I went shopping with my bestie the other and we saw this scarf with what looked like Sanskrit on it. It really got me thinking about ethnic clothing and the do’s and don’ts of ethnic clothes.
- Tie dye is okay for anyone because it is an American staple.
- Ikat is okay for anyone because it is a plain Asian pattern that has meaning but does not offend anyone.
- The same goes for African patterns like Kente cloth and Latin American patterns. Yes, you can wear the poncho mom got you from that Baja Mexico gift shop. Sometimes these types of fabrics are given to foriegners as gifts or tokens of appreciation by certain tribes.
Don’ts- you better pay attention or you risk getting jumped on the street
- Don’t wear ethnic tattoos or any tattoos that aren’t in your native language. The tattoo artist “thinks” he knows Chinese. If you have “hot dog” written in Hebrew on the back of your neck, I will laugh. Which leads me to my next point. . .
- Don’t wear clothes with foreign languages on them. That scarf from Macy’s is supposed to have nice loving words on it, but you don’t even know what it really says. My textile teacher used to work for a certain big name designer. He got the lesson of lifetime when he put some foreign words on some clothes. Not only did they have to pay a fine and take tolerance classes, but they had to recall all of the clothes and got the verbal beating of his life from said big name designer all because he didn’t know what the words said.
- Don’t wear anything Native American like unless it is fringe, beads, moccasins, or Southwestern topaz and turquoise jewelry. Headdresses and shirts with Native American images and images of Native American clothing on them are a no-no. Don’t even dress up like a Native American. Every year some musical act wears an Indian costume and gets chewed out in the media by Native American activists.
- Never wear a keffiyeh. Ever! I know they are trendy to wear, and are actually quite cute ,but they symbolize too many things in the Middle East. In some areas, they are a sign of certain terrorists, and in others they are a sign of peace. The subject is so touchy that they banned a Dunkin Donut commercial featuring Rachel Ray because she had one on, and pro-Isreal activists complained so much that Urban Outfitters had to remove them from their stores last summer.
The best advice I can give you is to stick to what you know. If you don’t know where it came from or what it says, leave it be.