TikTok has been the birthplace of many trends that are practiced both on the app and in real life, but this one’s got its roots in roots rock, emo, and the American South. Get yourself a pair of jet black cowboy boots and a matching cowboy hat to go with your black jeans and band tee, and you’re on your way to being Y’allternative.

Image courtesy of lovelazarusmain on Tumbral

There’s a widespread conception that country music is a traditionally conservative space, as are many of the rural American communities the music celebrates. Conversely, the alternative scene, influenced by punk, emo and goth subcultures have been known to appeal to more left-leaning folks, as well as marginalized groups such as the 2SLGBTQIA community.

Obviously it isn’t this simple, as communities intersect. There have often been 2SLGBTQIA and marginalized voices in country music, just as there have been many cowboys in the goth scene over the years. These communities can still be alienating to each other, like star-crossed lovers. But on TikTok people are reclaiming their Southern identities, and asserting that you can, in fact, do both.

One of the earliest videos to trend with the term “Y’allternative,” was by user @camrudwaffle, who came up with the term to describe his type, saying he likes both southern women and goth women. The video was stitched by user @hillbillygothic, a goth dressed all in black, playing bluegrass banjo from the back of a pickup truck at a cabin in the middle of the woods.

Soon enough we saw lots of posts with “e-girl’ looks with heavy black eyeliner, dark lipstick, and plenty of silver chains poking out from under ten gallon hats and underscored with Josh Turner’s “Would You Go With Me,” or Miranda Lambert’s “Only Prettier.” Much of the trend has been dominated by people raised in the South, listening to country music, but who currently identify more with the alternative community but who still have an appreciation for the country lifestyle they knew, especially the music. 

Orville Peck. Image courtesy of Carlos Santalalla via i-D

Many artists who manage to blend these styles have been championed online with people making their own Y’allternative playlists featuring the music of Orville Peck, Sturgill Simpson, the Avett Brothers, and more artists who mix country music with the sounds and stylings of indie rock and alternative genres.

Y’allternative is about a meeting of cultures, and about people being comfortable to like what they like. Country music gets a bad rap in liberal spaces online, so having the space to be unembarrassed to like country is liberating, just as it is to like alternative culture in the country sphere. It’s about being true to who you are, and recognizing that music genres and aesthetics aren’t exclusive to any one particular group of people. Wear the cowboy boots with the Misfits t-shirt, do you.

Published by HOLR Magazine