Trends on Trial: Cowboys and Indians — Southwestern Chic

just in time for the South By Southwest Music Festival, colleen and molly hurford take us down the long, dusty trail of southwestern fashion and how hipsters have adopted the style usually associated with ornery hombres …

Weetzie was wearing her feathered headdress and her moccasins and a pink fringed minidress.

“Thanks. I made it,” she said, snapping her strawberry bubblegum. “I’m into Indians,” she said. “They were here first, and we treated them like shit.”
— Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat

One of our favorite style icons of all time has never graced the big screen, or served as a muse for any designer. Rather, we’ve been in love with Weetzie, of Weetzie Bat, a young adult novel written in the 1990s by Francesca Lia Block, since we first knew what personal style was. Any outfit that she’s described as wearing is certainly chic to us, so it was an easy choice to embrace this latest trend. With SXSW coming up, we figured it made perfect sense to discuss a trend that’s been coming in and out of style for, well, centuries now: Native-American and Southwestern chic.

To give hipsters credit where credit is due, they were the ones to start the Native-American and Southwestern trends. But what once was found only within hipster paradises like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y., is now taking major runways by storm. Ralph Lauren’s collection featured tan and cream chiffon with beading and embroidery, layered with heavy suede and fringe, and for this style, fringe is still king. But it’s not your standard 1980s denim jacket with fringe — though, those can be worn ironically as well. This is more “fringe couture.” Lauren stated in a feature in British Vogue: “I was inspired by the elegance of the prairie, and how a modern, stylish woman would wear it.”

Roberto Cavalli is also embracing this new trend in his spring line, which features heavy use of both python and crocodile textures, as well as fringe tassels and intricate beading. To further that Southwestern feel, many pieces like the Navajo pants are made to lace up from top to bottom in what appears to be tan suede.

Since designers seem to be playing a grownup and sophisticated game of cowboys and Indians, the Just Cavalli collection also features cowboy hats in leather and delicate dresses under heavy suede coats.

Maybe it’s the rebellious nature of the hipster to automatically reject the runway’s version of the prairie look and focus on the fringe (pardon the pun) group that was oppressed by the cowboys: the Indians. While designers embrace cowboy hats, hipsters around the world have embraced the Native-American headdress. I’m not really sure if they just put them on only to take photos of themselves or if they wear them out, but one thing is certain: They wear them. A more do-able Native-American-inspired look that hipster girls have embraced is the thin headband worn around the forehead like what we imagine a Native-American princess might have worn.

Another style brought to us by the Native Americans and rocketed to popularity by the hipsters is the moccasin. In recent years, the moccasin has become a stylish, casual shoe worn by tons of people. You see Minnetonka moccasins everywhere these days. This tribute, more suitable for daily wear, is much more popular in the mainstream than the headdress, and it’s probably best that we keep it that way.

Similarly, it isn’t very difficult to find clothes in Navajo print these days. A few months ago, we even spotted a Navajo print sweater in a Macys, so it’s easy to see that this particular style is becoming more wearable and less aggressively hipster. Even when shopping at Marshalls, we saw a cute maxi dress that was straight off the prairie.

Is it politically correct? It’s hard to say. But hasn’t fashion always been about pushing the envelope and making people really reflect? Arguably, this Native-American fashion trend may increase awareness of the discrimination and economic disparities that some Native Americans still face today.

Or maybe hipsters really just like Pocahontas: They may say they like the historical figure, but don’t be fooled, they secretly love the Disney movie.

So, how does one wear this style? We would say in moderation (Weetzie being our exception to the rule, of course). Adding a pair of moccasins and a handful of silver and turquoise jewelry to an outfit can give it a Native American/Southwestern feel without being excessive and bordering on the offensive. Stores like Forever 21 feature some Dreamcatcher-inspired jewelry that can easily add some flair without going overboard.

Or go all out, embrace the hip-ness of the trend, and throw and impromptu headdress/mustache party. Just don’t forget the PBR.

Disclaimer: Molly and Colleen fully and readily admit to being hipsters, and therefore are granted all rights and privileges associated, including the right to be pretentious about other hipsters.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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