So Bad It Was Good: Moccasins and Mukluks

In the first installment of this column, we look back at a shit storm of culturally appropriated footwear.
Reading time 3 minutes
Collage by Delphine Lewis

The purpose of this column is to revisit the god-awful UGG-liness that was fashion from the third millennium so we aren't doomed to the same mistakes. 

Moccasins have been worn by Native American tribes for a long time—like, 5,500 yeats long. But if you asked Mischa Barton or Hillary Duff, they would probably tell you that they were first discovered in 2007.   

The thing about this trend is that it's not aesthetically ugly—the lack of respect for its origin is. We're buying moccasins from brands that aren't run by Indigenous people, thus we're not giving credit where it's due; Indigenous designers and culture.

Cultural appropriation happens when there is an unequal power dynamic in which the "dominant culture" takes cultural elements from a group that they have systematically oppressed. In these cases, the "dominant culture" only takes the positive aspects of the culture (ie aesthetics, art, etc.) and rejects all of the negatives that come with belonging to said culture (racism, rates of unemployment, the suicide epidemics, etc.), therefore trivialising hundreds of years of violence and genocide. And in case you still don't get the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural borrowing, there's a cultural appropriation guideline for fashion designers and creators.

Rachel Bilson, Kim Kardashian West, Miley Cyrus, and Hillary Duff

Of course, we've learned nothing since. In 2012, Karlie Kloss walked down the Victoria's Secret runway in a racy Native American-inspired outfit that made the audience gasp, a mistake that the brand mysteriously (and may I add stupidly) repeated in 2017 with a segment of the show titled "Nomadic Adventures." In 2015, the Canadian designers behind Dsquared2 unveiled their Dsquaw collection, a magnificently tone-deaf attempt at Indigenous inspired clothing. These are only a few examples—the list goes on.

Gary Busey

Mukluks are another strain of culturally appropriated footwear that a lot of us are guilty of wearing (even me). I had a tan pair that I wore every day—even in the rain—so they started to smell. I still kept wearing them. I deserve this shame.

Hillary Duff, Paris Hilton, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Megan Fox

Ashley Greene

But who would I be if I offered only reproach and no solutions? 

First, if you've ever dabbled in this cultural appropriation puddle, you can make maneds by 1. Stopping and 2. Buying clothing and accessories made by Native people. Second, support Native social justice movements and institutions, like the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies, the American Indian Business Leaders organziation, or Women Empowering Women for Indigenous Nations. Finally, take ownership of the times you've appropriated culture, and call it out next time you see it. After all, we learn best from our mistakes.

So I implore you: If you're going to take it back to the early 2000s and buy yourself a pair of moccasins or mukluks, do it right. 

related posts

Recommended posts for you