Braids, Beads and Buckskins
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.
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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.
- Cathy Smith and Larry Belitz went all out to give Dances with Wolves as much accuracy as possible in dress and decoration, weapons, utensils, tipis and the all-important sacred paint.
- 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 films showing how Indian people dress and live today, watch Smoke Signals or anything else by Sherman Alexie. For modern Lakhota, watch Thunderheart. There is an excellent list of Native-made films here. To see traditional and modern dress, 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.
- 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.
- Not to mention the source material being written in England in 1904.
- 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.
- In the Kate Shugak novels, Kate and other Native Alaskan characters occasionally run into ignorant tourists who expect them to conform to Plains Indian stereotypes. It doesn't end well for the tourists.
Live Action TV
- In the Star Trek episode "The Paradise Syndrome" the people were supposed to be a mixture of Delaware (Lenape), 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 and several other characters are wearing headbands and belts woven of glass seed beads, which were a European trade item. (Never mind the fact that they were strung on elastic thread.)
- 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.
- The pride of the Chickasaw Ky-ote doesn't do the beads but he does wear a buckskin or something similar. His tag team partner Chickasaw reject Kunna Keyoh usually forgoes it though.
- 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.
- 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. To American Girl's credit, they actually had a Nez Perce cultural panel that they consulted while designing the line to maximize accuracy.
- Spirit from G.I. Joe. Braids, buckskin leggings and fur-topped moccasins. Bear in mind that he is supposed to be a serving member of the US military.
- 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 FilgaiansBaskars 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.
- An odd variation is that
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Averted in the Superman Theatrical Cartoons of the 1940s in "The Electric Earthquake" where the Native American villain is a well spoken Well-Intentioned Extremist Mad Scientist type who dressed in either a contemporary urban suit and tie or in laboratory gear, with only somewhat longer hair to mark his ethnic identity.
- 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. More recently he and Creator/Willie Nelson were invested with sacred buffalo robes by elders of the Lakotah, Ponca and Omaha nations. This is an extremely high honor, bestowed on them for their work in stopping the Keystone Pipeline.
- 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.
- Most pictures of Sequoyah, who invented the Tsalagi (Cherokee) writing system, show him in a turban. The wearing of turbans began when a group of Tsalagi men were presented to King George and his ministers thought their traditional attire too "severe" (incl. shaved head with scalplock). They had the men dress in some clothing left from a delegation from India. The men liked the turbans and adopted them. They are still worn for formal occasions.
- 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.