Earlier this week at the Met Gala, dozens of celebrities graced the event in their wildest, most avant garde ensembles. The theme of this year’s gala was to match fashion designer, Rei Kawakubo’s clothing line, Comme des Garçons. Everyone brought their A game… P Diddy took a brief respite on the staircase... but one celebrity who we were all looking forward to seeing rocked the red carpet with an interesting choice in accessories. This stand-out display of fashion was made by none other than trendsetter and multi-talented artist, Jaden Smith.
Known for his genderfluidity, quirky-spiritual-wokeAF personality, and his reputation in the industries of both fashion, music, and film, Jaden Smith is always a crowd favorite at events like these. He and sister, Willow Smith, stunned all at last year’s Met Gala when they showed up in coordinated ensembles; going viral with their microvideo of them posing and dancing.
This year, Jaden showed up solo without his sister. In her place, claimed Jaden, were his recently sheared off Locs that once lived atop his own head. He walked the Met Gala carpet covered head to toe in black Louis Vuitton pulled straight from their Fall 2017 Women’s Collection. Accentuated by black heeled boots, gold chains, and grills, the real kicker of his outfit were his bleached dreads tied neatly together and held in his own hand. Many publications have written about this fashion choice, but not many have addressed this fashion statement.
Now, this is not to be taken seriously at all, but just for fun, let’s see what we can parse out. Here are some possible close readings of the symbolism behind Jaden carrying his own dreads as a fashion accessory.
Smith has famously been captured on camera rocking his dreads. He’s even held them together with $5k gold Cartier love rings. They are a nod to Black culture, a proud presentation of Black beauty, and are worn as resistance to racist systems of oppression. By carrying his shorn locks, is he presenting to the world his dismissal of Black culture?
Sure, his “reason” for his new haircut is in preparation for a role in his new film, but is that really the only reason?? If so, then why sport the “buzz and bleach” look? By rejecting his Blackness and making a spectacle of the limp corpse of his locks in his hand, he walks the red carpet with a bleached head, embracing the blond color of White Supremacy???
Or has his genderfluidity, dismissal of labels and resistance against gender roles finally caught up to him within the Black community? Black hypermasculinity and homophobia are large areas of conflict for the Blaq community. Black heterosexual males have fought against queerness within their ranks. Has Jaden used the Met Gala as an opportunity to choose between Queerness and Blackness? By waving his dead dreads for all to see while he saunters in all women’s clothing, in high heels no less– has he rejected Blackness and chosen Queerness?
Wearing all black as a symbolic gesture of the death of his Blackness, he sports diamond-encrusted, gold plated grills. Grills, a common accessory in Black masculinity. A presentation of strength, wealth, and dominance. In contrast with his bleach blond display of Whiteness, could he be taunting Black Masculinity?
Or could we be completely off? Maybe instead of an Anti-Black statement, what this truly is, is a commentary on the cultural appropriation of Blackness in fashion and in Hollywood. Because Jaden would never turn on his community like that! Everything this kid has done, has been executed with intention, purpose, and higher meaning. So let’s explore.
We can all agree that the wearing of dreadlocks are a topic of contention. White folks who wear dreads have been severely critiqued, and white people have fought right back (and to those of you who have, in the words of Kendrick Lamar’s new hit song… ). But contention or not, dreadlocks are a part of Black culture, and natural Black hair and other protective hairstyles are viewed as poor, dirty, or ugly– not to mention constantly used against the community in racist ways.
By using this opportunity to use his cut dreads, Jaden is consciously displaying and using his dreads as a fashion accessory just like how non-Black folks wear Black culture as an accessory. By wearing grills that nod to Black masculinity, Black music and pop culture that have been labeled as “gangster” by White folks, Jaden is reflecting how other folks appropriate and view Black fashion. And to “top” it off, his bleached hair is symbolic of the white folks who have attempted to use his identity as a theme to wear to parties and events just like the Met Gala.
Or… you know, it could be he’s just that quirky and decided that holding his dreads is just the next big thing. Whatever it is, Jaden Smith has proven himself an upstanding figure and role model for many people, and let’s be honest, he could probably rock anything and make it look cool.