Following in Kim Kardashian’s footsteps, Zac Efron has decided to wear a controversial hairstyle. The former High School Musical actor debuted dreadlocks on Thursday alongside the caption, “just for fun.”
It’s unclear if Efron switched up his look for a new role or is trying to be cute, but fans aren’t having it. Soon after posting, his comments section turned into a battlefield, with people accusing him of culturally appropriating a traditionally black hairstyle.
Fans debated over the exact origin of dreadlocks, and which culture “owns” the look. Those unhappy with the style wrote, “Oh no Zac plz do not disrespect other people” and “I think it’s pretty sad and pathetic that you don’t see an issue with taking someone’s value.” Others came to Efron’s defense, with one supporter writing, “Oh my gosh, anyone can have dreadlocks. It ain’t racist people."
Still, some were just confused: “can someone please explain why he can’t have his hair like this?” The answer, in case you were also wondering: "Cultural appropriation is about the power dynamic," writer and activist Feminsta Jones told CNN on the subject. "When people with power and privilege decide to 'validate' customs and traditions that oppressed people have long been marginalized for by saying 'This is the hot new thing,' then we have serious problems. Or when they refuse to credit the people who innovated those styles or traditions, but claim them as original ideas, then we get into appropriation."
As conversations about appropriation continue to evolve, the debate has veered into whether or not the wearer is "showing love or respect" for the culture from which the style originated, or is simply trying to cash in on a new "trend." According to the Perception Institute's "Good Hair Study," black people experience implicit bias for wearing natural styles, such as locks. So when a white person wears the look just to be "trendy," rather than as a true expression of "respect," then things get sticky.
Kardashian faced similar backlash for wearing cornrows (Fulani braids) numerous times, most recently at the MTV Movie & TV Awards. Despite the criticism she’s received for appropriating black culture, she’s made it evident it doesn’t phase her. Following the initial back lash when she wore the style earlier this year, she shared another photo with the braids and wrote, “Hi, can I get zero f—s please, thanks.”
Let’s see what Efron has to say.