The Strange Case of the Hipster Headdress

In "tribal", fashion, headdress, hipsters by Adrienne K.16 Comments

(anyone know the source? I love this!) 
I think the graphic above (which I totally want on a shirt) sums it up well, but am I the only one who is baffled by the hipster headdress phenomenon? I’ve been trying to break it down, thinking back to the hippies of the past–connections to nature, to the mystical, against the mainstream, etc–but those stereotypes just don’t seem to fit with today’s hipster stereotypes. I’m guessing it’s just an iteration of the tribal fashion trends, with a little bit of the desire to be counter culture thrown in there. 

After the jump, several examples from around the internets, and examples of how indie music has hopped on the appropriation train–Juliette Lewis and the Licks and Bat for Lashes are both fans of the hipster headdress. 


(image via

Look at this F***ing Hipster (another entertaining blog) has a slideshow entitled “Someone call the Headdress Police” which is a great compilation of the many iterations of the trend, and does a nice job at pointing out the ridiculousness of it all:

I wish I could embed the slideshow, it’s kinda awesome. 

Hipsterrunoff declared Native American fashion as “big” back in 2008, though doesn’t include any headdress pics. But these pants are really nice:

Which brings us to the music scene. Two years ago Racialicious’s Jessica Yee did a great post examining Juliette Lewis and her band The Licks, and tying it back to Indigenous Feminism. It’s definitely worth a read if you have time. Juliette is fond of the “rock and roll warrior” look, which tends to include a headdress and facepaint:


(images via

 Jessica ties it back to her feminist point of view:

What I find most interesting though about all this imagery, and in particular Lewis’s choice of dress with her band, is actually coming from my raging feminist point of view. In an attempt to appear strong, raw, and unapologetic, people, and in this case, a woman, feels like she has to appropriate Native culture to a pretty extreme extent in order to do a good job of it.

So I guess that goes back to my question about the reasoning behind the hipster appropriations–are hipsters trying to be strong, raw, and unapologetic? I can see the raw and unapologetic, maybe. But are the skinny guys in skinny jeans really going for “strong”?

Juliette and the Licks aren’t the only band, the lead singer of a group (that I had admittedly never heard of) called Bat for Lashes is also big on the headdress:

(images via

Since many of these posts are from 2008, it’s interesting that the hipster headdress and the hipster-Native connection is one that has had a bit of staying power.

Semi-related: are there any self-identified Native hipsters out there? I’d love your thoughts.

UPDATE 4/27/2010: I’ve had a lot to think about since I wrote this post, so here’s a more up-to-date version of my thoughts: But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

Related posts:

Racialicious Post on Juliette and the Licks:

Retroglo on Bat for Lashes:

Random Appropriation of the Day!

In random appropriation by Adrienne K.2 Comments

via The pink hat is a nice addition. 
(Thanks Desi!)

Random Appropriation of the Day! (Holiday Edition)

In random appropriation by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

Via (one of my favorite blogs, it finds weird handmade things for sale on In case you can’t read it, the description says:

An original painting on leather with acrylic paint. Tracy Rose Moyers hand-crafted and hand-painted this Native American Shield. A Native American shield is based on the Warrior’s shield. A good shield was believed capable of affording the bearer the protection of the Great Spirit. They frequently bore sacred feathers or symbolic pictures of animals who customarily had appeared to the owner during a vision, which thought to endow him with the qualities of the animals that were depicted.

 …sure, ok. For those of you in warmer climes, just letting you know our dear friend Punxsutawney Phil predicted 6 more weeks of winter. Thanks, Phil. So much.

Regretsy Post:

Original Etsy page (you can buy this!):

Random Appropriation of the Day!

In fashion, random appropriation by Adrienne K.2 Comments

“Headdress Bobby Pins” from Description reads:

Dress up those lovely locks with our Headdress Bobby Pins! Choose from a pair of either pewter or brass pins for a cute new look. Features a chieftain coin at the tip of a 2″ long pin. Coin has a .5″ diameter. Comes in a set of two. Man made materials. Imported.

Headdress Bobby Pins:

(Thanks Sees!)

