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White women have discovered laid edges and are calling them ‘sticky bangs’ on TikTok

Laid edges on white models have been a common theme on catwalks, from Burberry in 2019 to Givenchy in 2015 (Pictures: Getty/L’oreal)

For many people with Afro-textured or kinky hair, laying their edges is an important part of the styling routine.

It involves using gel and a bristled brush to create a face-framing shape with baby hair (the fine hairs around your hairline) that can be simple or intricate with swirls and patterns.

Laid edges can help make a wig look more natural or add drama to a sleek ‘do. The cultural significance of the style, however, means it’s not a look everyone can or should give a go.

A recent TikTok posted by Alli Fitz focused on the recent trend of white women laying their edges, stitching an earlier video where user Doonigalli claimed to have created the look and named it ‘sticky bangs’.

Alli’s video has now been viewed over 2.4 million times, sparking a backlash from those accusing the original poster of cultural appropriation and insensitivity during Black History Month in the US.

Doonigalli has since deleted the TikTok and posted an apology where she explained it was ‘literally a joke’ and that she ‘was being dumb in the moment’.

Be that as it may, the reason her video provoked ridicule and ire is because it’s not an isolated incident.

Whether it’s Kim Kardashian wearing cornrows on the red carpet or Gigi Hadid sporting an Afro wig on the cover of Vogue Italia, white women have form for cultural appropriation when it comes to hair.

Inevitably, these discussions become clogged with comments like ‘how can a culture own a hairstyle?’, ‘it’s just hair,’ or ‘it’s racism/segregation to suggest cultures can be appropriated’. While they may not be malicious in intent, these excuses show an ignorance towards the reality of life for non-white people.

According to Essence, the first to popularize laid edges was Josephine Baker, a dancer, singer, and civil rights activist in the 1920s. It’s thought that Josephine’s look of her – as well as that of singer Baby Esther – inspired cartoonists when creating Betty Boop’s character.

Over time the style has evolved, but laid edges have experienced various resurgences, most notably in the 90s when the West Coast Hip Hop and Mexican-American Chola aesthetics hit the mainstream.

My edges always have to be laid when I wear a hairstyle

Laid edges in intricate designs can be a real work of art – but that doesn’t mean you should give them a go if you don’t understand their cultural significance (Picture: Getty Images)

As twirled baby hairs became synonymous with Black and Latina culture, so did stigma. Chelsea Rojas, host of the Black Girls Texting podcast, told Essence: ‘I remember a time when girls had not just a little clean up but an extreme swirl. And it was considered ghetto.’

Cultural appropriation is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.’

BRIT Awards 2015 - Red Carpet Arrivals

FKA Twigs is known for her signature look of delicate and artistic edges (Picture: Getty)

A Black woman, for example, may be unfairly judged and called ‘ghetto’ or ‘unprofessional’ for wearing her hair a certain way, yet a white woman may be considered fashionable or innovative for the exact same style.

Of course you’re allowed to dress however you want – last time we checked the fashion police don’t have the power to make arrests. The question is why you would want to take on a style that’s tied to people’s identities and pass it off as your own.

It’s cosplaying stereotypes while upholding Eurocentric beauty standards, as well as contributing to the rise of ‘mixedfishing’ – where people change their features or clothing to appear racially ambiguous.

Your desire to express yourself doesn’t deny the fact that POC are discriminated against for protective styles like braids or dreadlocks.

You may believe we are ‘all equal’, but as author of Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma Dabiri, says: ‘Black hair is one of the fault lines that throws up again and again that the progress that is claimed to have been made, hasn’t actually been made.

‘Because if it had, issues of hair wouldn’t still be so contentious.’

Black women who do not straighten their hair have been proven to be ‘less likely to get jobs’, and research by De Montfort University revealed that 1 in 5 Black women feel societal pressure to straighten their hair for work, and scientists

When white people – the dominant culture in Western society – don laid edges or Bantu knots, they’re celebrated and seen as stylish innovators (while Black children are sent home from school for the ‘uniform policy violation’ of simply having textured hair) perpetuating the idea that Blackness can only be celebrated when in proximity to whiteness.

Regardless of your intentions, that’s the impact – so you can either do your research and learn how to appreciate without appropriating, or deal with people’s justified criticisms.

In summation: Stop trying to make ‘sticky bangs’ happen. They’re not going to happen.

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