Cultural Appropriation 101: White Men and The Man Weave

While female weaves have been popular for nearly a decade, the man weave is a fairly new phenomena. The assemblage of this fairly new hair option is nothing short of amazing. In the process—a false hairline is drawn and weave is glued (or sewn in some instances) to the scalp then shaved and styled accordingly. This process transforms the negative connotation of hair loss to a positive.


The man weave, offered mostly by black barbers for black clientele, alleviates the black man from appearing bald, negating the burden of visible hair loss. It is fascinating that spirituality, a practice that still dominates much of the black community seldom cures the need to cover up attributes that deviate from conventionality. A prevalent component of consciousness is belief in oneself— a belief nurtured in acknowledging a collective identity. The conscious black adopts black nationalism as his or her religion, and thereby garners individual esteem from a collective appreciation of his or her indigenous culture. Thus, to the conscious black, hair loss is a form of vanity—placing the individual before the collective—a divisive and detrimental act. Furthermore, soliciting an inauthentic mane as a male or female, reflects a deficient collective understanding and failed attempt to assemble what Dr. Wade Noble referenced as a “shattered consciousness.”

Beauty as transformation is generally problematic, as it festers inferiority to bolster capitalism. To the black body, transformation poses multiple problems. Namely, to further oppress an oppressed people is a crucial step closer to the edge. Dr. Christina Sharpe discusses the trans identity through a fresh lens in her masterpiece In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. In her book, Dr. Sharpe asserts the trans identity as an identity handed to the black body in their coerced voyage over the transatlantic. This journey would transition some black bodies to shark food, some to enslaved Africans, and others to coerced mothers of children forcibly deposited in their wombs. The journey would transition beloved husbands into castrated field hands severed from their family in a forced abandonment. It would transition the beauty of African people to the ugly and incompetent binary opposite to their white oppressors.

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-11-21-pm-e1487193274607Moreover, the trans identity is a prime attribute of past and present blackness. An attribute exploited by the western gaze.

Similarly, the trans identity remains paramount to whiteness. Namely, while the voyage over the trans Atlantic transitioned majestic blacks to inferior beings, this trip did the opposite for whites. Somewhere over the transatlantic, whites transitioned from inferior genetics and physical strength to the top of a global hierarchy.

The man weave serves as a contemporary “trans” opportunity for the white collective.  This became quite apparent when I came across photos of white boys and men opting for man weaves that transformed their straight locs into an African texture.  Donning an ethnic hairdo is a means for a white person to season their whiteness with an “urban” flavor without relinquishing their white privilege.
side-viewMan weaves, offer the white man an opportunity to don the beauty of black hair without the ridicule or systemic disenfranchisement it affords those born with these very attributes. Whether bearing a receding hairline or one in full effect, a black person remains systemically disenfranchised; whereas, the man weave presents an opportunity for the white man to transition from conventional to exotic in a manner of minutes.

A white man donning an “Ethnic” hairdo consisting of coarse curls and the infamous part, locs, or braids, may also fill an ethnic slot in lieu of their racial ambiguity. Namely, companies or any opportunity seeking a “diverse” look, may solicit the racial ambiguity of fair skin, small features, and ethnic hair to exclusively hire their own but overtly appear to value those with unconventional attributes.  A black man on the other hand, whether donning straighter hair, braids, or a close caesar, is solely allotted access to the few and far between opportunities available solely for those of his demographic. Black_hair_9s

Others may argue that blacks appropriate white culture with straightened tresses, chemical treatments or inauthentic hair pieces. Blacks who adopt European aesthetics be it a Malaysian weave or chemical treatment, due so to appease the standards of whiteness imposed upon them as abducted Africans centuries ago. The conk, a means to process texturized hair to resemble that of a white person, like the pressing comb popularized by entrepreneur Madam CJ Walker,   aided blacks in consummating what they are nurtured to pursue as Africans in America–whiteness. Assimilation, while certainly a choice to the conscious gaze, is a way of life for those not yet on a journey to consciousness, who assimilate as easily as they breathe. The abducted African, in a coerced separation from his or her mother continent, does not know Africa as home. Thus, assimilation is not assimilation to the abducted African, it is simply a way of life.

Alternatively, for whites, taking is a way of life. But taking is not conceptualized as thievery or chicanery, but veiled by entitlement.  Whites who don aesthetics common of Africans, do so to capitalize on the beauty of African people without the systemic encumberance. These actions are immeasurably different and catastrophic to a collective who continues to be exploited.

Accusing a black person of cultural appropriation is a lethal ignorance essential to foment racism in America.  A black president, a few black billionaires, or some black bodies in traditionally white spaces, does not negate the epidemic of global racism. To this many blacks and non-blacks will point to the dictionary and their definition of racism which reads as follows:

  • a belief or doctrine that inherit differences among various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement

  • A policy, system of government, etc based upon fostering such a doctrine, discrimination

  • hatred or intolerance of another race or other races

Racism is not limited to a single belief, policy, or hatred. Yes its bad to call someone a “n*gger,” but racism is the system that created the n*gger. It’s the feeling in the air, the reason whites, hispanics, and nearly every other faction can murder and systemically disenfranchise blacks to no penalty. The same dictionary who defines blackness as a “stain” cannot be trusted in compartmentalizing racism. In order to truly be racist, one must employ other beings as their power, to be a victim of racism, your body is the power one uses to assert their dominance. Furthermore, blacks cannot be cultural appropriators because they are not racists and lack a position of power. In contrast, whites are inherently racists, and thereby predisposed to  cultural appropriation.  Cultural appropriation is facet of racism enabled by a global racial hierarchy.

Although cultural appropriation is a term frequently used throughout the diaspora, those with a distorted perception of racism misconstrue the term as applicable to anyone on western soil. It is these same individuals who label blacks the same as they do their racist oppressors in moments of prejudice. These mishaps are not minute, but monumental in perpetuating the racist supremacy that consumes our past and present.

Whites opting to don a man weave do so as a means of exercising their power. Donning an ethnic hairdo is a means for a white person to season whiteness with an “urban” flavor without relinquishing their white privilege . Whether bearing a receding hair line or one in full effect, a black person remains systemically disenfranchised. Furthermore, any white man who dons a man weave to “change up” and don the hair texture of a black man, is a cultural appropriator. This also goes for white men who don locks, or cornrows.

Cultural appropriation is not about hurt feelings—it is about the sheer insult of waving c3d44f72898896834058f59de912214d--dreadlocks-men-thin-dreadsprivilege in the face of systemic  disenfranchisement. Accusing the black collective, a demographic who has been exploited as appropriators, is not an oversight but yet another example of societal deflection. This deflection functions as an act of racial terrorism, burying the anxieties of racism in a fictive equity that does not exist for blacks anywhere globally.

In closing, while the man weave may appear innocuous or even flattering to some, cultural appropriation isn’t harmless or flattering– it’s assault. Cultural appropriation, employs fashion as weaponry, assaulting black esteem and identity. Fashion, although commonly regarded frivolously,  proves a gateway to racist assertions that intensify black subjugation through an implication that black beauty is only truly beautiful and noteworthy when paired with whites.

To be black is to have textured hair, fuller features, a possibly fuller figure, and deep skin tone. To be black is to also face adversity for these features. Cultural appropriation does not change the appeal of African features, but allows whites another path to beauty, highlighting the ongoing struggle for blacks to have anything, even their own beauty, unsullied by white greed.