If you watch any classic Western, there’s one thing they tend to have in common – most (if not all) of the cowboys featured are white.
However, this isn’t historically accurate. According to the Smithsonian, one in four cowboys was black – which is startling considering how absent they are in popular culture.
William Loren Katz is a scholar of African American history and he told the Smithsonian: “Right after the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of colour who wanted to not serve as elevator operators or delivery boys or other similar occupations.”
There’s a growing group of African Americans who want to redress the oversight in pop culture, and are doing so through fashion. Here’s everything you need to know about The Yee-Haw Agenda…
According to Afropunk, the term ‘The Yee-Haw Agenda’ was coined by Dallas native Bri Malandro, who told the arts site: “For younger people who haven’t seen these pictures before, it’ll change what pops in their head when they hear Cowboy/Cowgirl.”
Malandro set up the Instagram account The Yee-Haw Agenda, and began reposting pictures of black people dressed in Western and cowboy-inspired fashion. It’s a way to highlight the contribution African American people made to Wild West trends, and of forming a community that educates and uplifts through pictures.
We’re talking anything and everything cowboy-related. The entry level is wearing a Stetson, but you can level up by wearing chaps, leather, a lot of fringing and optional cow prints.
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The Western look has even made its way into high fashion. Last year the brand Pyer Moss – the work of designer Kerby Jean-Raymond – put a spotlight on modern African American cowboys.
He told Teen Vogue: “I wanted to challenge the narrative for what’s typically [considered] ‘American’ and reverse the ratio of African American exclusion in the conversation.”
Not only did Jean-Raymond visit real-life modern cowboys and document his experiences, but also, much of his AW18 collection and advertising reflected the Western styles he explored.
As you’ll see on Instagram and via the hashtag, there are lots of old-school pictures of celebs like Mary J Blige, Beyoncé and Janet Jackson rocking the Wild West look.
This is because #TheYeehawAgenda is much more of a movement than a current trend – it’s about heritage, reclaiming the narrative, and showcasing black people throughout history rocking the style.
Whether it’s Lil Kim in 1999 or Cardi B just a few weeks ago, it’s clear this is a movement here to stay.
- Press Association