The Harder They Fall is an action-packed Western that shows the gritty side of the wild, wild west. Beyond the riveting storyline that will have you on the edge of your seat, is the fashion that authentically captured the Texan cowboy vibe.
On Tuesday, Netflix hosted an intimate discussion featuring costume designer Antoinette Messam, fashion and costume historian Shelby Christie, and designer Ouigi Theodore, that explores the fashion and history of Black cowboys. Moderated by Nikki Ogunnaike, Digital Director of Harper’s BAZAAR, we were in for insightful conversation that affirmed our deserved presence in the Western genre.
Thanks to musicians like Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion, the world has become more aware of Southern culture, specifically the Texan lifestyle. And now films like The Harder They Fall allow Black people to see themselves in a genre that has mostly been associated with Caucasian culture.
Regina King’s character Trudy Smith wore intricate, detailed pieces that I’d gladly add to today’s wardrobe. From her crisp denim jeans to her navy blue coat with the gold buttons, the women of that era had a relatable style that showed strength and confidence.
“Black families, Black women, Black children dressed as they would in the town that you will soon see – Redwood – dressed affluent. Dressed as you see Regina King’s character, and this isn’t something I made up,” Antoinette explained.
Source: Courtesy of Netflix / NetflixZazzie Beetz’ oozed an unapologetic presence in her opening scene as character Mary Fields. She wore a red corset dress, with a slight slit up the front and an elaborate top hat. Mary represented the modern-day woman of that time. Not only was she a saloon owner who made her own money, she performed as well, which was a taboo thing to do during that time. Women were banned from saloons because they were typically known as a man’s safe haven. Mary went against the grain when it came to those kind of standards, and it showed in the way she dressed.
“They really did dress like that,” Shelby Christie said. “There were Black people who were formally enslaved – they were free. This was a new frontier. This was kind of Afro-futurism to that group of people in that time.”
Antoinette has been a costume designer for years, but this was her first time working on a Country Western film. “Research was primary. That’s where I always start with research,” she said. “I discovered that jeans existed before I thought they did. As early as the early 1850’s.”
Antoinette recalled the most exciting part of her work being the research she did because it validated our presence during that time period. “It wasn’t like I was doing illustrations and replacing faces. My references had our faces. I think if anything I took away from this – it’s just knowing – Jeymes Samuel (the director) says it in every interview, we existed back then.”
If you haven’t watched The Harder They Fall, then you’re in for 2 hours and 17 minutes of great music, flawless fashion, jam-packed action, and tons of comedy. This film, although gory, helps us reclaim our space in a genre that we always belonged in.
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