out for Cultural Appropriation
Zazie Beetz and Dascha Polanco Explain How Cultural Appropriation Superficially Leads to Mainstream Acceptance of Diverse Beauty: