DIY trend - Indian warpaint

Inhale, Exhale.

One thing the recent tribal trend has brought to fashion mag editorials is not only feather indian chief headdress (which are adorable and very easy to DIY) but also warpaints. Girls looking super hot in very little makeup with a few finger stripes under their eyes or on the cheeks. The quickest way to make this is to use lipstick and eyeliner. In Finland the phrase war paint (Finnish. sotamaalaus) can also be used to describe the excess amounts of makeup used by older women :P

Outi Les Pyy

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  1. I love that trend and your description of the sotamaalaus is fab.

  2. I love the first pic. I wouldn't dare to try it on me, though, but cool post.



  3. I don't know, you know native americans find this kind of thing pretty offensive. Especially the war bonnets, or head dresses. I wouldn't wear war paint around either, you don't know what the stripes mean and I feel like it's pretty inappropriate. Native americans didn't wear it just for looks and both head dresses and war paint have alot of meaning and significance. Plus, most native americans tribes never wore war bonnets, this kind of thing continues to stereotype them.

  4. Natives or First Nation peoples. Indian is the word for people from India.

    I think that white people dressing up in costume to look like Native north Americans is offensive and ignorant, actually.

  5. PonPon and teainwonderland, fashion takes references from all cultures and history. Of course all the original sources are taken very seriously and respect when designers make their collections but in the end it is just their representation and vision using these components.

    But in this case I think the trends original source is in childhood´s cowboy games rather than the real thing.. So I don´t really see the offenciveness towards American Natives.

    But all trends are not for everyone. I get it. It does not have to be.

    Personally I cannot wear any of the old russian war medals or badges sold here in second hand stores even with the current army trend as my grandfarher died fighting against them in -45. I think it would dishonor his memory (and my dad would not like it either). But I don´t judge people that do or get offended by it as it was a long time ago and times have changed. And it does not stop me from wearing all other army stuff... For me recycling and reusing is more important.

    It is just fashion. And it is not supposed to be taken too seriously. It is supposed to be fun.

    P.S. I misspell things a lot as English is not my birth language. I don´t mind it and hope nobody else does either. The most important thing is that you guys understand what I´m talking about :)

  6. *sigh*

    Okay, here's the breakdown, for your reading pleasure: "But Why Can't I Wear a Hipster Headdress?" ( (note: this is not my website - just one information resource out of many - it's US-centric but the US isn't the only place where indigenous people are being brutally colonized)

    It's not the same history as your grandpa's medals - it's an on-going travesty of appropriation and cultural violence. If you didn't know that before, fine. It happens. But now you know. And just because something is fun to you doesn't mean it's not a slap in the face to someone else. To you it might be about games, but those games are about real people and their real histories that they live with.

  7. Actually, "American Indian" has come back into usage; I studied history of Northwest Indians under a woman who had been a legal representative for the Duwamish tribe (officially recognized as a tribe during the final hours of Clinton's presidency, their official status as a tribe was immediately revoked in the first hours of Bush's presidency - sigh) here in Seattle. So the terminology is actually correct, Outi, as of the early 21st C.

    My family is Northern Cheyenne (though the American government lumped my great-great grandmother under the catch-all rubric "Cherokee"), but while I love this look and secretly long to don it, it's too fraught. Though the wholesale genocide of American Indians, the destruction of tribal culture and the seizure of lands which were not meant to be "owned" is ancient history for some, the legacy still feels very close to me. A whole continent of people have been underprivileged, had less access to resources, decent educations and proper livelihoods for generations, and it leaves its mark. Their children were rejected as half-breeds, kept at arm's length though generations of intermarriage with Europeans may have made their blood more Euro than native. I see the legacy in my father's family, poor and ignorant, living in shacks in backwoods Oregon, a family of felons and addicts, almost every single one an alcoholic, most of the women becoming mothers in their mid-teens, most dealing drugs to support themselves, and still beating their kids with belts when discipline is required. This is the modern-day legacy of a people who were denied full acceptance into the colonist society that established itself on their backs.

    So though I find the look aesthetically pleasing (and I really do!), I am particularly surprised when kids with no native heritage put on warpaint. It's too uncomfortable for me, perhaps because I feel caught somewhere between Indian like my dad and my mother's family of fair-skinned red-headed Irish.

    However, in Europe, I can see how that would be different. When I was in Czech Republic, everyone was astounded to learn that a "real, live Red Indian" - yes, that's how they differentiate, Indians from India and Red Indians from America - was in their presence. (Because I inherited the delicate Plains Indian digestive tract, I actually cannot eat standard European fare, so I end up having to explain this a lot when I travel.) One man rushed to tell me about fond memories of playing cowboys and Red Indians as kids ("we had the feathers and everything!" he told me, fondly). This kind of thing would be SO out of line in America that I had to call my parents the next day and tell them the story. But I knew he meant no harm by it. *shrug* It's not your history, and I think that distance makes this particular issue less fraught and more fun for you.

    Sorry to go on - been thinking about this one a lot lately! But I'm glad you posted about it because I've been really interested to hear how this trend plays out internationally - so, do you see a lot of this in Europe? Does it garner this kind of discussion in Finland, or is it just "for fun"?

