How @Sirsargent’s tweet demanding a Yeehaw appreciation story made me write about the renaissance of the trend.
In light of black history month I think it is important to highlight the growing and thriving “black yeehaw agenda” that black twitter has been spreading on social media.
Since the several attemps dispelling the African American west identity in film, art and TV. The presence of the black cowboy and cowgirl dress, became a prominent trend in R&B and Hip-hop culture in the early 2000’s. The pioneer of the agenda has to be Mary J Blige, no questions. Bri Malandro will tell you. Mary, Nelly and Destiny’s Child just to name a few are examples that stunted these groundbreaking looks. This style was unique, it was also a significant look for artists of Texan origins, who would go back to their roots in their art.
But firstly a brief history of the black cowboys. The old west was entirely different to the way it has continously been portrayed. The cowboy lifestyle (cattle farming etc) in Texas became a success late into the 1800’s when cattle grazed through the state, which had been cattle country since it was colonized by Spain in the 1500s.
White Americans sought out cheap land to live on for financial reasons. It’s important to know that the Mexican government did not agree with slavery, despite this they moved in and brought slaves, established cotton farms and cattle ranches. Later on in 1861 when the Civil War began, Texans joined to support the confederacy (7 slave-holding states, that relied upon the labour of African American’s that held their economy), against the North who proclaimed support for the constitution.
“When Texan ranchers fought in the war, they depended on their slaves to maintain their land and cattle herds. In doing so the slaves developed the skills of cattle tending that would render them invaluable to the Texas cattle industry in the post-war era”. In 1863 when Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation half way through the war, ranchers were left withouht free-workers, this among other issues, (like the lack of effective containment and few cowhands) forced them to hire now free African American paid cowhands.
The black cowboys in the American west accounted for 25% of workers in the ranch cattle industry between the 1860 and 1880’s. It’s estimated there were 6000 to 9000 workers. Former slave children headed west at the end of the civil war in search of jobs for means of survival, most which had skills in cattle handling. It is also a fact that the word ‘cowboy’ was a derogatory term to describe black cowhands.
Aside from actual cattle handling, black men also participated in Rodeo. Rodeo has remained a sport dominated by white-men. Unlike the laws that finally dismantled the segregation laws. Discrimination still existed amongst many places including Rodeo clubs. Black horse riders were denied access despite being skilled in horseback riding and excelling. The mentality of working and training twice as hard, to join a club and get the same opportunities aswhite folk was implemented here, just like it is and has been everywhere else. The Black cowboy hertiage was deeply rooted in solidarity and was very patriotic.
…. Essentially it is a myth that the word cowboy equates with whiteness. Black cowboys was always a thing.
As of lately on Twitter, celebrity stans have been calling celebs dressed in cowboy style the “Yeehaw agenda/ movement”.
There has been a rebirth of this trend. I would like to highlight the presence of the black cowboy/cowgirl look in key celebrity fashion moments. Also how it’s resurfacing and still becoming an unexpected trend in styling, editorial shoots — including Pyer Moss, Ciara for King Kong magazine. The likes of Kelela, Solange and Travis Scott have been seen sporting and pushing the agenda.
Someone tweeted that they wanted a piece on that particular topic — and I’ve been seeing it resurface a lot, I thought it would be interesting to follow.
What I should probably ask is what does it mean to be country?
As a fellow British bred, my perception of Country culture in America was always associated with Brokeback Mountain, horses and Taylor swift before she went pop… but over the years I discovered being country is also Beyoncé, before the Rodeo and Chi Chi Kat DeVayne from season 8 of RuPaul’s drag race.
If I’m honest I began saving posts on Instagram when Raven and Yaris Sanchez posed in these cowboys hats, (potentially to make money off of Fashion Nova) and instantly thought to myself this is my NYE mood. I slowly began to notice a trend in magazines and advertising campaigns that the agenda was really pushing and I, just like the other stans thought “we move”.
Solange ignited the agenda with her subtle hints of cowgirl style in her magazine issues throught 2017 and 2018 and Mardi Gras costume made by her and her son Jules.
Ciara Autumn/ Winter King Kong issue 6, of western theme levelled up her media presence since her beef with Future and comeback to music.
Pyer Moss even cast’s the Cowgirls of colour and the Compton cowboys for his collection 1 ad campaign late 2018.
“A lot of our culture has been swept under the rug… we’re excited about changing culture and changing the world.”
Last but not least Telfar’s black cowboys takeover at New York Fashion week the top of this year. The activist designer Telfar Clemens’ ‘collaborative power to create something that transcends fashion in medium and message to become its own kind of performance art”. He presented a runway rodeo, where the models of all colours would trust and fall into a human runway and be carried.
“The clothes had their own higher production value, too: corduroy suits with the cool, detachable sleeves that have become a Telfar brand signature; high-waisted trousers with a distinct slouch; T-shirts and knits with shredded fringe hems; flared denim worn with unisex-y crop tops, and thermals and hoodies emblazoned with “Country” and “Telfar.””.
I just want to conclude with — I am here to spread the agenda, and future styling that dabbles into the Yeehaw culture. i.e. Blueface and Cardi B in the Thotiana Remix Video, I am here for it.