Native American Inspired Clothing in Pop Music

Native American culture can be found in not only sports team logos, but on stage with popstars and as popular clothing trends. In the past couple of years Native American inspired clothing and accessories have become a popular trend.


In 2004 OutKast preformed their song “Hey Ya” for the grams sporting green Indian inspired outfits with a glowing green tee-pee in the background. The song starts out with an introduction spoken by Jack Black then traditional Native American music. Then the dancers come out and the song “Hey Ya” begins to play, which is doesn’t seem to have to do with Native American music at all.

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Though it is a fun and lively performance, do Native Americans find this offensive? Its great to be inspired by a culture with such a rich history and background, but it’s a little off putting to see a native American war bonnet being worn by a DJ with glowing turntables and surrounded by dancing girls. The War Bonnet has become a common indicator of Native American culture; they come in many shapes and sizes depending on who was wearing them and where they were from. The one thing that is important to say about these headdresses is that the people who wore them earned the right to wear them. Accomplished warriors and chiefs wore beautifully decorated war bonnets, like this trailer war bonnet:

Not to make assumptions about the cultural background of the group OutKast’s DJ but I highly doubt he and singer performer Ke$ha are Native American Chiefs, warriors or traditional Native American Dancers. Especially since war bonnets were not usually worn by women. Here she is recently singing her hit song “Blah Blah Blah” with another popular group 3OH!3 wearing a war bonnet.

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The song, her clothing, the other performers and set had nothing to do with native American culture; originally when she entered the stage she wasn’t even wearing it, yet by the end of the performance she had it on.


This is a huge trend, in fashion as well as in popular music. So what do Native American people think? Do they find this trend to be promoting their culture and spreading their traditions? Or do they find this to be offensive and rude? Well there are tons of online blog responses to this popular trend, but none of them are in favor of it. The blog Native Appropriations quotes popular native American Blogger Lisa Charleyboy in response to this issue saying

“The significance of the war bonnet in traditional Native cultures is huge. It is used in ceremonies, and it is only worn by those who are awarded them after many years of effort, and usually only be men. No artist would dare don a kippah or a turban so the same respect should be given to Native peoples and their traditional, ceremonial wear.”


Being inspired by different cultures is fine. Just before one starts to put on a piece of clothing from a different culture it would be nice if people did some sort of research on the actual culture. Native American Headbands that have no religious or cultural significance, there are infinite bead patterns that one can use to decorate them as well. Such as this adorable beaded head wrap from

Cultural appreciation is great, and it can be done without offending people.


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2 Responses to “Native American Inspired Clothing in Pop Music”

  1. Lauren Accardi says :

    To answer the question in your blog Native American Inspired Clothing in Pop Music, do Native Americans find the OutKast performance of “Hey Ya” offensive and I would answer yes. After the grammy awards, Indians found this performance to be racist. Elk was the chair of the Native American Culture Center in San Francisco and he was among of the 26.3 million viewers of the performance. The OutKast performance “Hey Ya” really surprised him. The whole performance was offensive starting with the announcement of Jack Black when he says ” the natives were getting restless.” Jack Black said this as a Native American chant played and a tee pee that was lighted. The clothing of the fringed skirts, bare midriff tops, feathered headbands and face paint was all showing a form of racism which caused this performance to offend a lot of Native Americans.

    Native Americans do not see this “Hey Ya” performance as a great show, they see it as they are getting joked on or mocked by their culture. Sheena Roetman a blogger from said she gets annoyed when she sees a lot of people walking around with feathers in their hair. Adrienne Keene from the blog Native Appropriations also agrees with Sheena Roetman about how the feathers that everyone is putting in their hair for a fashion trend is offensive. Keene also found the OutKast 2004 grammy awards performance “Hey Ya” offensive as well as the performance of Ke$ha’s on American Idol singing “Blah” “Blah” “Blah.” They both found the costumes disturbing. Keene also brought up Tim McGraw’s single entitled “Indian Outlaw” in 1994. These bloggers said that the Disney princesses were over emphasized on the feminity. Such as Pocahontas, Jasmine, Tiana, and Mulan and the clothing they wore. Indian mascots for school as well as football teams are also found to be offensive to the Native Americans. For example the Washington redskins, mascot is an Indian.

    The CBS news website says that OutKast apologized for the performance ” Hey Ya” at the grammy awards. The performance was not sexually offensive, but it was racially offensive to Native Americans. The performance looked to be mocking the Native Americans clothing. According to the, the Native American Cultural Center of San Francisco, California called for a boycott if the network for airing the “Hey Ya” performance. The performance undermine the entrainment industry’s dedication to diversity as well as the use of racial stereotypes in a hurtful way.

    In my opinion I agree that these performances can be hurtful to the Native Americans because they see it different from others. Native Americans find offense these performances because they feel like they are being made fun of and they do not appreciate it.×471.jpg (feathers in the hair)

  2. Russell Hill says :

    This is a very interesting post to read. I always enjoy reading about Native American culture and listening to that style of music because it is a culture that most people are not very familiar with. I would agree that being inspired by a culture in your fashion or music is fine as long as you are able to do so by honoring the culture and not offending the people of the culture. I found the Ke$ha performance to be more offending to the Native American community because she looked to be wearing an authentic looking headdress and her music had absolutely NOTHING to do with Native American music or culture. I cannot imagine what a real Native American chief would think after seeing a girl dressed like a prostitute parade around on stage in a war bonnet that is reserved for true warriors and chiefs. The Outkast performance began with real Native American music as an intro in a way that I thought seemed to be honoring the beautiful style of that music. I am sure that a real Native American chief would not necessarily enjoy seeing the headdress on the DJ either, but the overall theme just did not seem as pointless as the Ke$ha performance.

    Here is a short, but good article on this topic. It has another example of a Ke$ha performance where she wears feathers and war paint style patterns on her body.

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