Editor’s Note: This article will also be featured in Insight Magazine’s upcoming fall issue.
Finally, we are distancing ourselves further from the days of 2011 Coachella—where the 1970s Woodstock-esque style ran the show. Even though flower crowns and flowy pants will always be a staple in the world of festivals, there’s a new sheriff in town. Now, a ton of festival goers are sporting festive cowboy hats, fringed boots, assless chaps and maybe even a lasso for some extra razzle dazzle—these are all essential elements to a yee haw transformation.
The country-western style making a comeback all boils down to pop culture’s current obsession with early 2000s nostalgia. Especially in the world of music, there were a multitude of artists from a wide range of genres at the time that unapologetically paved the way for what we see now.
Mary J. Blige knew how to embody the true essence of western fashion in a way totally unique to her. Who could forget her wearing a pink leather ensemble paired with a white furry cowboy hat? This picture, now meme, single-handedly personifies how we truly feel inside whenever “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood comes on—even if we don’t particularly enjoy country music.
There are some artists that you would’ve never expected to have a yee haw phase. The entirety of Madonna’s “Music” era in 2000 was influenced by this movement as she proudly showcased her cowboy hat and denim button-up on the album’s cover. Directly matching the aesthetic, the single “Don’t Tell Me” was a mashup of electronica and country. Mariah Carey even gave this look a shot with her “Thank God I Found You (Make It Last Remix)” video—leaving the gowns and shimmer to rest.
This wouldn’t be a western fashion discussion without mentioning Destiny’s Child—arguably the yee haw dream team. Honoring her Texas roots, Beyoncé blessed us with what looks like red bandana printed jeans accessorized with a classic red cowboy hat. The group went all out with blue leather fringe outfits and silver bedazzled cowboy hats during an appearance on MTV’s “TRL”—shoutout to Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, for designing all of these looks that would end up influencing the current state of festival wear.
It wasn’t until 2018 that the “Yee Haw Agenda”—a term coined by Bri Malandro on Twitter—exploded to new heights. However, there have been a few inklings of this resurgence tracing back to 2016 with Lady Gaga’s “Joanne.” Being the visual artist she is, the stripped down twang of her voice that songs “Sinner’s Prayer” and “Million Reasons” provided had to coincide with a pink cowboy hat. Beyoncé’s performance of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks at the 2016 Country Music Association Awards also helped break the mold for pop artists to explore their cowgirl dreams.
Now, we see everything from country artist Kacey Musgraves giving off bedazzled Dolly Parton energy to Solange reclaiming the history of black cowboys in the film accompanying “When I Get Home.” While rising star Megan Thee Stallion was taking the internet by storm with the catchphrase “Hot Girl Summer,” she performed at festivals in a fashion that stayed true to her Houston upbringing. 2019’s biggest song ”Old Town Road” catapulted Lil Nas X into stardom and further hoisted this craze. Because of the song’s worldwide success, Nas X has been fully championing the cowboy movement with the spin of glam and futuristic undertones.
This trend has no plans on declining anytime soon. In addition to being a playful and persona-driven style enjoyed by all, the yee haw movement takes back the former narratives regarding the music artists are “supposed” to make and how they are “supposed” to dress.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.