Braids, Beads and Buckskins
Allen Braford was born lightyears from the nearest reservation.
The Hollywood Dress Code
for Native Americans portrayed in the pre-modern age and, all too often, modern days. Typical traits of the uniform include:
- Long hair on both sexes, either free-flowing or in a single, thick braid.
- Feathers stuck in the hair as ornaments, or an elaborate feather headdress.
- Leather tunics or vests worn over a bare chest for men, with leather pants often lined with fringe. Women often wear a single-piece leather slip, leaving their legs bare.
- Soft leather moccasins for footwear, or simply barefoot.
- Bead jewelry on both sexes.
- Face or body paint.
While aspects of these outfits are Truth in Television
for some tribes, some of the timenote
, North America is a big place, with a great deal of variation between Native cultures. Plus these aspects are occasionally applied to Native cultures outside of the US, leading to confusion as to why indigenous people in Peru are wearing buckskin. But since most writers are mainly concerned with making money and don't want to be bothered with research, the common portrayal fails to capture this wide variety. Many tribes' traditional outfits look nothing like the stereotype.
Another form of this is when Native American tribes are shown doing things and using stuff that belongs to a myriad of different tribes - an example of this being Disney's Peter Pan
film, which juxtaposes tipis (Great Plains tribes) and totem poles (Pacific Northwest coastal tribes). In reality, this is as jarring and inaccurate to a more learned viewer as portraying Vikings with Grecian temples.
Stereotypes who wear this outfit include the Magical Native American
and The Savage Indian
. Compare Culture Equals Costume
. Related to Tonto Talk
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- An egregious example of this has the (Japanese) cast of Gigantor visit Australia, where they meet Aboriginals... who ride horses, say "How," and wear Braids, Beads and Buckskins.
- Allen Bradford from The Five Star Stories, which is strange because despite looking like a Native American, he comes from a another planet A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away....
- The Patch tribe in Shaman King. Possibly justified in that they seem to play to the trope to disguise their status as the keepers of the Great Spirit. See: the Authentic Patch Hand-Crafted [insert noun here].
- Tatanka from Eyeshield 21 sports war paint whenever he's on the field. He also wears his long hair in a braid.]]
- Senri and the rest of the Kim-un-kur of +Anima.
- Danielle Moonstar of the X-Men fits the trope well, but there's some justification. She's from the Cheyenne tribe, which actually did wear that style of clothes. Considering she grew up on a reservation, her fashion choice is not that unusual.
- Forge, also an X-Men character, is a Native American, albeit one who largely rejected his heritage and shaman training. Like Dani, he's Cheyenne. His costume still bears some Braids, Beads and Buckskins influences, including fringed boots (and sometimes a fringed vest) as well as long hair and a headband.
- Proving that X-Men writers are aware of at least two Native American tribes, there's the Apache brothers Thunderbird and Warpath. Thunderbird's costume had Braids, Beads and Buckskins influences: fringed boots and fringes at the shoulders, and a headband with a pair of feathers. Warpath's original costume was much the same, but his later costumes have discarded those elements.
- Marvel also has Jason Strongbow, a.k.a. American Eagle. Early versions show this character wearing a massive feathered headdress and a costume with a Captain America-esque red, white, and blue coloring. More recent versions have tuned this down, mostly showing him in a black leather jacket, jeans, and either a black hat or motorcycle helmet. He still has long hair, though.
- Dawnstar of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes lives in the 30th century on another planet, but wears a fringed buckskin dress and boots anyhow. Justified by her planet having been colonized by 13th Century Native Americans (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- Justified by Little Sure Shot of Sgt. Rock's Easy Company. He does have feathers on the back of his helmet, but they're commented on, unlike most examples. Sure Shot's a full-blooded Cherokee Cold Sniper who needs to be identifiable from a relative distance, hence the feathers.
- Also justified by Shaman and Yukon Jack of Marvel Comics' Alpha Flight. Shaman, Michael Twoyoungmen, is an actual First Nations shaman; it's kind of important for him to stay close to his roots. Yukon Jack is from a tribe that has had zero contact with the outside world in centuries, so it's no wonder that he still mostly just wears a loincloth.
- Totally averted in Scalped.
