Yesterday I had a client come into the salon and she brought a friend with her, her friend is a current student at Taylor Andrews Academy of Hair Design, the same cosmetology school I attended. She has only been attending few months, she barely got onto the floor (which means out of the class room and taking clients). I asked her how she was enjoying her experience and she said overall, she liked it.
Somehow the topic of Taylor Andrews Hair Show came up. The Taylor Andrews Hair Show is an annual event that showcases the students creative and technical skills they have learned. Every year the owner of the company will pick a theme, for example the year I attended the theme was famous artists. The students are put into groups and given a subcategory to inspire them, mine was Michelangelo. This year’s theme was Graffiti the World with Love. The profits went to benefit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Sounds wonderful! In this strange time that we live in it was a great concept for bringing the world together; metaphorically and artistically, while giving to an organization that is very much needed.
Let me start by saying that I was unable to attend the show, but I wish I was able to. I was able to see photos and videos from the show and I found it interesting to say the least. Let me diverge for a moment before I dive deeper into the Taylor Andrews Hair Show.
During the New York Fashion Week in 2016 Marc Jacobs debuted his newest collection that had hand-dyed wool dreadlocks. The pale piles of faux hair were explained by hairstylist Guido Palau to be inspired by the Club Kids, Boy George, Lana Wachowski, and other select references. The show created a large debate on whether the look was a show of appreciation for the style or was it a form of cultural appropriation. Marc Jacobs did say his intent was not to offend anyone, he took his references and was trying to create art from his inspirations. He did apologize if it had offended people.
For the last few Halloween seasons there has been a lot of conversations or rather debates of what not to dress up as.  The number one DON’T is to dress up as anything other than your culture. The reason being is because it can be offensive to other cultures by treating their culture as a costume or ‘play time’ rather than respecting the culture and the deep, rich history.
Back to the Taylor Andrews Hair Show. With all sorts of articles and magazines speaking up against cultural appropriation it seems like a pretty risky idea to have a hair show showcasing a variety of cultures through the medium of wardrobe, hairstyles, and makeup.
Let’s take a moment to see what cultural appropriation means.
The definition of appropriation is ‘the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission ‘. Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology that defines as, ‘the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture’.
Halloween costumes, in the wrong context could be unknowingly cultural appropriated. The Marc Jacobs fashion show, is a gray area. I personally believe that he was using his influences and knowledge from his references (Boy George, Club Kids, etc.) and trying to represent and create his art without the intent of being offensive. The Taylor Andrews Hair Show also seems to be a gray area. I’ve attached some photos from the show, so you can see and form your opinions.
In the show they had many groups showcasing a different continent, Africa, North America, Antarctica, etc and they showcased the theme Graffiti the World with Love. The hair and outfits seemed strange and vague. Within each continent there are so many vast amounts of cultures that it seemed to be an impossible task to represent the types of love and culture within each continent. Looking at the photos and videos it reminded me of the Broadway musical The Producers. There is a musical number in the show called Springtime for Hitler. It is a generalized (and hilarious) representation of what Germany represented or looked like during World War 2. If you haven’t seen this musical it is supposed to be offensive (watch the clip below). With the Taylor Andrews Hair Show did it ‘Graffiti the World with Love’? Or was it showing generalizations of different continents? I understand the concept and the intent behind the show, they were trying to come from a place of love and bringing our world together.
The question then, was the Taylor Andrews Show a form of cultural appropriation? By definition yes. They grouped a variety of cultures into stereotypes, and generalizations for their performance art. Was the show intended to be offensive? Absolutely not. They intended to come from a place of understanding, hope, love, and connection, however they missed the mark. The intent behind the show was not to offend, but to showcase their art, and to come together with love.
I personally feel they did not represent any cultures properly, and the parts that showed culture was just gross generalizations and stereotypes for entire continents, I will say they hit the mark on what fantasy and whimsical hair is.
I truly hope that the staff of Taylor Andrews and all cosmetology schools us this experience to really understand the rich history and dynamic behind different hair, makeup, and fashion throughout the world. There are books like Fashion in Hair by Richard Corson that shows the evolution of hair throughout the world in the past 2000 years. Also, all of us hold in our hands unlimited knowledge, I’m taking about our smart phones and Ipads. I know that all Taylor Andrews students get an Ipad when they enroll. Use that tool to learn about hair from different countries. Take five minutes to read articles on why people from different race, class, and genders get offended by generalizations about their hair; why women with curly hair hate people touching their hair, the history behind Geisha’s up styles and make-up, where and why different Africa tribes paint their faces in various tribal patterns.
I personally know the owner of Taylor Andrews and his family, they run a good business and have a fine chain of cosmetology schools, he’s a wonderful man with good intentions. I hope that he will lead his staff to educate the students to understand more about the sociological aspects of cosmetology.
Until next time.
The photos used are from the Taylor Andrews Academy Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/TaylorAndrewsSchool
Barlett, L. (2015, October 29). Halloween Costume Do's and Don'ts. Retrieved from Westworld: http://www.westword.com/arts/halloween-costume-dos-and-donts-7281334
Wagoner, M. (2016, September 21). The Dreadlocks Debate: How Hair Is Sparking the Conversation of the Moment. Retrieved from Vogue: https://www.vogue.com/article/dreadlocks-hair-debate-moment
 (Wagoner, 2016)
 (Barlett, 2015)
THE GEOGRAPHY OF HAIR
The Geography of Hair is devoted to share experiences and stories in cosmetology and how it has affected people, myself, or us as a society.