If the lyric “We love them deep surf czars” means anything to you, you’re probably well versed in durag stuff. Prepared hair toppers, largely associated with shaping and maintaining clear hair waves, are notorious for being “very quick to grab your hair.” Beyoncé was top Black hair care has been around for the better part of a century. But in recent years, we’ve seen these protective coverings go from beauty essentials to sought-after fashion accessories.

from Rick Owens men’s fall/winter 2014 collection Tom Ford’s Spring 2019 ready-to-wear collection, Durags, is making waves in more ways than one. But this honor is not without some irony, considering the community’s troubled relationship with the durag.

In the 1990s, durags, originally “do-rags”, expanded beyond their initial purpose as a beauty tool used to maintain the look of waves and braids, moving into a full-blown urban style staple. Everyone from cultural giants like Nelly and Allen Iverson to elementary-aged kids looking to emulate the swagger of these figures rocked fitted hairpieces, cementing their place in the black fashion lexicon.

Symone is the winner of Season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race | Photo: VH1

But like most fashion trends that emerged within the black community, durags quickly became demonized in mainstream fashion similar to the ways baggy jeans and name-brand jewelry were written off as “ghetto” or unprofessional because of their proximity to blackness.

Nope NBA and The NFL, two industries undeniably dependent on black talent and participation, banned durags in 2005 and 2001, respectively. While the decision was said to be a result of safety concerns, many viewed it as a measure of vanity at best and a blatant display of racism at worst. This shift in perception has made wearing durags in public a cultural taboo on par with the same attitudes displayed towards women wearing hoods in public.

Rapper Lola Brooke wears a durag during a live show in New York City | Photo: Astrida Valigorski/Getty Images

This politicization of black hair and what it revolves around was not new. But the societal turning away from the durag during a period of injustice is a great example of the way our society likes to turn its back on the culture it emulates in an almost cyclical way.

And in the 20 years since the sports ban, we’ve seen the same wheel of cultural appropriation (or appreciation, depending on the person) turn again, this time catching some high-end fashion houses along the way.

Skepta attends Givenchy Spring/Summer 2024 menswear show as part of Paris Fashion Week | Stefan Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

These major brands, run by white designers, draw a blurred line between loyalty and theft, running the risk of perpetuating the ever-present idea that black culture is a trend that one can dip in and out of for profit. We’ve seen this many times with white celebrities who went through a hip-hop or rap phase in their careers and then came out with country or pop sounds years later, equating hip-hop with the toughness of their youth.

However, black culture is not a phase. It is an incomparable combination of experiences, aesthetics and knowledge examined in one breath and celebrated the next. Emulating our culture, whatever the motives, rarely comes from a place of true altruism. Until we reach a collective agreement on what constitutes appreciation versus appropriation (check back after the pigs learn to fly), some things are best left in the communities in which they were founded.

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