Cultural appropriation, and specifically the appropriation of black American culture, is nothing new—think rock and roll. But as of late, nothing has been safe from “Columbusing”—the art of discovering trends that are old hat to us. This year it’s happened to dance, fashion, slang and even food.
Elle magazine has been the latest to pull a Columbusing faux pas, just in time for Columbus Day. So what is it with this clueless appropriation? Are the masses really tone-deaf enough to believe that all these trends are new? Or is that things that black people have been doing for decades are only seen as valuable once white people adopt them? Either way, it looks like Columbusing is here to stay.
Elle has decided that Timberland boots will be “the Birkenstocks of fall.” That may very well be true, but Timberlands have been a style staple every fall for at least the last 20 years. In fact, the boots were more popular than Nike Air Jordans in the early ’90s. The boots just weren’t worthy of being part of a high-fashion “trend alert” until they went from the feet of rappers to those of white celebrities.
The Los Angeles Times got in on the Columbusing action by declaring cornrows a fashion trend. By naming Bo Derek, Kristen Stewart and Rita Ora as examples of the “new” cornrow trend, it’s almost as if Ingrid Schmidt, the author of the piece, went out of her way to find any example of cornrows that weren’t black. Derek is cool, but her 1970s style choices are not relevant to today’s popular culture—and they have never been relevant to cornrows, which black people have been wearing since at least 500 B.C.
3. Big Butts