Nitecap Co-ltural Appropriation: Why Black Twitter Is So Mad
Social media is evolving. What was once a means of connection, has now become a multi-layered conglomeration of news, updates and most recently outrage.
Once upon a time, we rarely got angry because let’s face it, we had no idea what was going on; but now, we have access to so much more information and it seems like every week there's something new to get mad at.
Typically, I shy away from the internet outrage that seems to flood comment sections on a daily; but, a few days ago while scrolling away on my TL, I came across a post that I just couldn’t ignore. FASHION magazine (self-named Canada’s #1 Fashion and Beauty Magazine), tweeted about NiteCap Co. whose innovative “washable silk hair wrap,” hit the market in March.
Washable silk hair wrap? Sounds familiar doesn’t it…
The eloquent way of describing a silk cap, something I personally have in my bedside drawer, piqued my interest. It couldn’t be the same product could it?
I clicked the link and lo and behold, there it was, the so-called Nite Cap. The cap (and complementing silk scrunchie) is described to “extend the life of your blowout and style, ending bedhead, frizz, damage and bad hair days, once and for all.” So...basically a silk cap with a bow on it ------- for $98???
The company’s "ABOUT" section indicates that though “silk scarves were easy to find, [NiteCap Co. founder] Sarah [Marantz Lindenberg] wanted something more – a functional and aesthetic system.” So, “during her pregnancy Sarah was required to go on bed rest – allowing her time to grow the idea of silk sleepwear for hair.”
Needless to say, Black Twitter has been sufficiently outraged … and for good reason! The problem isn't so much the silk cap in-and-of itself; but, rather the audacity to suggest that Lindenberg “grew the idea of silk sleepwear for hair” as though silk and satin caps haven’t been a staple part of the black community for centuries.
Elegantly weaved through the biography of the product, is the history of the “luxurious fabric,” but, suspiciously there is no reference to the culture in which the product has been a significant part of.
Even the advertising is perspectively challenged. Adorning the site are pictures of silk pajama clad Caucasian women and of course, the one token black girl incorporated in the ad --- so as not to be called out for a lack of diversity.
I know there are people out there rolling their eyes and scoffing because “black people are ALWAYS mad at something”; but, the reality is, it’s not about sharing (silk caps for all -- we are here for it!); the issue is another race slapping a bow and a hefty price tag on a “luxury item” that the black community is consistently shamed for.
Why is a nightcap called “ghetto” when worn by black women; but, called a “vintage silk scarf” when worn by white ones?
Here is yet another example of black culture being turned into a luxury item for another race. The silk cap/ silk scarf, which is an integral part of black hair care, the ethnic community, and coloured history, has been manipulated into something foreign; and because of its high-price, it has become virtually inaccessible to the community that uses it everyday.
Dating back to as early as 1786, hair coverings have been part of black history. In fact, as a result of the Tignon laws enacted in Louisiana, women of African descent were required by law to wear a tignon (tiyon), or headdress to conceal their hair. Because white males were said to be attracted to the features of black women, the law was essentially instituted to combat any threat women of colour imposed on white women. It was used as a means of oppression; however, black women turned it into a statement --- a relic that has been, and will continue to be, passed down for generations.
Of course the Tignon laws no longer exist; but, through centuries of progress and change, silk caps have remained an integral part of black culture. Silk coverings (caps, scarves, and headwraps) have always been used as a method of hair care and have since been incorporated into fashion and style (durags, turbans, head-dresses, etc). It’s multi-use functionality, and the richness of it's history should be something that is acknowledged and celebrated; and yet, women of colour are shamed for it. Shamed by other races who don’t understand it; and degraded by members of the ethnic community because they have been taught to look down on it.
From a Houston High School blocking parents from campus if they wear silk caps or bonnets, shower caps, or hair rollers; to Lil Duval tweeting about how much he hates afros --- we have been indoctrinated into a society that deems a black woman’s natural hair and hair practices as ghetto or unrefined.
Having someone then re-purpose that shame and degradation as a luxury item that is un-accessible to the majority of the community that uses it, is what makes people angry.
When I first saw the post about NiteCap Co. I honestly wanted to root for the company. I thought “finally -- someone trying to make silk caps and scarves mainstream. One day, little black girls won’t have to be embarrassed about wearing their nightcaps at sleepovers with their white friends.” That is, until I realized, just like most companies -- NiteCap Co. took an item that is part of another culture and excluded them from it.
It’s not about the action; but rather, about the impact the action has.
UPDATE: Sarah Marantz Lindenberg has since apologized for her grievous error in judgement; but is an online apology enough?
Let us know what you think! If you’ve seen the NiteCap Co. controversy online -- comment your thoughts below!
And for those out there interested in a “vintage silk scarf,” they sell them at Sally Beauty (or any drug store) for literally $3.99.