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(Urban Outfitters)
(Urban Outfitters)

I’m white. Is there any way to wear tribal prints respectfully? Add to ...

The question

What are the politics of draping yourself in Navajo or other tribal prints if you’re white? (Remember the Urban Outfitters fiasco?)

The answer

What are the politics of draping yourself in camouflage print if you’re not in the army?

In both cases, a print loaded with meaning has been commercialized for a wider audience. While camo prints are objectionable to some because of their association with war, Navajo-style prints have caused controversy (and prompted a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters) because they are a form of cultural appropriation, suggesting a heritage that does not belong to many of us.

Personally, I steer clear of both types of patterns, especially when there are so many other options that don’t carry the risk of offending anyone.

But if you must wear a tribal print, at least do it justice by opting for authenticity. Seek out fabrics made by artisans rather than mass-produced imitations. Wear a genuine handmade scarf instead of a flimsy hipster panty (yes, we’re looking at you, UO). The answer here is less about politics than respect.

Amy Verner is The Globe and Mail’s Paris-based style reporter. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com or follow her on Twitter @amyverner.

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