EDITOR'S LETTER: WELCOME TO THE WILD WILD WEST
(Not to speak too soon, but) 2019 has been the year of Yeehaw. Western wear emerged as one of the top Resort 2020 trends. MadeMe's collaboration with Converse starring Paloma Elsesser channeled an updated rodeo energy. Late last year, Pyer Moss tapped Compton Cowboys and rodeo team Cowgirls of Color to model for his Spring 2019 campaign as a celebration of the tradition of black cowboys dating back to the 19th century. Solange paid tribute to the black cowboys she used to see growing up in Almeda, Texas, in the visuals for When I Get Home. Lil Nas X broke the Billboard Hot 100 record with his how-down, low-down country-trap crossover “Old Town Road” and its plethora of remixes. Megan Thee Stallion, Patron saint of the "Hot Girl Summer" and Cardi B have brought the yeehaw both on stage and in music videos. And Kacey Musgraves transcended the country airwaves sweeping the Grammys and capturing the hearts of gays everywhere.
In lexicon of American mythos, few archetypes seem more capital-A "American" than that of the cowboy. It has remained a touchstone of Western masculinity since the late 19th century - rugged, solemn, callused, wounded, often a (white) man and his steed on the fringes of a lawless land. The idea of the cowboy was made mythic beyond the traditional role of cattle handler and rancher to become heroes, villains, loyalists, and outlaws alike, almost always associated with or in proximity to violence, racism, and misogyny within the Western film canon. Figures like John Wayne, Randolph Scott, and Clint Eastwood to the Marlboro man popularized the idea of the rugged Lothario while Katy Jurado, Katherine Ross, and Claudia Cardinale crafted America's answer to the femme fatale normalizing it on a global scale. Stetson caps, leather chaps, weathered denim, boots and the latest country track became tickets to ideas of that rough, wild, and rural universe.
The trend for all things yeehaw has a reach far and wide, with a spectrum of sincerity. In the year of Notes on Camp, the burgeoning of cowboy imagery in meme culture, stan communities, and social media is matter of factually tongue-in-cheek. Fashion and music’s black "yeehaw agenda", on the other hand, make subversive political points about the historical erasure of people of color from cowboy and western mythologies. “Growing up here in Texas, in Almeda, you’re just going to see black cowboys on the street,” said Solange in Q&A for Houstonia. “I don’t know John Wayne. I don’t know his story. I really don’t. We’ve had to rewrite what black history means for us since the beginning of time… It’s not just an aesthetic, this is something that we actually live.” Let's be honest, the yeehaw movement would not be where it is today without the long standing participation of Black folks, which as pointed out in a March PAPER piece, "at its core has also always been rooted in class struggle." NYLON's Social Director Annalise Domenighini then elaborates on the aspects of the yeehaw revival and appropriation, "I think this will definitely spur a lot of conversations about appropriating poor culture as an idealized, romanticized way of living... It's always been this push-and-pull... Definitely, the upper classes will always pick parts of culture they also push down classwise."
So why have all of these cultural lanes intersected on this now? As Selim Bulut suggests in Dazed, "On paper, a revival of these tropes could be interpreted as a reactionary drift – a desire to escape the present moment, to return to a grit and authenticity that’s been perceived as ‘lost’, to embrace America’s most enduring archetype of white, male authority." Think about it - the current U.S. administration holds the ideals of the Reagan-esque, "rugged, conservative, white man" to the highest pedestal, a male stereotype from when America was "great". As we dive society and everyday life dive deeper into a more high-tech, urban based existence, people urn to high-tail it to a simplistic, rural country living. Yet, maybe it's the antithesis.
Maybe the recent obsession with yeehaw culture is an act of rebellion, an embrace of the fringe-y outlaw energy as a "fuck you" to the very racist, misogynistic construct of being a cowboy to begin with? The vast majority of participants in the year of Yeehaw most likely have never worked a farm, ranched cattle, or been a Future Farmer of America (FFA). Perhaps some were or have and didn't fit or honestly never saw themselves as being able to exist within that narrative. The embrace of yeehaw by the communities so often marginalized from it is a reclamation of power, a flipping of the script, taking the regressive energy vibrating around us all and using it to shatter subcultural norms. Cowboys, Cowgirls, Cowthey/thems (Trademark pending thanks to our Creative Director, Maya) everywhere are harnessing the Wild Western spirit of independence, defiance, and unapologetic toughness that for many is often denied, and putting the yee with that haw.
All the love,
Editor in Chief
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