Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cowboy Presidents

Presidents wearing cowboy hats. The cowboy is a classic heroic icon of American popular culture. No surprise to find the Presidents of the United States adopting this image. Of course there are many cartoon images that play into the cowboy president image and the political implications of a cowboy mentality towards official policy, but I'm focusing on the presidents who themselves used the cowboy image and what that reflects on the American culture.

The cowboy is iconic, and represents heroism, bravery, justice, strength of body and character, and a person who goes in and gets the job done. On the other hand the cowboy can also represent violence, brute force, ignorance, racism, moral ambiguity, and a my way or else attitude. So, when the leader of our country don this caricature of the cowboy persona the implications can be both dangerous and attractive.

Recently Bush has been the focus for cowboy president caricature, making him look like a dim witted Yosemite Sam looney tune type character. The most famously caricatured cowboy president of course is Ronald Reagan, because of his history as an actor playing in westerns. Reagan was also heard in speeches quoting Clint Eastwood from Dirty Harry films. Then there was Teddy Roosevelt who was like a literal cowboy, and wasn't acting. The cowboy image is mostly focused on the republican party, as shown above also are republican presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. But the democratic president can also be found to sport the icon, included above democratic presidents LBJ, Clinton, and even Obama.

Expect this trend to continue.


  1. This iconography actually has been traced back to John Wayne who had many similarities to Ronald Reagan. He was an icon for American Cinema so he represented a lot of American values in audiences.

  2. WOW! I never really made this connection- and this collection of images is really convincing. The cowboy- is quite an association. And there is a sense of hard-working, laborous work that is associate with it. The sense that upon the building of this nation hardwork and know how was needed. Maybe they try to appear as though they "know how."

  3. To add to Luz's comment of they "know how" I think the cowboy hat is also easily associated with the "heartland." It helps them relate to the hard working "Middle America" where they play football, go to church and love their country. As well as the Personification of America as hard working and tough. It is funny to see so many presidents wearing cowboy hats.