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Wireless Festival will ban garments ‘selling cultural appropriation’

Wireless Festival has vowed it will ban clothes ‘promoting cultural appropriation’, sparking fears the beloved poncho and sombrero could be outlawed.

Organisers of the three day event in Finsbury Park, London banned dozens of items ahead of Friday.

Guidance on the website vaguely includes ‘clothes/garments/items’ which could be seen as offensive cultural appropriation – but this could range from anything like keffiyeh scarves to ponchos.

Festival fashion has long been a controversial topic, with the ‘Queen of Coachella‘ Vanessa Hudgens, Kendall Jenner and former Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio all facing backlash for their outfits in the past.

The ‘boho chic’ style of Native American feather headdresses, ‘tribal’ beading and print is a go-to for many summer music events – but some argue this is a continuation of hippies appropriating Hindu, Buddhist, and indigenous cultures.

Festival fashion has long been a controversial topic, with even the 'Queen of Coachella ' Vanessa Hudgens facing backlash for her boho outfits in the past

Festival fashion has long been a controversial topic, with even the ‘Queen of Coachella ‘ Vanessa Hudgens facing backlash for her boho outfits in the past

Influencer Gabrielle Morrison wearing a fringe dress in Coachella, 2023

Influencer Gabrielle Morrison wearing a fringe dress in Coachella, 2023

Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn pictured at Coachella in festival garb

Paris Jackson and Gabriel Glenn pictured at Coachella in festival garb

Wireless, headlined by Nicki Minaj, warned that ticket holders be searched upon entry for any offensive items.

Last year, Reading Festival also implemented the ban on clothing which may be offensive after rows over cultural insensitivity reached a fever pitch.

Reading’s sister event, Leeds, also employs the directive, but other Festival Republic events, such as Download, do not ban such clothes.

Yet on the festival site at Little John’s Farm, there appeared to be little knowledge of the rule among both visitors and those selling merchandise on the site.

Stalls outside the main arena flogged garments including Native American ponchos, yak wool Tibetan shawls and elephant-print harem pants last year.

Despite the stereotypical image of festival-goers being one of faux-Native American feathered headdresses and foreheads panted with bindis, many have been slammed for adhering to the trend.

A music fan wearing Makha Jewels earings and gold foil tattoos at the 2015 Coachella event

A music fan wearing Makha Jewels earings and gold foil tattoos at the 2015 Coachella event

Festivalgoers dressed up to attend the 2024 Coachella music event

Festivalgoers dressed up to attend the 2024 Coachella music event

And those going for the ‘boho chic’ aesthetic may not be aware of the uncomfortable connotations the early 00s trend now has.

The bohemian style was inspired by the hippy ensembles of the 60s and 70s with fringing, halter necks and bright print patterns often with sandles and a cross-body fabric bag.

It’s meant to represent the carefree attitude of festival life, but eventually people caught on that the more bold examples could be offensive and the styles began to slowly disappear.

This was helped along by the emerging cancel culture – and the celebrities who fell victim to it. 

In 2016, Vanessa Hudgens was accused of cultural appropriation for wearing a dream catcher on her head.

The former High School Musical star was slammed on social media after posting a picture with the object in her hair on Instagram, even though she is of Native American descent.

Hudgens has come under fire for similar outfits before. In 2012, she was blasted for posing in full traditional Indian wear – including a Bindi in the centre of her forehead – both are used for religious events.

Music lovers at 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival wear sombreros

Music lovers at 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival wear sombreros

A festival goer takes a selfie standing on shoulders from the crowd at Wireless Festival 2018

A festival goer takes a selfie standing on shoulders from the crowd at Wireless Festival 2018

In 2014, she wore a similar outfit and headdress to the Coachella music festival.

Both Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian have also been criticised for their outfit choices.

In 2019, reality TV star Kim donned a traditional Indian maang tikka head piece for a church service.

She shared her outfit on social media with the caption ‘Sunday Service Vibe’, but some Instagram users were unimpressed with her apparent mishmash of cultural items.

Kim accessorised her flowing white dress with gold Indian-inspired jewellery, including the head piece typically worn at times of celebration.

Kendall has previously been slammed wearing an Indian ‘nath’ – a piece of Indian bridal jewellery that connects a nose ring to an ear piercing.

Another common choice for those heading to festivals are headdresses. But in 2014, former Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosia faced the horror of her followers.