Thursday, May 20, 2010

Culture Class. Day 1.

When I was about 8 years old, I took a trip with my sister and her friends down to our local mall. In order to get me to keep quiet, they all decided it would be best if I were given some sort of sweet treat. cream it was.

I remember standing in line, anticipating all the chocolaty goodness, when from the corner of my eye, I was suddenly distracted by a young woman, clad in flannel.

Her eyebrows were painted on high, her lips outlined by a deep burgundy and her hair as straight as a stick, with the exception of her bangs, which resembled a sort of tidal wave.

She was wearing high waisted cargo pants, a wife beater that bared her rib cage, a gray and black flannel button up, and a clean pair of black Chucks.

That means Converse in LAish.

At first, I was confused. I didn’t know whether to be scared, happy or shocked, but I definitely was curious.

I remember thinking; “this girl is the real punk rock”.

She was in your face, fierce, a risk taker.

Even though I could care less about fashion at that age, I was completely intrigued by her individuality and fearlessness.

I kept staring. My eyes would not leave this girl.

And as she walked by, she looked me right back in the eyes, grinned and gave me a wink.

I was sold.

Their are many words that describe this type of sub-culture in LA, but my favorite of the bunch, would have to be; Chola.

Have you heard of it?

If you’re from SoCal, I’m sure you have.

If you’re confused, it’s all right, that’s what I’m here for.

In the words of Maria Von Trapp; “lets start at the very beginning…”

The cholo/chola culture would have never existed if it weren’t for the Pachuco style of the 1930’s and 40’s.

Started by Black and Pilipino Americans but popularized by Mexican Americans, Pachuco style can be summed up as a more extreme version of the popular clothing style at the time.

The pants were extra long, the jackets were extra big, embracing the idea that “the more fabric, the more money”.

The casualization of the Pachuco uniform came from the massive influence of gang life on the streets of LA in the 1970’s.

Substituting long suits and ties with cargo pants and flannel, cholo style was born.

Now, as interesting as the Cholo fashion is, I’m going to be completely prejudice and say; Chola fashion is that much better!

Though the style has, of course, adapted to the times. I would have to say my favorite era would be the late 80’s early 90’s.

When the makeup was as extreme as ever; eyeliner, powder, lip liner, lipstick, mascara, every bit of face covered to the T.

But, the clothes were instead not as feminine. These chola’s chose to wear looser fitting clothes, like that of their male counterparts.

It was a statement. A reflection of the lives these women were leading.

The balancing act between feminine expectations and the expectations of harsh street life.

Embezzled in blacks and grays, shining with golden bracelets and hoop earrings, surrounded by old school low riders, Chola style is one of the staple subcultures in Los Angeles.

This fashion style has been borrowed by pretty much anyone growing up in SoCal. The most famous person to have done so is, Gwen Stefani. She’s been sporting Chola inspired outfits since the early 90’s and even dedicated her video “Luxurious” to her love for all things Chola.

She even described her clothing line L.A.M.B as; "a little Sound Of Music, some Orange County chola girl, some Rasta, and a bit of The Great Gastby.”

It also looks like John Galliano must have paid attention to everything but the hipsters when he took a walk down Silverlake blvd., for his fashion show in 2002.

The main thing I’ve always found fascinating about this sub-culture, is the “in your face” mentality. Everything is so over the top.

From the makeup, to the clothes, it’s the actual embodiment of fashion risk taking.

Plus, there’s a real history behind all of it, a real culture that influences everyone around it, no matter what ethnicity.

I approach this style as a style. Nothing more.

I do not support any sort of violence, ignorance, bigotry or gang life that, at times, can be associated with this style.

In my eyes, it is just fabric. A form of self expression, art, and all out Aqua Net fierceness.

Once again finding inspiration on the streets, within subcultures, within the wallpaper.

*Zoot suiters dancing via
*Still from the film "Mi Vida Loca" by Allison Anders
*Chola from the 70's via FriendlyMonsters blog
*Old school Chola Sticker via Text-Mex GalleryBlog
*Photo of Chola's in East LA at the Getty Museum
*Gwen Stefani and lamb collection via
*John Galliano 2002 collection via
*John Galliano 2002 collection via
*Chola Couture via


  1. I truly believe that most famous designers hang out in the sub cultural to pick up ideas and inspirations. Where else would they get their ideas these days? Corp. America. I don't think so!

  2. they must be the ones who own all the cameras on street corners. Not the government. They have us fooled!

  3. look at you with 18 followers!

  4. By far my favorite!
    Word to the wise-you can't be latina without a can of Aqua Net in you're bathroom. We all have a lil' chola in us, thats what makes us the fierce women we are!

  5. I knew you'd like this one, Chantal. Deep down in my heart, it was dedicated to you.

  6. remember when those weird bracelets were in and Mr. Labore took them away from you? Idk why but i just remembered that and you had like a million...or so i remember...

  7. Mr. Labore took all my fashion accessories.
    He not only had my asian bracelets, but remember those silver ball necklaces? Yup, he took those too.
    He's on my hit list.