In some ways, Solange’s visuals for “When I Get Home”, her new album that dropped last week, is among the most Texas imagery I’ve seen. When you’re from Texas and you move elsewhere, people have the sort of cowboy stereotypes that you’ve heard of but never quite experienced growing up in the state. Moving from Austin to New York City, I wasn’t prepared for the limited preconceptions—Austin, for example, was the only city people seemed to have any interest in; to respect even.
Image via Apple Music
And as any Texan knows, that’s far from accurate. Houston, where Solange and Beyoncé are from, is a multi-highway, multi-cultural sprawling city—one of the most diverse in the country. “I’m from Texas, it’s such a spiritual place. Any time of day you can see and experience something unique,” Solange told a crowd at Houston’s SHAPE Community Center.
And cowboys aren’t all a John Wayne caricature. Sometimes the wild west comes in forms understated and luxurious, dark and futuristic. As Hypebeast’s Emmanuel Maduakolam wrote in his story about “When I Get Home” showcasing the importance of Texas’ biggest city, “There’s something special about Houston…It’s modern but slow; instead of everyone rushing to get to their destination, they stride with southern hospitality.”
Texas, as prideful of a state as it is, doesn’t always showcase its history—if there’s anything that connects most of its cities and towns, it’s endless suburban sprawl interrupted by vast pockets of sky and scrub. That’s why any Texan watching Solange’s video, I think, intuitively understands the aesthetic of sheer cowboy boots in a parking garage, Helmut Lang with a Stetson, or a line of all-white-wearing space majorettes illuminated by Friday night lights. That cowboy influence permeates, but it can be quiet too.
Image via Getty
Someone else on that yeehaw tip is fellow Texan Kacey Musgraves, who’s becoming known for taking modern country mainstream—not in the Top 40 crossover sense, but in subtly defying people’s ideas of what western wear and country music are supposed to be. In this very American West-meets-meme exchange below, the singer welcomes a reluctant new member to the “yee yee club bitch”.
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
Now, Cardi B is wearing a pink-crown cowboy hat and singing Selena at the Houston Rodeo, and our love for cowboy maximalism is in full bloom. “They see us and wonder who we are, where we are going dressed like that, suited in glamor, armed with materialism that sparkles on its own,” Lindsey Okubo wrote in an editorial with its own sparkly cowboy hat for COOLS, “It’s Time For a Dose of Maximalism”. That sentence, I think, perfectly describes the appeal of the future cowboy for our internet age.
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Cover eight in total heaven! R&B queen Ciara, this icon needs no introduction; her elegance and talent stands the test of time. Shot by Micaiah Carter, this cover puts a holy Western spin on Ciara – think of an ominous, small chapel in the middle of desert housing a preacher like no other… @ciara Photographs @micaiahcarter Styling @shannon_sense Set Design @laurennikrooz Hair @ursulastephen Make up @yolondafrederick Manicurist @kana_nailist Studio @pier59studios #ciara #kingkongmagazine
As I once wrote in a story for i-D, “Traditional western wear and high fashion are a fitting match; both have pristine attention to detail, high-quality fabrics, expert tailoring, and a flair for glam theatrics.” It holds true. An 80-mile-per-hour drive down a Texas highway or meandering through a Houston street on a still, humid night opens up a lot of space—literally—for theatrical and decadent inventiveness.
To see a state I’m very proud of being from represented in its aesthetic fullness by Solange almost makes me emotional. As a few recent essays have beautifully explained, “When I Get Home” is also a tribute to the identity of black people and black cowboy culture in the South.
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As journalist Carla Aurelie wrote in her essay, “The Black Yeehaw Agenda Is Chic And Thriving” not only have black cowboys always been around, but the recent uptick in cowgirl style in mainstream pop culture shows that western wear is not just the realm of country music stars and ranchers. “My perception of country culture in America was always associated with Brokeback Mountain, horses and Taylor Swift before she went pop… but over the years I discovered being country is also Beyoncé, before the Rodeo and Chi Chi Kat DeVayne from season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Aurelie writes.
And whether it’s Travis Scott wearing a cowboy hat, Ciara in King Kong magazine, Kelela’s bedazzled hat, or Kacey Musgraves singing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with Paramore’s Hayley Williams, lately, the Yeehaw Agenda has been for everyone. It’s challenging the conservative country tropes and giving the Houston Rodeo some much-needed sparkly pink in the form of Cardi B’s record-breaking performance.