  8. To quote Double Dagger, there's something called context. Context, context, context! And without it you're just making a fucking mess.

    I told off TwistedLamb for this same nonsense a few months ago after one too many superficial raidings of oppressed cultures' wardrobes.

    I'm white as white can be and I don't pretend to know the kind of suffering face by indigenous people across on any first hand basis, other than through friends, a bit of formal education and a lot of informal study.

    That said, I at least have the decency not to play dress up with other peoples' heritage and to butcher their cultures for some kind of fashion minstrel show.

    This shit always reminds me of Ed Gein, the guy who inspired Psycho, who made dresses out of the skin of female corpses for his own sick amusement. Native America has suffered countless atrocities and continues to bare the consequences of systematic repression and abuse along with genetic incompatibility with the modern western lifestyle and poor living conditions that result in predisposition towards alcoholism, morbid obesity and type II diabetes.

    Now having over-privileged fashionable dilettantes, the prime benefactors of the brutal theft and rape of America's indigenous peoples' land, wantonly strip one of the few remnants of their cultural identity and heritage they've managed to preserve throughout their centuries of oppression and massacre just seems to put it mildly a little fucked up.

  9. I don't speak my native language. It's been taken- beaten- out of us.

    I don't know fuck-all about my heritage- it's been forcibly assimilated by policy.

    I don't know how to survive in the wilderness.

    I don't know. There is so much I don't know about us.

    And saying that it originates in racist children's games makes it okay.

    For a good read, Marcia Crosby's "The Imaginary Indian" will elaborate on this far better than I can.

  10. fleur_delicious: I'm sorry, I should have clarified that I'm speaking as a Canadian and using Indian to describe Native is seen as a little derogatory.

    And Outsapop: I realize that you're not from North American so you don't have the same kind of knowledge about these issues, but the fact that you feel it isn't supposed to be taken seriously does not make it less offensive. In those childrens' cowboy games, the "indians" are always the bad guys, and the cowboys always kill them. It's racist.

    Another commenter made a good point that those headdresses and the paint have specific symbolic meaning. Not just any Native person wore them (and not every Native group even had those things in their culture - yes, there is more than one kind of "Indian" in North America). Taking these things directly with no knowledge on what they are or why they are worn is ignorant.

    I see nothing wrong with fashion that is INSPIRED by Native culture - or any culture for that matter - because there are a lot of beautiful ideas to be found there. But directly taking something with symbolic meaning just removes all the meaning from it and I find it mocking. First Nations people are not a people of long ago - they are real people of today and they have enough shit to put up with already without white people going around wearing imitations of their traditional dress as costume.

  11. Teainwonderland, in our games in Finland the natives were NOT always the bad guys. :) We did not knowto or would decriminate anyone at that age. Who won, won. It was never a racial or cultural issue for us.

    It´s true that this history (discrimination ect.) is not that well known to me as it is not my history, or European history. So I really did not think this would be that offencive to anyone.. I´m sorry to hear things are not really any better these days.

    But hear me on this. I believe most people do have manners and tact. I own many pieces of fashion that I would not to wear in their "home places" as there they are viewed differently but in Finland I can wear them as fashion as here they are just fashion. Nobody here sees them like you describe.

  12. teainwonderland - how interesting. I wonder if the difference is that people in Canada WOULD stop using it, but here in America it seems indelibly stuck (hence the need to "reclaim" the epithet)? From where I stand, Canada always seems a bit more sensitive to racial and ethnic differences. But maybe I'm idealizing.

    While the Czechs I met also, yes, instantly thought "feather headdress" when I said "Indian," I don't think the Indians were the bad guys in their games. In fact, the man who told me seemed most excited about the Indian part. I think it's just different, and what's different - what's not your history or your social problem - can be interesting in ways that *are* innocent. Also, this guy is in his 60s, so I cut him some slack: AMERICANS were busy playing cowboys and Indians in the 50s and 60s, too. As Rooster St. says, context context context.

  13. Yeah, I have to agree with most of what people are saying. And to those who say it's only referencing a cultural meme- unless you come from a Native American background it's not yours to play with, because there's no way anyone else can possibly understand. On some level, yes, but never fully.

    I love warpaint and I used to love dressing up as some generic tribal character, and I don't necessarily think this kind of fashion is hugely offensive, I just think it comes with a boatload of issues that need to be addressed.

  14. i think i'm a bit late to the game but i co-sign with everyone else in the comment sections. i love your blog but it was crushing to see this kind of thing. just because you're in europe (hello: i live in the netherlands) does not necessarily give you a free-pass to mine other peoples' cultures (especially from one that's been abused and decimated by europeans). that's called privilege.

  15. My .02 cents....I wouldn't wear this. A little too close to co-opting someone's culture in a way I find uncomfortable.

    On the styling size, I would find a less literal interpretation just in better taste and less like a costume (a la the "cowboys and indians" comments).

  16. As a Full Blooded Saulteaux warrior from the Saulteaux nation living in Helsinki, i promise not to rampage if someone introduces me to the girl in the bonnet.