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Opinion: Fashion industry remains tied to Native stereotypes

Ralph Lauren has removed an ad campaign featuring historic pictures of Indian men. This image was saved by Ruth Hopkins and posted on Last Real Indians

Writer discusses cultural appropriation in the fashion industry:
The clothing company Ralph Lauren released an online advertisement for its RRL line last month that drew scathing criticism from Native Americans.

The ad's imagery harked back to the Old West, with henley jerseys and rustic jeans displayed in faded sepia tones. And while one page touted bandanas and “Western-style” shirts, the opposite page showed a Native American sporting a feathered headdress, holding a rifle across his lap.

Another page depicted a stoic Native American man with dark skin, braided hair and a Western shirt-and-vest combo.

Following the outcry, the company removed the images from its website and apologized.

The episode neatly summed up an issue in fashion and pop culture that has drawn heated debate in recent years. Many people seemingly remain tethered to the idea of a romanticized Old West -- a time of death and carnage for America’s indigenous population.

The “cowboys and Indians” movies of the 1950s did much to solidify these tropes in modern American culture, building on centuries of stereotypes. These films mashed up the traditions of countless tribes indiscriminately, often depicting Native Americans as primitive, even bloodthirsty brutes. At best, indigenous people were depicted as noble savages, piteous characters not yet corrupted by the "civilized" world. Meanwhile, the real-life meanings attached to certain items, customs and historical figures got distorted or lost, and white Americans, for the most part, neither knew nor cared.

Get the Story:
Kim Bhasin: Ralph Lauren's Native American Ads Reveal Sad Truth About The Fashion World (The Huffington Post 1/13)

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