Dec 15, 2022 - Economy & Business

Pachuco hat and cholo styles go viral and build businesses

Gilbert Marquez Jr.,  founder and hatter of Pachuco Supply Company, works on making a hat in his Los Angeles shop.

Gilbert Marquez Jr., founder and hatter of Pachuco Supply Company, works on making a hat in his Los Angeles shop. Photo: Courtesy of Pachuco Supply Co.

"Charlie Brown" shirts, baggy khakis, clown-print tees, and pachuco fedoras are finding new audiences thanks to Latino-owned businesses promoting urban fashion on social media.

Why it matters: The unique style of cholos, lowriders, and pachucos that was once dismissed as the working-class clothing of poor Mexican Americans is evolving into a worldwide phenomenon.

Details: Videos of Latinos and Latinas showing off Mexican American fashions have proliferated on Instagram and TikTok in recent years.

Background: Pachucos is the name given to Mexican Americans who wore zoot suits baggy dress pants and long-tailed coatsduring the 1940s while facing violence in Los Angeles and San Antonio.

  • The lowrider style with muscle shirts and short-brimmed fedoras came out of the Chicano Movement of the 1970s, and cholo style came from the 1980s and 1990s amid poverty and police violence.
  • Cholos are members of a Chicano and Latino subculture associated with a style set of dress sometimes linked to gangs but also skating or surfer subcultures.

Between the lines: For years, police and politicians associated the styles with crime instead of recognizing it as a form of cultural expression, Alexandro Jose Gradilla, a Chicana and Chicano Studies professor at California State University, Fullerton, tells Axios.

  • "The La Virgen de Guadalupe shirts, the Chola hoop earrings ... this is style. This is us. And it's not criminal and we have a right to wear it all with pride."
  • Gradilla said Chicanos from Gen X (born between 1969 and 1984) are driving the style renaissance because they have more disposable income and aren't afraid of being judged by their clothing.

What they're saying: "We know that having a beautifully tailored suit requires a lot of energy and pride. And not only pride in the way you look, but pride in who you are and where you come from," Gilbert Marquez Jr., founder and hatter of Pachuco Supply Company, told Axios.

  • Marquez, whose family is from Jalisco and Sonora, Mexico, started the company after developing a love for the vintage Pachuco style through his father.
  • Marquez, his wife and his cousin make custom hats through online consultations with his staff and with cholo art and images from the Chicano Movement.
  • "For me, it was a form of resistance through fashion and style," he said.
A light brown pachuco hat with La Sad Girl clown eyes sits on a table.
A light brown pachuco hat with La Sad Girl clown eyes. Photo: Courtesy of Pachuco Supply Co.

Yes, but: Unlike the clothing of its era, the vintage refreshes aren't cheap.

  • A "Charlie Brown" shirt, once a few bucks at a dollar store, can cost $65 and up at some stores.
  • A custom-made pachuco hat can run $550 or higher.

But, but, but: The quality from the Latino-owned businesses is much higher now, Gilbert Marquez Jr., founder and hatter of Pachuco Supply Company, tells Axios.

  • Customers can still get less expensive clothing at small shops or swap meets.

One fun fact: The companies are selling clothing to customers outside the U.S., including people in Eastern Europe and Asia.

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