NeverShoutNever and the Hipster Headdress

September 1, 2010 — 5 Comments

Indie Hipster frontman Christofer Drew Ingle of NeverShoutNever, who apparently has an aversion to his spacebar, has decided to sport a huge warbonnet and breastplate in his newest promo shoot.


The picture is emblazoned across the band’s myspace, but was also used for several days on the general myspace music homepage, advertising a live Never Shout Never concert stream. Reader Erica sent over that image:

Then, back on the band’s myspace page, they’re using this image of a headdress-wearing buffalo to promote their upcoming concerts:

and finally, in their new video for cheatercheaterbestfriendeater (again with the spaces), they have this whole upside-down chin thing going on, and one of the “characters” they use? An “Indian.” With warpaint and everything:

creepy.

I have about 8 bazillion more examples in my inbox of indie bands who use Indian imagery in their promotional materials, but I thought this one was interesting since it hit a fairly mainstream audience with the myspace music homepage promotion.

So, for the inevitable NeverShoutNever fans who stumble over here and wonder what’s so wrong with dressing up like an Indian, read this post: But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

But if you’re as adverse to clicking links as you are spacebars, here’s the cliff notes version:

Headdress wearing by non-Natives promotes stereotyping of Native cultures. It collapses 565 tribes with distinct cultures, traditions, and regalia into one stereotypical image of a Plains Indian. There are few tribes that actually wear headdresses like the one above. It places Natives in the historic past. We still exist and are still Native, but we don’t walk around in headdresses everyday. Headdresses are reserved for those given deep respect in Native communities–chiefs, leaders, warriors–and they have to be earned. It is offensive to see the frontman of a band wearing a headdress, implying he is on equal footing with these honored tribal members. Also, this practice is not “honoring” Native Americans. At all.

(Thanks Micah and Erica!)

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09524196916108211972 sensitivepoet

    What is the deal with hipsters and their headdress appropriation, anyway? I feel like I’ve seen so many of them with headdresses and fake “Indian” gear that it’s practically a cliche. I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on why it’s so prevalent. (It sure seems that way to me, at least.)

    My off the cuff theory is: “hipsters” (whatever that means exactly, I don’t have a good definition. This is admittedly all a massive generalization) often seem to have a nostalgic fondness for things they associate with their childhood. Dinosaurs, robots, cheesy sitcoms, etc.

    Maybe many of them grew up “playing Indian” as well. I remember, from my own (white person) childhood, doing those workbooks in school (satirized in a Basic Skills Caucasian American Workbook by Oyate). The kindergarten class making construction paper headdresses and “drums” out of oatmeal cans. My almost entirely white neighborhood had an “Indian Princess” group, in which I participated as a child, which was entirely suffused with ignorant, degrading stereotypes, and makes me cringe in retrospect. (Oh dear god is there a mine of material in THAT whole organization to blog about. Here’s the website.)

    So maybe there’s an element of that. Playing dress-up as adults.

    I think a lot of them know, in their hearts, that it’s offensive. And they don’t care, clearly–I’ve seen the comments after articles like the one you linked. After they have been told by actual Native people that they find it hurtful and offensive, they continue to justify it. It’s just fashion. I’m honoring them. And so on. Because in truth, entertaining themselves is more important to them than whether their actions degrade another race.

    I think the knowledge that play-acting as another ethnicity is offensive is actually part of why they do it, because it’s edgy. If you asked them to justify it they’d say it was okay because, by making some distorted image of Indianness visible, they are acknowledging and therefore showing respect for Indians.

    Much like many tellers of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. jokes then justify it because of COURSE they know it’s wrong and offensive, that’s part of the joke! That it’s wrong! And we all know racism is wrong, so it’s funny because it’s pushing the envelope! But of course, when the racist joke is completely indistinguishable from the “ironic” racist joke, it’s not satirizing anything. It’s just a racist joke, rationalized by the tellers by the fact that they’ve acknowledged it’s racist.

    So I really think there’s an element of that there as well. Doing something offensive for the frisson that creates–and they feel “safe” doing so, because if they get called on it they feel comfortable justifying it as ironic (if they claim it has any meaning at all besides “fashion”).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089047371551794468 Makenzie

    Hi, I’m a new reader and I’ve been enjoying your posts on headdresses and “Indian” outfits. Especially because, well, I work at a thrift store that buys a lot of new costumes for Halloween. (Yeah, you guys know where this is going.) The fake feather headdresses creep me out. Thankfully there’s no entire Indian costume, just the head piece, but still. I’m expected to sell this? How upset should I be? Is it worth talking to management about? I can’t cause too big of a fuss because I’m easily replaceable and want to keep my job, but it’s making me twitch. And management can’t really afford to just not sell them, even if I could get the (white, middle-aged) owner to listen to me. Should I write the CEO? Maybe there’s some sort of Halloween protest of Native appropriation going on that I could join to assuage my guilt? Help, this makes me feel awkward as hell.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17827353803022263809 Emily

    I don’t agree with you at all.

    It isn’t as though the people who are wearing these are making fun of native culture, they find war bonnets beautiful. The ARE beautiful. The definition of cultural appropriation you’re working with doesn’t make any sense. If we all act as though appropriation simply means adopting a particular piece of a cultural group by that of a different cultural group, piercings which have African origins should still only be worn by African people. “Sleeve” tattoos should only be for Japanese people. Maybe white and asian and Latin American people should just avoid hip hop. I’m Caucasian, so I should probably just wear Hollister and whatever stereotypically white brands I can find, just to be safe, because you never know which ethnic group I may be treading on by being attracted to another culture’s historical fashions. Because you can never be too politically correct, can you?

    Being second generation American I have such a diverse background. I do not define myself by my ancestors, and if I did, I would not be growing as a person. I think it’s important to acknowledge oppression, but not helpful to keep reliving it and acting as though I have personally done something wrong. I am white, but my ancestors didn’t even live in America while the genocide of Native Americans was going down. And even if they had, I wasn’t there. I want to mourn for the injustices that have occurred, but keep living, and like what I like. I’m honestly not trying to be condescending, I just don’t understand what it is you think you’re accomplishing with writing these. It’s an awful big leap of logic to say wearing a feather headdress is perpetuating negative/stereotypical views of Native American people or that it’s only giving one depiction. Imitation is an obvious form of praise when executed in the way you’re referring to. The most common symbol of Japanese dress is the kimono, even though in the modern day they’re only worn on special occasions. We think Russian and see enormous furry hats, French/beret, blah blah blah. Every culture has a symbol like that. They are never all-encompassing, and it doesn’t mean anyone truly believes everyone within that culture looks that way/dresses that way. Every culture has had oppressors. The Oppression Olympics are not helping anyone.

    “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.”

    I guess you need to explain more clearly why this is offensive, because I really do want to understand your views, but I’m not sold by what I’ve read of your blog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03627989718778860680 Albert

    Sorry, but if you’re going to post about something, at least know what you’re talking about in these regards

    Nevershoutnever is not Indie or Hipster. Sorry

  • https://openid.aol.com/opaque/8cd5fa1a-5b2d-11e0-a63d-000bcdcb2996 8cd5fa1a-5b2d-11e0-a63d-000bcdcb2996

    I agree with Emily 100%. Im Caucasian and i absolutely love Native American art and clothing, my room is practically filled with it from when i visited santa fe. I don’t think it should be taken as offensive when people wear it or like it because of its beauty.