Appropriations at Disney World Part 3: Disney Wilderness Lodge

In "tribal", American Indian, Disney, pacific northwest, plains, totem pole by Adrienne K.2 Comments

yeah, that’s a Navajo rug coke machine. Welcome to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge! The pictures that follow are all from the lobby of the hotel, which describes its decor as:

Taking inspiration from the early 1900s—a time when the spirit of the American pioneer soared—and cues from Native American cultures, the theme of being in harmony with nature winds through Disney’s Wilderness Lodge—inside and out. Authentic decor and genuine artifacts pay homage to ancient Native American cultures and the pioneering spirit of early American explorers

note the use of the words “authentic” and “genuine”. After the jump, a million pictures of “authenticity” at its best. I also recommend a look at their website here.

some gorgeous moccasins in a display case, but with no description or anything to note if they’re Native made, or where or when they’re from.

from farther away–Plains style, eastern woodlands style…all together.

The first of a couple “Native” headdresses, the description on it read “inspired by a 19th century crow headdress.” More like inspired by an ostrich.

This gem sits behind the check-in desk. If you can’t tell from the picture it’s a “peace pipe” with mickey mouse ears.

a line of cradle boards behind the reception desk (again with no descriptions or anything)

I found this juxtaposition nice…the Indian landscape with lincoln logs for the kids to practice being “pioneers”

Lamp at the restaurant

another “inspired by” headdress, this one “19th century Sioux”

apologies for the dark picture, but this is the totem pole that runs from the floor to the ceiling in the lobby

rug on the wall in the gift shop

Buckskin “dress” in the gift shop (it’s actually just one layer, made to look like a dress)

lighting in the gift shop

Tipi lighting in the lobby

drum lighting outside the bathrooms

Disney totem pole outside the gift shop

“inspired by a 19th century crow headdress” I believe the exact words out of my mouth were: “omygod it looks like an effing muppet”

back of the muppet headdress, sorry my camera is bad at low light photos

see? totally the same.
(gotta love the labyrinth)

northwest coast designs on the pool bar

random artifacts thrown in a display case. Monica pointed out that most people would assume the horse hair on the right was a scalp (it’s not).

Wall decoration: “inspired by 19th century sioux winter count”

Fireplace screen…they’re making smoke signals.

Finally, for comparison’s sake, the display case next to the fireplace. Rocks, Natives–same thing, right?

Random Appropriation of the Day!

In random appropriation by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

Diesel ad (via sociological images). UFO? check. Headdress/Speedo/neon trainers combo? check. Random? you betcha! (click for the full pic)

link to the sociological images article:

Tommy Tomahawk Update: School Board votes 3-2 to keep mascot

In American Indian, cherokee, mascots by Adrienne K.1 Comment

Looks like Stilwell High School will keep it’s new mascot, after the school board hosted a special meeting in the school gym to hear “both sides” of the argument. The board heard from speakers from each side of the issue, and ultimately voted 3-2 in favor of the mascot.

A disheartening and upsetting decision, to say the least. But I think Cherokee Nation representative Dr. Morton put an interesting spin on it, advocating for more lessons about Cherokee culture and life ways to let the students come to their own conclusions:

Morton, a longtime Stilwell resident, said he appreciated the opinion of everyone in attendance, especially the students, but the school might need to teach more Cherokee concepts to the children.

“Naturally, it is a student project and students are very protective of their projects, as well as they should be,” he said. “Perhaps a more in-depth understanding of Cherokee culture, Cherokee life ways and Cherokee history would cause a person not to want Tommy Tomahawk to represent them as a people.”

Many of the attendees who were against the mascot were not happy with the vote, and will likely keep fighting for its removal or a “compromise” that would allow the students to keep the mascot, if it were a less stereotypical and offensive image.

As board president Eli Pumpkin (who voted against Tommy) said, they could have a least picked a better representation:

“I’m from this community, and I’ve got a lot of calls from Native Americans in this district and they’ve certainly been offended,” he said. “I think we could’ve done a better job with what we picked. I think we made him look awful ugly.”

The problem with a “better” representation is that research has shown even “positive” or “neutral” images (think Disney’s Pocahontas) of American Indians cause reductions in self esteem and self worth for Native students–even if they report “positive associations” with the mascots.

Meaning, if you show a Native student a picture of Chief Wahoo, Pocahontas, or Tommy Tomahawk, they may say that it doesn’t bother them, but then when they are given a survey on self esteem or self worth, their scores significantly drop. I mean significantly.

