Culture is a flat circle. We are reminded of this time and again as teens don jeans that look straight out of a brat pack movie while they listen to a modern-day rehash of the synths that could be straight out of New Order’s catalog.
Everything that was cool once will most likely become cool again. Except for maybe JNCO jeans. Actually, with how 2020 has gone so far, nothing is off the table.
As the 80s are introduced to the 20s, it’s not hard to trace how this circle started. Kids find their parents faded Levi’s tucked away in bins labeled “doesn’t fit anymore” and the cycle renews itself. The trends make sense because there is a clear lineage from past to present.
This can be said for most trends. Except for one that has risen into the cultural stratosphere within the last few years which left us with this burning question: why does everyone wanna be a cowgirl, baby?
Lately, musicians seem to be yearning the hardest to become best westerns. While this choice may be easy for country balladeers like Kacey Musgraves or Mason Ramsey who operate within a traditionally cowfolk-esque genre, we’ve seen the trend spread everywhere. From Mitski to Cardi B to Lil Nas X the music industry has been filled with homages to the cowpokes of our past, both visually and musically.
There’s something compelling about this movement that has been labeled the Yeehaw Agenda. But first, we have to address what in the hell the Yeehaw Agenda is? Dictionary.com defines it as, “the yeehaw agenda is a trend in the popular culture, especially in Black popular culture, featuring artists and celebrities drawing from cowboy/country culture in dress, music, or attitude.”
Black artists everywhere are reclaiming the cultural image of what a cowboy was and can be. According to the Smithsonian Mag, “nearly 1/4 of cowboys were black.” When we used to think of cowboys, the first image that probably flashed into your head was a smirking John Wayne or a stoic Clint Eastwood.
The conversation around cowboys has shifted, taking over the accompanying imagery with it. When we think of yeehaw, there are more options than the whitewashed world that we had been previously presented. Instead, we can picture Solange sporting her 10-gallon hat or Cardi B in a pair of pink chaps.
In 2020, anyone can be the cowfolk they dreamed of. Which is to say this is one of the infinite and boundless worlds out there which is waiting for us to simply imagine them into existence. It is our choice to manifest the destinies we wish for.
While we can’t say for certain how long the assless chaps and fringe-lined jackets are here to stay, we do believe that this zeitgeist bears a larger truth: when culture comes to repeat itself, it is our duty to stand that heritage on its head and question how it can serve us better as artists, as creators, and as humans. Giddy up, cowpoke. There’s a thousand sunsets waiting for you.