Melania Trump Responds to Criticisms of "Colonial" Hat

Melania Africa Hat - Getty - H 2018
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

"I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear," the first lady said one day after donning a controversial white pith helmet on safari in Kenya.

Melania Trump is again firing back against critics of her sartorial choices.

Speaking to press in Egypt while finishing up her solo, four-country African tour on Saturday, the first lady addressed the controversial white pith helmet she had worn while embarking on a safari in Nairobi National Park in Kenya. The hat piqued some observers, who noted that the helmet is frequently associated with European colonizers of Africa and India.

"You know what, we just completed an amazing trip. We went to Ghana, we went to Malawi, Kenya, here we are in Egypt. I want to talk about my trip and not what about what I wear," Trump told reporters. "It's very important what we do, what I'm doing with U.S. aid, and what I do with my initiatives, and I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear."

Her wish was not heeded on Saturday, when critics compared her menswear-inspired look to the outfit worn by Michael Jackson in the "Smooth Criminal" music video, the titular character in the Carmen Sandiego computer games and villains from the Indiana Jones films. 

"Okay so yesterday it was a colonial pith helmet. Today Melania Trump is modelling herself (in Egypt) as fictional Raiders of the Lost Ark character and fellow Nazi collaborator Rene Belloq We're definitely being trolled here.#FLOTUSInAfrica," one critic tweeted.

However, others noted that the menswear look was a pointed political statement in a country that has been ranked worst for women's rights out of all Arab nations. "For me this a fascinating fashion statement for a country with a very poor record on women’s rights. In the politics of fashion realm, she’s sending a message: Women are equal," CNN reporter Kate Bennett tweeted.

Just one day earlier, however, the white pith helmet attracted criticism from experts and Twitter alike, with St. Lawrence University historian and African Studies coordinator Matt Carotenuto comparing the look to "[showing] up on an Alabama cotton farm in a Confederate uniform" in an interview with CNN

Al Jazeera English journalist Hamza Mohamed, meanwhile, tweeted, "Melania Trump went on a safari in Kenya wearing a pith helmet - a symbol of European colonial rule across Africa."

It's hardly the first time the first lady's clothing choice sparked widespread debate: Perhaps most notably, a Zara jacket emblazoned with the phrase "I really don't care, do u?" enraged many when she accompanied her husband Donald Trump on a trip to visit an immigrant children's detention center in Texas in June.