Canadian pop singer, Justin Drew Bieber, is facing cultural appropriation of his new over his new dreadlocks.
The 27-year-old “Peaches” singer debuted locs on Instagram Sunday, sharing several pictures of his controversial new hairstyle that elicited both calls of racial insensitivity and praise amongst peers.
“Swags crazy,” Jaden Smith commented under one of Bieber’s posts, while Instagram user @joetermini commented: “Just out here living your best life.”
But for people of color, natural hair isn’t seen as trendy or cutting edge. It is often discriminated against and policed. In 2020, a Texas teen was suspended for refusing to cut his locs. In 2019, a New Jersey high school wrestler had to cut off his locs to avoid forfeiting the match. In 2015, Zendaya’s locs were referred to as smelling of “patchouli oil and weed” on the Oscars red carpet. The list goes on.
Locs – which are commonly referred to as dreadlocks, a term that holds a historically negative connotation – is a style where hair locks into fused coils over time. The hairstyle has traditionally been worn by people of color throughout history.
Although Bieber has previously said he’s “very influenced by Black culture” and has recently used his platform to advocate for racial equality, some social media users said Bieber took “1,000 (steps) backward” with his “totally offensive and disrespectful” hair.
“Listen @justinbieber I don’t care how long I’ve liked you, this is cultural appropriation and I don’t like it,” tweeted @jadorehyungwon. “Justin, how are you gonna preach that you’re an advocate for black people and then keep appropriating them? Make it make sense buddy.”
Others have defended Bieber’s hairstyle, saying he should be free to express himself how he pleases.
“Let him do his hair the way he wants to. People can choose a hairstyle they want,” @Habesha99 tweeted.