Pharrell apologized for wearing a Native American headdress in a recent Elle UK cover photo, writing in a statement: “I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”
The photograph quickly stirred up controversy over the appropriation of a sacred garment worn by Native American chiefs and warriors, resulting in the Twitter hashtag, “#NotHappy,” a reference to Pharrell’s recent solo hit.
The wearing of Native American headdresses has become a recurring issue in music circles over the past several years as the garment has ostensibly grown more ubiquitous, particularly among festival goers. In 2012, No Doubt pulled the video for “Looking Hot” and apologized for the second single from their comeback record, Push and Shove, which had a Wild West theme and was rife with tee-pees, headdresses and smoke signals.
Recently, the garment played a central role in the back-and-forth between the Flaming Lips‘ Wayne Coyne and ex-drummer, Kliph Scurlock. After the split, Scurlock told Pitchfork he was dropped for criticizing Coyne’s friend, musician Christina Fallin (also the daughter of Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin), who posted a photo of herself in a headdress and later taunted protestors during a concert; Coyne in turn came to Fallin’s defense and posted a photo to Instagram of his three friends and a dog wearing a headdress.
“I understand now that if I’m a spokesperson for any kind of behavior, I shouldn’t have done it, and I regret doing it now,” Coyne later said of the photo to Rolling Stone. “I am sorry. I realize now that it goes deeply to the heart of some Native Americans. And I definitely regret it.”