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Addison Rae TikTok hair feather
via TikTok

Is Addison Rae’s new hairstyle a Y2K throwback or cultural appropriation?


TextDaniel Rodgers

The Tiktoker, singer, and actress has been wearing 00s feather extensions like it’s the 2010 Teen Choice Awards

While finger-plunging the depths of TikTok’s For You Page, you may have seen that Addison Rae has been sporting a (not so) new hairstyle over recent weeks – feather extensions. Ever the image of a Y2K starlet, Rae can be seen flexing the lone feather here on her Instagram, in a chunky-buckled skirt, crop top, and crucifix necklace, as if straight out of an old Britney or Christina music video. 

The clip-in feather trend reemergence does bring up the conversation again of whether the accessory is actually a form of cultural appropriation. As Refinery29 points out, long languishing Reddit threads question the Y2K hair trend. Essentially, hair feathers pull from Native American culture, a culture that has been heavily commodified, insulted, and turned into a problematic Halloween and festival reference with its traditional headdresses used for aesthetic purposes. And with an entire Etsy section dedicated to “Native American Head Feathers”, it would seem there is good reason to approach this “trend” with caution.

In native cultures, particularly Sioux tribes, eagle feathers are awarded as a symbol of family honour. To have enough feathers to wear a headdress, then, is a marker of an individual’s personal success. There is, however, a marked difference in the feathers worn by Rae, and those of traditional communities. Many Redditers corroborate this, suggesting that accusations of cultural appropriation depend heavily on the type of feather and whether or not they are real. 

Within pop culture, at least, we’ve seen the popularity of hair feathers wax and wane throughout the past 100 years. Back in the 50s, feather-like flicks of hair extensions were placed at the hairline in an early iteration of the mallen streak. Then, in the 70s, longer feathers were used within the body of the hair, as part of a wider bohemian aesthetic.

Of course, we know all things boho – dream catchers, tipis, and vague notions of spirituality – to be synonymous with native cultures. So when hair feathers came back into the mainstream in the early 2000s within the red-carpet locks of Pink, Kesha, and Selena Gomez, they were perhaps both an evolution and example of appropriation. 

That is not to say that Rae’s reignition of the Y2K look is strictly appropriative, though. It is indicative, however, of the way meaning develops throughout culture and the ways in which the Internet can flatten these conversations into black-and-white stances on appropriation. It begs the question of belonging – after how many iterations and reinventions does a particular style shift ownership? And is this something we should be considering when reviving (potentially problematic) bygone trends?

There’s a wealth of 00s hair trends to pull from right now too without the worry – so reach for those big hair scrunchies, crimpers, and butterfly clips!

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