The Music Festival Hipster Headdress Goes British

July 7, 2010 — 10 Comments
(image via Boston.com)

Well, it’s official. The hipster headdress has gone British. Last week was the Glastonbury music festival in the UK, a huge music spectacular not unlike Coachella, or The Bamboozle, or Sasquatch! or Lightning in a Bottle here in the US. Boston.com posted an image of festival goers sporting the (no-longer) edgy hipster headdress, maddening, but pretty unsurprising, actually. It was only a matter of time.

However, not to be out done by their former subjects across the pond, these British hipsters took playing Indian to a whole new level. Observe the “tents” at this year’s festival:

Yeah. Those are tipis. A whole lot of tipis. So while you’re wasted, or high on something or another, gallivanting through the fields and communing with nature while rockin’ out, you can “authenticate” your wild-man experience by coming back to your tipi–living like the original bad asses, those Indians who didn’t give a damn, no rules, no “civilization”, just one with life, man.

Snarky imaginative narrative aside, there is a really interesting dynamic of playing Indian in countries other than the US/Canada–there are “powwow” communities, especially in Germany, where participants make painstakingly “authentic” regalia, sing in drum groups, etc. That’s a whole post in itself, but it raises the question of how these actions are perceived and interpreted in a country without Native Americans, lacking both the genocidal history or contemporary culture to provide context and understanding of their actions.

Not that people in the US, even with that context, have some greater understanding (or my blog wouldn’t exist!), but it reminds me of the incident a few months ago when Harry Connick Jr was a guest judge on a show in Austrailia, and participants came out in blackface to perform Michael Jackson:

As an American, Connick Jr. was offended, and rightfully so. However, the Australian community shared no such outrage, because wearing blackface has no history in their country. There was a lot of back and forth debate, and there are any number of similar examples, but it goes to show that history and context is key in the understanding of racist actions.

Does it make it ok? absolutely not. Just like I’m not ok with british headdress wearers or a tipi village at a music festival overseas. Perpetuating stereotypes and erasing the current presence of Native people is never excusable in my book, even if it occurs thousands of miles away.

Boston.com Glastonbury slideshow: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/glastonbury_festival_2010.html

Earlier:

Educating Non-Natives at Lightning in a Bottle: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/06/educating-non-natives-at-lightning-in.html

But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-hipster-headdress.html

The Hipster Headdress Abounds at Coachella: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/hipster-headdress-abounds-at-coachella.html

Headdresses and Music Festivals go together like PB and…Racism?: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/06/headdresses-and-music-festivals-go.html

(Thanks to Stephen from Drawing on Indians, who sent me the pics. He did a great post on the topic as well, which can be found here.)

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10849091563671031929 A. Grey

    Alright, I’m not up on international trends in any format, so I completely missed the headdress/tipis at rock concerts thing until now. I have to say that I’m completely offended and disgusted. I wouldn’t dress up like an Aboriginal, or Maori, and ‘go native’, neither would I dress like the Queen Mother and fake drinking tea, just for fun. I’d say that I don’t know what people are thinking when they do this kind of thing, but I don’t think their THINKING at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07697979490850156500 Annie

    I’m not going to lie. Sleeping in a tipi is in no way giving the middle-finger to the native americans. they’re not pretending to be native americans, its just a trend. if a white person wanted to sing along to r and b/hip hop, you wouldn’t get stressed so why is someone else wearing a headdress or sleeping in a tipi a problem? I’m intrigued.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17792205390098948106 Thomas

    i agree about headdresses/regalia, but as far as tipis go, that’s just native technology. are we really asking that people not even use native inventions? can non-natives only sleep in ‘western’-style tents? should people stop using quinine or eating potatoes and corn? should the US give up on its iriquois-style democracy? maybe the people using the tipis are misguided, but that doesn’t mean that they should be denied the right to use one of the most clever/practical native inventions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08183686721305419157 Kelly Hogaboom

    @Thomas and @Annie
    It seems like you haven’t read the other links Adrienne provided and the other work she’s put in writing about WHY this is a problem. Or perhaps you have read this work and you disagree with what Adrienne has said (in which case why comment and pretend to be open-minded or seeking her opinion?). I especially recommend the link, “But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?”

