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Should native headdresses be pulled off store shelves?

Teen with feather headdress


Was H&M's decision to pull faux feather headdresses off the shelves the right thing to do or simply another example of political correctness gone astray?

As reported here, H&M stores across Canada have removed the item from their stores after receiving complaints that the fashion accessories were offensive to aboriginal people.

H&M spokesperson Emily Scarlett said the store had received three complaints about the headdresses when it made the decision to pull them from 61 Canadian store locations earlier this week.

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"Of course we never want to offend anybody or come off as insensitive," said Scarlett. "We're always about being there for our customers."

The headdresses were part of the chain's summer music festival collection called "H&M Loves Music." The collection also features flowered wreaths in keeping with the sixties theme.

The initial complaint came from Kim Wheeler, an Ojibwa-Mohawk from Winnipeg, who said she first noticed the $15 headdresses while shopping with her daughter at the Pacific Centre Mall in Vancouver.

"My first instinct was to buy all of them and throw them in the garbage," said Wheeler. "It's not honouring us. It's not flattering us. It's making a mockery of our culture.We just don't think it's cool."

The H&M contretemps, and headdress issue in general, naturally surfaced on Twitter in the last few days. A random sampling:

From @Jenna_Rosson: "If you say you've never wanted to wear one of those Indian chief headdresses, you're lying."

From @spookyglow: "Native American headdresses are for Native Americans not ATTENTION SEEKING MORONS. It IS offensive and ARE stupid."

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Meanwhile, Catherine Nygren (@broomgrass) tweeted a picture from the recent Osheaga music festival in Montreal showing several males wearing native headdresses, along with the comment: "Why are there a bunch of (nonaboriginal?) guys wearing headdresses at Osheaga2013?"

Likewise for @erin_richards, who said, "Good, saw these @Osheaga + thought they were distasteful."

Meanwhile, the widespread use of feathered headdresses as a hipster headgear–at Coachella and other music festivals–continues unabated and they routinely show up as accessories in glossy fashion photo layouts.

So far, H&M hasn't said whether or not they plan to remove the headdresses from their stores in other countries, but a global boycott seems imminent, if not inevitable.

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