Stephanie Fryberg, a professor at the University of Arizona, has done most of her work in the field of images of Native Americans in relation to self esteem, self worth, and possible selves for Indian students. The abstract from one of her papers sums up her findings:

Four studies examined the consequences of American Indian mascots and other
prevalent representations of American Indians on aspects of the self-concept for American Indian students. When exposed to Chief Wahoo, Chief Illinwek, Pocahontas, or other common American Indian images, American Indian students generated positive associations, but reported depressed state self-esteem, and community worth, and fewer achievement-related possible selves. We suggest that American Indian mascots are harmful because they remind American Indians of the limited ways others see them and, in this way, constrain how they can see themselves.

The entire article can be read online here, and I highly recommend it.

So, in conclusion, I encourage Stilwell residents and CN citizens to keep fighting against Tommy Tomahawk–letting him stay in any form does more than perpetuate stereotypes, it damages students’ self esteem and future possible selves.

See earlier post for background information:

Stilwell Public Schools’ board votes to keep Tommy Tomahawk (I recommend the video as well, on the righthand side)

Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots (Fryberg’s article)

Native Link Roundup

In link roundup by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

“They have got the whole thing wrong,” said Stephen Page, artistic director of the respected indigenous group, the Bangarra Dance Company. Page said there were no traditional movements in the routine, the music sounded more like it came from India or Africa than Aboriginal Australia and the body paint looked like “a three-year-old child had drawn it on”… “Probably the elders in the bush would be laughing because they would be saying, ‘Look how stupid these fellas are,’ ” he said.”

“Sundance Institute’s Native American & Indigenous Program is pleased to announce its line up for the Sundance Film Festival’s 2010 Native Forum.The films in this line-up competed on a global scale against 10,000 film submissions to be programmed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. These films are either written, directed or produced by Native American, Maori, Aboriginal & Inuit filmmakers.

“The Yale University Art Gallery has Asian, African and even Indo-Pacific departments, but it is largely lacking in collections from closer to home — American Indian art. Now, one professor is trying to change that.” (full disclosure: it quotes my sister!)

“Some consider the word “injun” to be as offensive as the N-word, but apparently Republican National Chairman Michael Steele didn’t know that when he tried to underscore a point earlier this week by saying, “Honest injun on that.”

“The president of the advisory panel to the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose isn’t too happy with the local high school. Earlier this month, an unnamed student at Montrose High School painted his face black and red, adorned himself in American Indian headdress and whooped and howled at a basketball game.”

“It’s a great example of how Whites felt entirely comfortable discussing what the future of American Indians should be, either romanticizing them as noble savages or insisting on their cultural backwardness, without any sense that Indians themselves might have any ideas on the issue worth paying attention to.”

(Thanks to Kayla, Michele, and Nikke for the tips!)

Random Appropriation of the Day!

In random appropriation by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

From the wall of an optometrist in Hilo, Hawaii. So many weird things about this one.

(Thanks Leon!)

Appropriations at Disney World Part 2: Epcot and Animal Kingdom

In "tribal", African, American Indian, Aztec, Disney, First Nations, Mayan, totem pole by Adrienne K.1 Comment

Most of my pictures from Epcot come from the “World Showcase” which could be a dissertation in itself–it was fascinating to see which aspects and icons from countries they chose to feature, which were omitted, and how little explanation was given with the structures and images.

The picture above (and most that follow) comes from the Canadian village, which was almost exclusively Native themed–while interestingly the American Village looked like a stereotypical new England town:
Anyway, after the jump, lots of photos of Canadian First Nations Appropriations, a few Mayan/Aztec appropriations, followed by some disturbing representations of Indigenous Africans at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

behind the totem pole you can see the rest of the Canadian Village–pretty nondescript

More Canadian Village

They had “traditional” masks to take pictures with outside the village

Behind the cash register inside the “trading post”

Trading Post

Souvenir coin machine inside trading post

Dream catchers for sale

Apparently the dream catchers are from a “100% Native Owned” company. hmm.

Now we go to Mexico!

Indigenous imagery on the front of the pyramid structure

Pyramid in the Mexican Village

Moving on to Animal Kingdom, which is partially set in a fictitious, purposely aged and run-down “African Outpost” called “Harambe” which (thanks google) means “coming together as one” in Swahili. Sorry for all those quotation marks. I only snapped a couple photos of things that just stopped me in my tracks:

Get your picture taken with a Real African! I was just struck how these men were put in the same role as Mickey or Donald Duck–characters on display.

Look kids, you can get your face painted like a tiger, or a butterfly, or…

an African Ceremony?!

Still to come, photos from the Disney Wilderness Lodge, a luxury resort that is completely Native themed. Think totem poles, winter counts, peace pipes, and lincoln logs all rolled into one decor.