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Are Moccasins Cultural Appropriation?

You may love the look and feel of moccasins but worry about whether wearing them will be considered a form of cultural appropriation. This is the article that set you straight.

Here is what you need to understand about the significance of moccasins and under what circumstances it would be considered cultural appropriation:

Is Wearing Moccasins a Form of Cultural Appropriation?

It is difficult to give a straightforward answer here – on the one hand, moccasins are a type of footwear that has originated from Native American tribes and don’t have cultural or symbolic meaning – however, buying designs copied from Native Americans without due payment is appropriation.

Why are Moccasins Problematic?

It is natural to wonder why moccasins are a form of cultural appropriation. After all, they are just shoes, right? They have no spiritual or cultural ties to Native Americans so what is wrong about wearing them?

colorful moccasins

On the one hand, you would be right. Wearing moccasins isn’t inherently a form of cultural appropriation. It is almost like wearing a pair of bejeweled sandals from Asia or the Middle East.

The problem is where the moccasins came from.

The majority of moccasins in the market aren’t from Native American designers or creators. Instead, they come from major brands and mass produced, commercialized companies.

These individuals took the designs from Native Americans, created their own version, and then sold it for exorbitant profit. In the meantime, the original creators never got any compensation for their work.

In this instance, the role of Native Americans in the creation of moccasins is completely erased. They don’t get any credit or any money.

Therefore, buying moccasins in this scenario is quite problematic.

The Current Issues with Appropriating Indigenous Cultures

Cultural appropriation is never good or acceptable. When it comes to indigenous cultures, though, it is in especially poor taste to borrow or steal right now.

This is because indigenous peoples are facing greater issues than ever before. One of the problems is the lack of clean water on reservations. To compound this, indigenous individuals are less likely to get access to the resources and funding that they need.

All the while, the cultural practices and lands of the indigenous peoples continue to be under attack, destroying traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Therefore, if you purchase moccasins from a company that exploits these individuals who are already facing so many issues, it is in very poor taste indeed.

Just imagine wearing indigenous footwear for fun or aesthetic reasons when Native Americans are struggling to hold onto their culture.

When are Moccasins Cultural Appropriation?

There are instances when moccasins can be straight up cultural appropriation.

One case is if you are wearing your moccasins as a costume. If you are pairing them with traditional dresses, headdress, etc. all to imitate or mock Native Americans or indigenous cultures, then it is certainly a form of cultural appropriation.

The other way that moccasins can be cultural appropriation is if you are wearing the moccasins as a part of indigenous or ‘boho’ look or vibe. These shoes aren’t meant to be a trend but rather treated with respect as they come from a culture outside of your own.

Not to mention, indigenous peoples have suffered greatly at the hands of colonizers and continue to experience discrimination and lack of rights. Therefore, wearing their clothes or accessories as a part of an aesthetic is incredibly problematic.

When Can You Wear Moccasins?

The best way to feel comfortable wearing moccasins is when they are purchased from Native American creators or designers. This is because you can guarantee that the funds are going to the right places. Also, as these designers have agreed to sell to you, you are less likely to be accused of appropriation.

pair of moccasins on the way

Always look for indigenous artists or creators. It is far more ethical when you buy from them ethically. Not only are you helping an authentic, independent, and local business owner, but you know precisely where the money is going.

As an added bonus, most of these materials are ethically sourced. As such, you will be getting items that are ecofriendly as well.

There are some vendors who work with such artists or creators. It is fine to purchase items from such vendors. Before you do so, though, it is important to research the vendors and make sure that the proceeds from the purchase is going to the right place.

It is also a good idea to use this opportunity to learn more about indigenous cultures, the issues they are facing, and what you can do to help them or raise awareness.

Are Moccasins a Form of Cultural Appropriation?

Moccasins aren’t always considered a form of cultural appropriation – if they are bought from indigenous designers, then they will not be considered as such – however, if they are bought from companies that exploit the culture or you wear them as a fad or a trend, then it is appropriation.