- Tom Fireheart, aka Puma, belongs to an unidentified and fairly nondescript tribe in New Mexico, which he serves as its were-puma warrior, hence his name. He wears his hair cropped, but is often seen wearing Native American jewelry. Other times, he dresses in suits as befits his other role as CEO of Fireheart Enterprises. Tom is morally ambiguous and swings from anti-hero to mercenary to anti-villain depending on the day of the week.
- Played straight with The Adventures Of Olivia with Penny though less emphasis is on her race as her sexual skill in bagging a blonde doctor and a Hot Witch
Film - Animated
Film - Live-Action
- In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chief Bromden had long, free-flowing hair. Fargo and Insomnia (the Hollywood remake) had respectively a mechanic and a police constable with long, braided hair.
- Lampshaded and subverted in Transamerica. Toby asks Calvin Manygoats why a Native guy wears a cowboy hat. Calvin points out that it keeps the sun out of his eyes better than a headband and two eagle feathers.
- Parodied in Cannibal! The Musical. A tribe of Native Americans is actually a group of Japanese people in disguise. When questioned about their race by dubious white travelers, the chief points out the tribe's stereotypical dress and teepees as proof of their ethnicity.
- Notably avoided in Last of the Mohicans, but played straight where appropriate. The tribes mostly wear homespun, just like the white settlers, but the warriors wear fringed leather leggings. Head-dress and facepaint are period-accurate: only the Mohawks wear mohawks, etc. Oddly, the white, adopted son Hawkeye embodies this trope completely.
- Seen in a flashback in the Twilight movie. The La Push natives wear bone jewelery and skirts while hunting in the 1930's. In the sequel, Jacob gets his long hair cropped, as he does in the book.
- Despite not being humans and living on a planet far from Earth, the Na'vi wear plenty of this sort of clothing.
- If you want to see how Lakhota people dress and live today, watch Thunderheart.
- Or go to a pow-wow. You can see the differences and similarities between different tribes. There are several documentaries about pow-wows showing everyday attire along with the regalia worn for the dances.
- Used, averted and subverted in the novels, poetry, and films of Sherman Alexie (particularly with Thomas Builds-the-Fire's eccentric outfit in Smoke Signals). The film The Business of Fancy Dancing is more realistic in its depiction of an actual reservation, though.
- Sherman Alexie is a Native American writer, poet, and comedian of Spokane/Coeur d'Alene heritage, who grew up on the Spokane Reservation. Much of his work plays with both the reality and stereotypes of Native Americans and reservation life and culture.
- "You have to look mean, like you just came back from a buffalo hunt." "But our people were fishermen!" Priceless.
- The cover of just about any Romance Novel featuring frontier-types will conveniently feature long, flowing hair with beads and fringed leather jerkins bare at the breast.
- Subverted and played straight in the Christopher Moore book Coyote Blue. The protagonist, Sam Hunter (formerly Samson-Hunts-Alone) is an extremely erudite, urbane city-dwelling Native American who had to leave the reservation after some unpleasantness involving a local BIA officer. His family is a fairly traditional Native family, who still follow the traditions of the Crow people, but have followed modern trends as well, whereas his uncle, Pokey-Medicine-Wing, is a full-blown buckskins-and-beads Medicine Man with a constant, albeit minor, grudge against the white man, a fact that he peppers his stories with. Coyote himself makes a few appearances in buckskins and beads, but for all his activity, seems to do so out of a combination of irony and the fact that he's the Trickster God and happens to enjoy looking a little off.
- Subverted in Pigs in Heaven: When a white character tells a Cherokee woman that she wears nice handmade moccasins, she replies she bought them from a hippie store in Denver, since everyone in her part of Oklahoma actually wears boots.
- The Red Skins (Native...somethings, we can go with Americans) from Peter Pan wear feathers in their hair, say "How," and well...any racist stereotype of Native Americans you can think of. In the Disney film version, they even have a song called "What makes the Red man red?" that Disney would rather not discuss.
- Somewhat justified, as Neverland is the world of imagination. The Red Indians of Peter Pan are the kind imagined by small children who like stories about Red Indians, complete with an Expy of Pocahontas called Princess Tiger Lily.
- Averted with Lampshade Hanging in The True Meaning of Smekday: When eleven-year-old Tip meets an Indian, she notes in her narration that he was dressed normally, "no buckskin or beads or anything", and then immediately apologises for having felt that it needed to be mentioned.
- Averted in Love Medicine, where the only member of the tribe that does adhere the dress code, Moses Pillager, is shunned by the rest of the tribe.