    I’m going to assume your queries are in good faith, and offer my perspective.

    The idea that it’s “just a trend” or “harmless” is very typical of what a person with race privilege might think. Adrienne writes about how many Native Americans and First Nations feel (because that side of the argument counts, too). So after reading a few of these pieces WHY would you WANT to wear the headdress/sleep in the tipi? Why wouldn’t you find something else to wear, or if you were a show organizer make sure not to culturally appropriate – or a concert-goer speak up and say something?

    Here are my thoughts on tipis. It is absolutely, absolutely possible to use some kind of “clever” tent/tipi-like technology while being racially and ethnically sensitive and doing, oh, a few minutes of Google searching to educate yourself on whether or not a field of tipis would give offense. But you should do this work only if you care about the feelings of other human beings.

    I also liked the Harry Connick Jr. vid which I watched a while back. I was struck by how well he handled things, and also that the AU show broke programming to let him air his thoughts – and they apologized for giving offense. Is it just me, or is that NOT the kind of thing you’d see in the US?

    Thanks for this post.

  • http://sanguinity.dreamwidth.org/ sanguinity

    Actually, there is a history of blackface and minstrelsy in Australia. Not nearly as extensive as in the U.S., but it’s there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08183686721305419157 Kelly Hogaboom

    @sanguinity
    Yeah, I was wondering about that. B/c I find it hard to believe any country with a history of genocide/displacing native peoples/stealing their children to wipe out the culture would have a sort of carefree attitude re: race.

    In any case it’s pretty cool HCJ didn’t back down and say, “Oh it’s OK ’cause it’s different from you.” He said if he’d known he wouldn’t have appreciated.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17792205390098948106 Thomas

    @ Kelly Hogaboom
    i did agree with the majority of the post and the whole regalia debate. i am brotherton and european, so i walk with a foot in both worlds. my issue is that we can’t expect people to completely disregard/ignore accomplishments of native technology and science. while i do think that certain aspects of culture should be left to people within that culture, there are other technologies and inventions that i think are part of the globalization of ideas and information and should be free for anyone to use/try/experiment with. and i think that tipis fall into this category.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14793132456555330167 inanna

    I’m a festival-going Brit so here’s my HO.

    Europe has a long history of appropriation – including past events and attitudes that are frankly horrific and most of us are not that proud of.

    On a good day though this can translate into a genuine interest in other cultures and their history. Part of this is a quest for deeper understanding, and a longing for a return to a more tribal culture here.

    Since the late 60′s there have been travellers, protesters and whole communities of people for whom tipis and a semi nomadic existence is home. Tipis first came to Glastonbury by invitation – and dwellers were given free entry as a nod to their attempts to live more lightly. Tipi valley in Wales is probably the most famous example – an attmept to live in harmony, along tribal principles, living off the land – hampered occasionally by planning regulations, wasted hippy tourists and lots of rain. Tipi’s and Yurts are a key part of our deep festival culture – esp. small collaborative events like the Rainbow Gatherings and the solar powered Small World.

    I belive that the reason that we take so much from other cultures is partly habit, but also because we ourselves lost a great part of our own tribal identities many many centuries ago.

    Thank you to those whose garments, rituals and beliefs we’ve adopted, hopefully they will now inspire us to create and recreate our own.

    BTW Hipster headresses. IMHO OK if you make your own to your own design – but a moral and cultural tragedy if you purchase one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18331250467392439675 Sayeh

    Thank you for posting this! It made me react strongly to this Nylon Mag post about the new headdress headband fad…
    http://www.nylonmag.com/?section=article&parid=4867

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08206357627686325127 cris

    this goes along the same way i see hipsters wearing sombreros and mustaches… our culture is not a fashion trend.