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.
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.
Stereotypes who wear this outfit include the Magical Native American
and The Savage Indian
. Compare Culture Equals Costume
. Related to Hollywood Natives
and Tonto Talk
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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.
- In Turn A Gundam, Joseph Yaht wears a Mayincatec variant as his civilian outfit (replace "beads" with "medallions") since he's from Adeska, which is a generic Central American civilization revived in the far future.
- 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.
- 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.
- Most if not all Indian tribes in Lucky Luke follow the same pattern: ugly totem poles, loincloths, adjective-animal names, teepees and raindancing shamans. Of course, it was never meant to be taken seriously. Though there is the occasional subversion, like when a traveller tries to pull off the "shiny glass beads for trade" trick, the chieftain merely says "the paleface is thinking of the wrong continent".
- The ratskins of The Redeemer are 40K Native Americans wearing the skins of giant rats.
- Averted In the Emergency! fic "Eye of the Beholder" and others in the series. Chet Kelly makes a crack about John Gage's fiance not wearing buckskins when John shows the guys her picture, and John replies that he and she have them but they're only for special occasions. John does wear his for his naming ceremony in the previous fic, "Return", but is rather embarrassed with how he looks, especially when Roy takes a picture. They also show up during the native wedding ceremony in "Christmas in Lame Deer",
- Return Of The Primarchs has the Eleventh Legion and their Primarch be based generally on Native American theming, with their Primarch being an expy of Chief Thunder.
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.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- Averted in Emergency!. Gage wears his uniform or civilian clothes and that's it.
- 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.
- Averted by India Sioux, who has been seen in CMLL and Toryumon Mexico. She wears leather, tights and has fairly short non braided hair. Played straighter by the Apaches, seen around the same areas and AAA, who wear feathers.
- Alere Little Feather will be quick to tell you though, that the Amerindians on her reservation are feather wearing tribes, so its not even The Gimmick for her.
- Puerto Rican wrestler La Amazona is partial to head bands and feathers, which seem to be in Taíno style.
- Pick a Shadowrun depiction of a street shaman. Odds are very good they'll be dressed in this way. This tends to get lampshaded a lot In-Universe as well, with some Shadowrunners blaming the media for perpetrating the stereotype that street shamans are all Magical Native Americans and have to dress accordingly.
- Assassins 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".
- 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.
- Wild ARMs
- An odd variation is that
Native Filgaians Baskars in (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.
- 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 initial appearance was rather plain with just a mohawk and plain pants, but his 2013 redesign did him far more justice without being as hilariously offensive.
- 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.
- 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.
- Averted in other Native cultures. Ever since the days of George Washington, there have been various Native Americans that adopted European dress, hairstyles, and customs either by choice or by force. See the Five Civilized Tribes for the former and Native American boarding schools for the latter.
- 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.
- 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.