- Downplayed in The Dresden Files. Joseph Listens-To-Wind uses a fair number of Native American trappings and fetishes in working his magic, wears his hair in a braid, and will on occasion wear an embroidered buckskin shirt. However, Listens-To-Wind was his tribes' medicine man long before Europeans settled around the Great Lakes, and by the time of the novels he has adapted to "white man's ways" as well as most modern Native Americans.
- Lula in Someone Else's War, which is particularly odd because she's not Native American, but East African.
Live Action TV
- Both played straight and subverted in Wonderfalls.
- Joe Saugus from Season 3 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
- In the Star Trek episode "The Paradise Syndrome" the people were supposed to be a mixture of Delaware, Mohican and Navajo, but lived in tipis like Plains people and have almost no Navajo characteristics. Feathered cloaks are Aztec, not Native North American. Miramanee is wearing a headband woven of glass seed beads, which were a European trade item.
- Tonto in The Lone Ranger.
- Anybody Killa's image is heavily based around this.
- So is Litefoot. He is Tsalagi and very particular about his image.
- Neil Young wore buckskins, seedbead ornaments, and bone hairpipe choker necklaces while in Buffalo Springfield.
- T-ara's MV for "Yayaya" has the girls dressed in this fashion, for obvious reasons.
- In the American Girl product line, the only depiction of Native Americans is Kaya, a Nez Perce doll. Since she's set in 1764, her clothes are pretty much this trope in doll form.
- In Assassin's Creed III Connor (Ratohnhaké:ton), his village and some of the multiplayer characters embody this trope; understandable because of the time period.
- Also, all of the outfits worn by characters in the game are authentic Mohawk, as opposed to the mismatch of tribes expected from this trope, and Ubisoft worked closely with several native cultural consultants to make sure to avoid unfortunate stereotypes once they realized that they were all "esentially a bunch of middle-aged white guys".
- Turok plays this trope straight with all but the rebooted 2008 game.
- Both used and averted by the once-Vaporware game Prey. The game begins on a reservation, and Tommy's grandfather wears this; Tommy comments several times that this looks ridiculous, not to mention all of the other Native Americans in the game wear normal clothing. Tommy does have long hair, but it's not braided.
- An odd variation is that
Native Filgaians Baskars in Wild ARMs (especially the third one) is depicted this way. One of the characters in the party actually look this way, brown skin and feather on the head and all. And he's a very powerful shaman too. Not surprising, since the entire point of the game is to emulate The Wild West, guns n' horses n' all. Even if the Baskars did begin as a religious movement among the multiethnic human colonists of the planet.
- The actual native inhabitants, the Elw, are more Our Elves Are Better with a few Native American elements.
- T. Hawk, who was introduced in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. That said, other than the facepaint and feathers he's really just wearing a denim vest and jeans.
- Extended to the Tabletop Game, too; one of the sample characters (using Hawk's style) has this motif, too.
- Half-Native American and half-Chinese Michelle Chang and her adoptive daughter Julia from Tekken.
- The Scoia'tael elves of The Witcher deliberately invokes this trope with braids, beads and skin loincloths. Some also wear warpaint.
- The Tauren in World of Warcraft are thinly-disguised shamanistic Native Americans. Cairne Bloodhoof, the now-dead Tauren chieftan, had braided hair, animal-skin body armor, and even a couple of ceremonial head feathers. Almost every other Tauren in the game - players included - has at least one of those.
- He also wields a giant freaking totem pole as a weapon.
- Chief Thunder, a character out of the Killer Instinct series, had this motif. His trademark weapon was a tomahawk.
- Magical Native American Nightwolf, from the Mortal Kombat games, dresses this way.
- Cernd from Baldur's Gate wears this kind of getup, judging by his portrait. Considering he's comes from Amn (Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Spain) and is supposed to represent a druid (a Nature Hero archetype originating from Celtic mythology), it... Makes no sense whatsoever.
- When they appear in The Simpsons, Native Americans invariably have braided hair and hats.
- Except for the "Mohican" who appears in the episode The Bart of War, although, like John Redcorn below, it's implied that he this be a conscious use of this trope on his part.
"Chicks dig you when you're the last of something."
- In South Park, the Native who Cartman briefly thought was his father had braided hair and wore a leather vest over his shirt.
