You may have seen the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic trending all over social media, but you’re probably not sure what it means or where it originated.
The aesthetic draws inspiration from the “no-makeup-makeup” and “model-off-duty looks”, which involved looking polished with minimal to no make-up.
Videos with the #cleangirlaesthetic have garnered millions of views and likes, and it seems like everyone is completely invested in the look and the lifestyle.
A debate about the non-exclusive standard of beauty has been made – many critics of the trend claim that the aesthetic is more toxic than other standards of beauty because of its lack of representation.
According to one tweet: “The issue with the clean girl aesthetic is that it only represents skinny, thin, loose curl textures desirable black women with no blemishes on their face. Implying that anyone outside of that aesthetic is dirty.”
However, the debate on whether the ‘ Clean Girl Aesthetic’ is a form of cultural appropriation is not one I have heard until recently.
For the past few days, Twitter has been buzzing with debates and discussions regarding the trend being a form of cultural appropriation of Black and Brown women’s culture.
According to Impact, an online resource to learn about and support global issues, the clean girl aesthetic “overlooks the black and brown women who have pioneered and worn this look for years. Not crediting them neglects the barriers they broke in order to maintain this look.”
“The difference between appropriation and appreciation is credit.”
What is Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation?
VeryWellmind defines cultural appropriation as: the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression and doesn’t respect their original meaning or give credit to their source. Whilst according to Healthline, cultural appreciating is “appreciating another culture involves an interest in learning about that culture.”
Why is the Clean girl aesthetic considered Cultural Appropriation?
The idea of the clean girl has been around for decades but has usually appeared on Black and Brown skin women – the slick-back hair, hoop earrings and clear lip gloss that has once been so prominent within the black and brown communities is now considered a trend that is pioneered by white women such as Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid and Hailey Bieber.
For Black and Brown women, the slick hair and hooped earrings are part of a rite of passage. In the Latinx community, female girls get their ears pierced as early as six months old and they receive their first pair of small hoop earrings at a young age from their mothers or grandmothers. For the Latinx, this is not just a fashion trend; it is a vital part of their identity and connectedness.
The sentiment toward jewellery is equally felt within the black communities, as they are seen as a part of their cultural identity.
Fashion and beauty journalist Sha Ravine Spencer stated, “this iconic piece of jewelry has morphed and been passed through generations, it has upheld its symbolism of womanhood, empowerment, culture and pride.”
Norhan Zouak, a writer for Her Campus, stated, “Hoops showcased black women’s strength, femininity, and identity. The earrings became a signature of Josephine Baker, Angela Davis, Nina Simone, and plenty of other icons of the [Black Power] movement.”
However, it is something that both the Latinx and Black communities have been shamed. Society began to shame the Black, Latinx community as ‘uncivilised’, ‘barbaric’ and ‘ghetto’.
Yet, white women have never had to experience the shame that came with wearing these cultural pieces and flaunting their hypocrisy for all to see – seemingly without regard for the pain and shame experienced by those who are the originators of this. Instead, once they start to wear them, they are considered fashionable and trending without regard for their historical context.