Rasta clothing has been in the news lately.
While there have been raves for clothing like hoodies, sweatshirts, and hats, the brand has been under fire for its use of body shaming imagery, as well as for its questionable business practices.
In a recent article on Mashable, fashion brand D&G shared that its apparel has been “a big topic of discussion for a while now.”
But what is the real picture?
According to the company, women who wear clothing like rasta-inspired clothing “are more likely to be seen as sexy, empowered, and more open to a broader range of men’s opinions and values.”
“Rastas are a group that have a lot of sexualized body images, particularly in terms of the body in a very ‘feminine’ way,” D&g’s Brand Manager Rachel Bielen says.
“We wanted to show the diversity of people who want to wear clothes like rastas, which is really important in a time where we’re seeing more and more men questioning the very notion of what a ‘man’ is.”
In a 2016 study published in the journal Sex Roles, the authors found that women were more likely than men to view rasta apparel as “misogynistic.”
While the study is limited in its sample size and found a significant correlation between rasta wearing and sexism, it is clear that the rasta culture is still prevalent and is not uncommon among certain gender groups.
“Rasta clothing is the same kind of thing, but with different rules,” Bielens says.
She notes that a “sexualized” body type is more acceptable in rasta fashion, with women in particular using clothing that is designed to be flattering and flattering for their bodies.
“A lot of rasta style is not about being sexy,” Bialen says, “it’s more about looking feminine.”
Rasta culture in fashion has long been linked to sexism, especially in the workplace, and a 2015 study from the University of California at Berkeley found that about three-quarters of all male students who graduated from a top-tier college in the past decade said that they would not consider an Rastafari-inspired job if it were offered.
“It’s a way for men to make money,” Biehl says.
It is no surprise that women’s rights activists are increasingly speaking out about their own experiences with sexism in the fashion industry.
“I think the rasta movement has been a catalyst for a lot more conversations about how sexism works in our culture, particularly when it comes to fashion,” says Bieles.
“You have these companies, like D&Gs, that are starting to take responsibility for what they are doing, and there’s a lot that’s being done to address the issue.”
Rastas and other gender-based groups, like people of color, are also beginning to push back against these issues.
While the number of rastafarian-inspired brands has remained relatively steady over the past few years, there have also been significant gains in women’s participation in the industry.
In 2014, the National Organization for Women (NOW) issued a report that highlighted the challenges women face when working in the clothing industry.
Women account for just 7 percent of all rastavas working in retail and fast food chains.
Additionally, the number one reason women are leaving the industry is due to “systemic and structural barriers,” according to NOW.
Women of color have historically had to work longer hours and less hours to make ends meet, often at a time when the economic situation of their communities is worsening.
Biels says that there is a lack of resources and support for those of color in the Rasta community, and that is a cause for concern.
“There is a lot out there for the rashers that are coming out of the closet and wanting to be who they are,” she says.
“[The movement] is not going to be the same as it was before.
It’s just going to take more time to change things and get to the point where we can really see the change in society.”
While it’s difficult to quantify the number and severity of the problems women face within the industry, there are clear signs of progress.
For example, the 2017 U.S. Women’s Basketball Association season featured some of the most exciting female athletes in the country, including players from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Australia.
Rasta fashion has also helped fuel a positive climate for the LGBT community, as it has also been embraced by a number of prominent brands.
For Biel, Rasta’s influence in fashion is not limited to its clothing.
“As long as there are women that wear rasta clothes, they’re going to see more rasta content,” she notes.
“That’s the beauty of it.”
Rachael Bieler is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
Follow her on Twitter @Rachael