Free People Tried Selling Clip-In Dreads, Proving Fast Fashion Is Still Awful

Free People

Would you like your end-of-summer buys to come with a side of somebody else's cultural heritage? If you shop fast fashion, you're in luck.

The latest retailer to make its name in the cultural appropriation industry is Free People, the boho brand that made you feel like Mary-Kate Olsen in high school.

Teen Vogue points out the clothing retailer's online store is offering clip-in dreadlocks for hair.

What's that you hear? It's one thousand media commentators audibly sighing.

Notably, Free People tried the whole dreadlock thing way back in 2014. Commentators were appalled then, too.

Early in 2015, red carpet commentator Giuliana Rancic sparked controversy by hypothesizing actress Zendaya's hair locs were likely to smell of “patchouli oil ” and “weed.”

Zendaya shot back, explaining the comments were derogatory. Instead of lifting her up for showcasing a hairstyle beloved of women of color, Rancic ripped her down. The host later apologized for her mistake.

Just over one year later, it seems like no one learned their lesson — particularly not fast fashion retailers.

Twitter points out the $128 extensions come in two shades, pink and white. Neither of those looks natural in anything but blonde hair, which is fitting because the webpage features a white model.

While the media storm swirls around Free People's poor decisions, it's important to remember how frequently instances like this occur.

Fast fashion is only known for two things: Making ballet flats you can go dancing in once before tossing them in the garbage bin (environmentally sound!), and ripping off other people's heritage.

The underlying problem here, besides just plain terrible ideas, is that many brands seem to believe culture and history are things young customers can try on for size.

Over and over again, we see fast fashion brands taking culturally significant patterns and styles for themselves. There's a fundamental lack of understanding about designs significant to a community.

Take, for example, Forever21. The brand saw a spate of bad press after someone noticed they tended to brand anything with a remotely Southwestern pattern as “Navajo.”

Besides the fact that the Navajo tribe is about a lot more than Forever21's crappy weaving, the name of the tribe is actually trademarked to prevent situations like this. There's no using it without paying up.

Think about that: A Native tribe actually had to place legal lockdown on its name so stores couldn't use it to represent their clothing willy-nilly.

Many brands seem to believe culture and history are things young customers can try on for size.

The same happens with Urban Outfitters, a brand routinely called out for schilling cheap, Native American-inspired trinkets that perpetuate stereotypes about American Indians for obscenely overblown prices.

Need a leather cell-phone cover shaped like a gun holster that's the cost of a leather jacket? Urban has you covered.

Remember H&M's scarf debacle, too? The brand launched a patterned, tasseled scarf critics claimed was an exact copy of a tallit, the prayer shawl worn by orthodox Jewish men.

If you want sensitivity, depth and cultural understanding, you should walk your wallet far away from fast fashion.

At the time of publication, the link to the dreadlocks no longer loads. Will Free People make a statement, or will the item page just disappear forever?

Stay tuned.