THERE is no such thing as cultural appropriation, despite what certain

professionally outraged people may say.

No culture “owns” a colour or a hairstyle or a fashion style. Over time, cultures of people have created, used and adopted certain looks that give them their identity, but why is it the case that if another group of people also wants to temporarily adopt that look it is invariably interpreted as somehow being disrespectful or distasteful?

Cultural appropriation is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” The objection comes from a “particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group”, according to the website EverydayFeminism.

On that website, Dr Adrienne Keene of Native Appropriations explains, “You are pretending to be a race that you are not and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so.”

The difference, apparently, is that dominant cultures adopt elements from a less powerful culture for fun and dressing up, whereas when it happens the other way round, it’s through necessity; to fit in.

There is another way of looking at it. Flattery. When a culture’s style is emulated, it may well be because that style is admired and revered, and considered to be chic or cool. As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the professionally outraged could adopt a rather different emotion and instead become professionally flattered.

It’s a far more positive way of regarding the practice than the negative vibes generating angry criticism when anyone claims to be speaking on behalf of a “cultural victim group”, of which there appears to be a proliferation.

Being a cultural victim is a deeply depressing state to be in, and turning it around so a culture is instead celebrated would generate such positive vibes. Instead of demanding an apology, a sincere thank you for appreciating a culture would heal some of those new artificially created rifts in society.

In the past year, dress and style have become a veritable minefield, particularly during the recent annual dressing-up fest of Halloween. Shops are criticised for stocking “inappropriate” costumes, parents are howled down for allowing their children to dress in them and adults are criticised for “cultural appropriation” in their choice of costume.

Student unions are banning every type of costume imaginable.

Well, in that case, they should also ban the wearing of denim jeans by everyone except white Westerners because they were first invented for Western labourers such as cowboys in the US in the mid-19th century.

Last month, fashion bible Vogue apologised for a photoshoot of Kendall Jenner with curly hair some people thought was an Afro style. People on social media claimed her hairstyle was “offensive” with one commenting: “For years, we have been penalised about our looks and especially our hair. It is a slap in the face when non-blacks try to imitate our look.” It turns out, hilariously, that the stylist was actually trying to emulate the romantic Edwardian/Gibson Girl hair.

But let’s take that objection to its logical conclusion.

If white people aren’t allowed to copy black fashions, why should black people be able to dye their hair blond/e or straighten it, whatever the reason for doing so?

Black people do not own the exclusive rights to curly hair or black hair. White people do not own the exclusive rights to blonde hair or straight hair. Nobody does.

Throughout history, people have painted colours into their faces and bodies, fashioned their hair into different styles and designed the clothes of their culture.

Their reasons have varied from beautifying to invoke fear from enemies. They have also appropriated the styles of other cultures as they wanted and when it suited them. It is not confined to dominant cultures, it has happened over and over again as cultures have evolved and mixed.

If those who objected to Gucci’s use of Sikh turbans on the catwalk because it is a religious garment worked towards eliminating hate crimes against Sikhs, and those who objected to white people wearing Native American headdresses to festivals actively helped improve the lives of marginalised and forgotten Native Americans in the US, the world could be a better and happier place.