- John Redcorn in King of the Hill has long, flowing hair, wears a (presumably) buckskin vest, and wears several nondescript Native American accessories. Of course, he is consciously milking his heritage to get chicks.
- Apache Chief of the Super Friends goes out of his way to match all Native American stereotypes, including the way he talks.
- The Martians in Futurama are Space Jews of Native Americans and wear the stereotypical oufits.
- The Water Tribes in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Sequel Series The Legend of Korra are the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Inuits, and wear furry parkas, bone necklaces, war paint, and
ponytails Mohawks WARRIOR'S WOLF TAILS.
Sokka: Its not a pony-tail, its a warrior's wolf tail!
- Ruffled Feather (who spoke only gibberish voiced by Sandy Becker) and Running Board from Leonardo's Go Go Gophers. The last two members of the Gopher Indian tribe, they wore feathers and blankets in stereotypical fashion. So did Super Chief and Broken Feather of the Mattel-derived "educational" cartoon The Funny Company. Very educational.
- Truth in Television: Long hair is often considered masculine among Native American cultures, especially in the Southwest, where many Native men have hair that is shoulder-length or longer. However, they're still more likely to wear jeans and a t-shirt than fiction would have you believe. Long hair has great significance to both men and women in many tribes, where only captives and people in mourning cut their hair.
- Some non-Native Americans take on a Native American identity, and dress this way to convince people:
- Grey Owl, a famous Canadian nature conservationist of the 1920s and 1930s, was actually an Englishman named Archie Belaney. He moved to Canada when he was 18 to study at a university in Toronto, but soon dropped out, moved to the woods, and assumed a First Nations identity. Grey Owl once did a lecture tour of the UK dressed in traditional First Nations' garb and many Britons were not aware that their country was actually the place he was born and raised.
- Iron Eyes Cody, the star of the famous 1970s anti-littering PSA and countless movies, was actually an Italian-American named Espera de Corti.
- Neil Young dressed this way in Buffalo Springfield. Despite his physical appearance, and his music reflecting Native history and ideas, he says family research did not find Native ancestry. But he has played with a lot of Native musicians and he was adopted by the Muckleshoot tribe of Washington State.
- Ward Churchill, the former professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder who controversially called those who were killed in the September 11th attacks "Little Eichmanns," dressed this way and claimed (without any evidence to back it up) to be Native American.
- Note that he was fired from his position at the university for fabricating research about all kinds of alleged genocidal acts committed against Native Americans by the US government. (That's not to say such things never happened, only that he grossly exaggerated some of them or outright invented them.) The irony would be pretty rich if it turned out the guy claiming to be an advocate for Native Americans is really an impostor who co-opted their culture for his own gain.
- A lot of Southwestern Native Americans actually have very specific traditional dress, especially hair. Navajos wear their hair in a figure-8 bun wrapped with yarn, called a tsiyeeł (the ł is the ll from Welsh); Hopis cut their bangs (fringe) straight across and girls wore their hair up or down depending on their marital status; and Apaches, though practicing a similar religion to the Navajos, wear their hair down. Navajos also traditionally wear white puttee over the tops of their moccasins, which were always very simple and had thick, hardened leather soles. Silver and turquoise jewelry, and traditional blankets worn as cloaks, are also part of traditional dress for most Southwestern groups, since they're a sign of wealth and status.
- The other familiar image is of an Eastern warrior with roached hair ("Mohawk") or shaved head with a scalplock.
- Some actual native hair styles.
- The U.S. government historically refuses to acknowledge the Lumbee or Croatan Indians as a federally recognized tribe for a variety of reasons; some Lumbee believe it's partly because they don't have feathers and beads like stereotypical "Indians".
- Averted in the case of the real-life Pocahontas, who married a white man (not John Smith), converted to Christianity, and wore European clothing.
- At the Battle of Little Big Horn, General Custer had a group of six Native American scouts from the Crow Nation working for him. They wore US Army uniforms, but when they saw that Custer was losing the battle, they changed into Crow war clothing so that they could die as Crow warriors rather than US soldiers. Custer was angered that they were resigned to losing and relieved them of duty.
- Number 4 on Cracked's list of "The 5 Most Absurdly Offensive Theme Weddings Ever Planned" spotlights several "Native American-themed" weddings, which of course involved no actual Native Americans, just a bunch of white Australians dressed up in Braids, Beads, and Buckskins, using feathers and tipis for decorations.