The latest TikTok fashion trend is the mob wife aesthetic, which features big furs, maximalist fashion, and extravagant hair, nails, and makeup. However, some Italian women have called it cultural appropriation and a cheap way to capitalize off of the actual or fictional mob wives.
Black women and other women of color have pointed out the irony of Italian women speaking out about cultural appropriation, given their history of using other cultures as trends. So, is the mob wife aesthetic cultural appropriation? Let’s explore.
Italian women are calling the mob wife aesthetic cultural appropriation.
When the mob wife aesthetic first spawned on TikTok, trendy content creators deemed the trend the antithesis of the “clean girl aesthetic,” including women wearing their hair in a sleek bun and minimal makeup. According to TikTok creator @mallugrifter, the 25th anniversary of HBO’s mob classic, The Sopranos, also spawned the trend.
No matter how the mob wife aesthetic began, those who grew up with mob wives wanted it to end yesterday. Since the trend’s popularity has grown, Italian women state on their TikTok platforms that “our culture is not a costume.”
Many women claim white women who don’t identify as Italian are culturally appropriating Italians and the mob culture. They say that others who engage in cultural appropriation, defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture,” are attempting to profit off something they know nothing about.
In January 2024, a TikTok user named Anonymously Ally (@anonymousally198) said the mob wife's life is nothing to glamorize. In her 2:31 video, Ally gave examples of what actual mob wives go through, including keeping safe in the bedroom at their husband’s request and getting handwritten letters from a partner in prison.
“It’s not a clothing look,” Ally said in her video.
Ang Ela, who goes by @longislandlibra on TikTok, also believes the mob wife aesthetic is insulting to Italian culture. Ang slammed those who decided to jump on the trend without presumably knowing its roots. She claimed the ones most excited to share the trend don’t know the basics of the culture, such as who the late Big Ang from Mob Wives was or other Italian staples.
“Who do you pray to when you lose something?” Ang asks in her video. “Are you above a drunk cigarette? Or even a sober one? Have you seen Bronx Tale, Goodfellas, Moonstruck, My Cousin Vinny? Godfather?”
Black, Latina, and other women of color are calling out white women’s perceived hypocritical behavior.
Amid Italian women’s disgust for the mob wife aesthetic’s popularity, Black, Latina, and other WOC content creators have entered the chat.
While many Black TikTokers opted to stay out of the mob wife cultural appropriation claims, many feel the statements by creators like Ally and Ang are hypocritical.
As TikTok user Zoe (@zoemontgo) put it in her January 2024 post, white women of all cultural backgrounds have condoned Black cultural appropriation and seemingly didn’t see a problem with it until it affected them.
“It’s crazy how they’re deeming the mob wife aesthetic cultural appropriation, but when Black women are like, ‘hey, maybe stop wearing box braids and darkening your skin and paying for your lips,’ it’s a problem,” Zoe mentioned. “And suddenly nobody understands what we’re trying to say.”
Another content creator, Blanca Perdomo (@blanca_perdomo), who is Latina, slammed the “irony” of Italian women calling the mob wife aesthetic cultural appropriation. Blanca noted how other trends pulled from Latinx culture, including the clean girl and spa water trends, without white women blinking an eye.
“We said our culture is not a costume [and] Y'all didn't listen,” Blanca said. “Y’all didn't care.”
Some users have also argued that, regarding cultural appropriation, Italian women have no dog in the fight. In another TikTok, a user with the name @standingwithpalestine suggested that much of the mob wife aesthetic is heavily inspired by Black and Latina culture.
“The funniest part about it to me is that the ‘mob wife aesthetic’ is a fusion of Black and Hispanic styles,” the creator said. “So, they have no leg to stand on.”
While the debate about whether the mob wife aesthetic is cultural appropriation could likely go on forever, all cultures need to have the same uproar when the other’s looks become a costume. Hopefully, now that this has happened to women by others in their race, they will feel more compelled to stand with WOC who have the same complaints.