You may be noticing an uptick in cowboy hats and lassos on your Twitter timeline. Or maybe the trend hit you when Cardi B wore chaps in the video for her remix of Blueface’s “Thotiana.” Solange’s BlackPlanet takeover surely must have further convinced you that the yeehawnaissance was rising, with its herds of horses, open ranges and ten-gallon hats.
Welcome the yee yee club, bitch: what’s happening is a not just a meme, but a movement.
Naturally, the “yeehaw agenda” (as it has been referred to on Twitter) does have its roots in memes — it started on the internet, after all. There were “howdy, I’m the sheriff of...” jokes on Twitter two years ago, a deft way to deploy the then-new cowboy hat emoji. That same year, the cowboy hat became even more widespread when “what in tarnation” became a meme that found people across platforms adding cowboy hats to various photos with remixed takes outraged expression.
welcome to the yee yee club bitch https://t.co/m2DJBYUqaq
— K A C E Y M U S G R A V E S (@KaceyMusgraves) July 10, 2018
Interest in cowboy fashion and culture has been a slow burn on the web and, thanks to country’s latest crossover star, the meme-lovin’, Grammy-winnin’ Kacey Musgraves, that interest has spiked, and become campier, funnier. Musgraves has made tongue-in-cheek nods to how many non-country music fans have found her appealing, and her on-and-off-stage fashion has toyed with the classic, old-school, Dolly Parton-esque take on rodeo culture. She helped reclaim the notion that you can find your inner John Wayne without coming even close to sharing his politics, side-stepping the obvious problems with your traditional cowboy stereotype.
Though Musgraves has been a card-carrying member of the yee yee club for a long time, her success comes off several years of pop stars toying with American West and Southern aesthetics (to varying levels of success). There was Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” (and the insta-classic CMA performance with the Dixie Chicks), Lady Gaga’s Joanne and, more recently, A Star Is Born, and Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods. Tennessee native pop stars Miley Cyrus and Kesha paid tribute to their more traditional roots with their most recent full-lengths, stepping away from the pop du jour sounds they built their careers on. Some of those career moves weren’t the smartest — let’s give the pivot to folksiness a generous 50% hit rate — but it’s clear a cultural flame has been ignited.
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YEE HAW HIVE ASSEMBLE 🤠 https://t.co/8M000sXGiy
— Jasmine Sha-Ree Sanders (@JasMoneyRecords) January 15, 2019
They always say yee haw, they never ask haw yee pic.twitter.com/d7s9cuvQFo
— Mason Ramsey (@masonramsey) June 4, 2018
Of course, as quickly as the Musgraves memes and fandom spread, it left room for a new element of the movement to spread: the black yeehaw agenda. Early on in what was a fairly messy Black History Month, various users on Twitter began reclaiming the aesthetic by looking at historical legacy of black cowboys and cowgirls. According to a post from HelloGiggles, Bri Malandro takes credit for introducing the world to the term back in 2018. Antwaun Sargen (@sirsargent on Twitter) launched a viral thread about how “chic and thriving” the agenda is with a series of gorgeous photos that included random models alongside celebrities like Beyoncé, Diana Ross and Ciara in their country best.
I need a fashion piece about how the black yeehaw agenda is chic and thriving pic.twitter.com/NUy6x8yw63
— sirsargent (@Sirsargent) February 2, 2019
Inspired by Sargent’s tweets as well as Solange’s gallon hat-friendly When I Get Home rollout, more and more users began sharing their favorite yeehaw looks, whether from their public or personal archives. The photos and jokes were as much fun as they were a reclamation of that slice of history; for many, this was a tribute to the many black cowboys who get erased from typical pop culture representation of the American West and South. Writer Carla Aurelie took to Medium to blog about that history (and to also answer Sargent’s request for a piece on the black yeehaw agenda) that took a look at how 25% of workers in the ranch cattle industry during the late Nineteenth century were, in fact, black. Even the word “cowboy” itself had roots as a slur towards these black laborers.
While Solange didn’t ultimately release a country album, When I Get Home is wealthy in references to her particular yeehaw history, as she examines and celebrates Houston in the same way her sister did with “Daddy Lessons” several years ago. The same images of gallon hats, galloping horses and lassos take up plenty of screen time in the album’s accompanying film, which serves as a tour of the past, present and future of the black South.
As the black yeehaw agenda moves forward, it’s popping up in surprising ways. Cardi B took the aesthetic to heart while performing at the Houston Rodeo, where she broke Garth Brooks’ attendance record. There’s a #YeeHawChallenge rising on TikTok, where users suddenly appear in full cowboy get-up from hat to boot as the beat drops on Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” a song that’s playfully becoming a yee haw anthem and quickly becoming a streaming hit (as of writing, it’s number one on Spotify’s U.S. Viral chart). As the agenda grows stronger — and it shows no signs of slowing down — it may be time to dust of your ol’ boots and chaps and giddy on up to join this celebration. Yeehaw!