A person’s fashion sense is often rooted in the desire to be part of a certain culture. Generally, we boil these cultures down into select pieces that become iconic to that class of people – black leather jackets are associated with punks, riding boots are emblematic of cowboy culture, polo shirts under wool-knit sweaters are symbols of preppiness, and so on. But what happens when we identify with multiple cultures – with clashing groups? This is an eternal struggle for Chicanos. We’re constantly in the process of hybridizing Latin ideas to fit an American context. Fashion is no different.
Latino Americans have a history of using fashion as a way of identifying with their subculture. From the militaristic wardrobes of the 60’s to the cholo style of the 80s and 90s, Chicanos have had distinct landmarks in their fashion sensibilities within each decade.
When these styles first emerged, they clashed with the cultures around them and announced the wearers heritage to those who paid witness. Now it would seem that Latin Americans are trying a lighter approach. The modern Chicano look takes American style and quietly embeds pieces rooted in Latin culture within it.
Serape was first produced by the Chichimec people in the North-Eastern region of Mexico and has evolved to become a staple of Mexican iconography. Today, modern serape fabrics feature rich colors woven into a darker base.
Casually adding a splash of serape fabric to various pieces of clothing or even using serape fabric as a shawl is a popular theme in summer fashion.
In native Mexican culture, weaving was considered a sacred gift from the gods to women. Baby girls were given weaving tools at birth and when a woman passed, they would bury her with fabrics she’d made as well as the tools she’d been given at birth.
Quechquemitl, seen above, were an indigenous garment popularized by women of high-social ranking in Mexico’s precolonial period.
Charro culture is a fascinating subset of the Mexican cowboy. After the Spanish colonization, native Mexicans were not allowed to ride horseback save for a few members of nobility. After the Mexican War of Independence, horse riding was decriminalized and began to grow in popularity. Many indigenous Mexicans became mounted mercenaries, messengers and plantation workers. These horse riders came to be known as Chinacos and later Charros and often dawned distinctive clothing and horse harnesses to display their status in the community.
Taking hints of style from Charro style and embedding them into modern suits.
Chicanos have a rich history of fashion to rely on should they want to embed pieces of their heritage into their wardrobe. For those struggling to incorporate their Mexican heritage into the way they dress, I’ve added some Latin motifs to popular trends below. Please feel free to steal these ideas or even generate your own.
La Virgin De Guadalupe is a symbol of hope and prosperity for many Hispanic Catholics
Patches on a bomber jacket which include El As De Oros from the classic Spanish version of a deck of cards, a Dia De Los Muertos style skull, Mexican rock band El Tri, a Chicano Movement flag, and an Aztec stone sculpture.
Back patches on denim jackets made up of popular icons from the Mexican version of bingo – La Loteria
These are just a few of the symbols I remember from my childhood. Playing varaja with my tios and loteria with my tias. Serape banners and Aztec portraits that clung to the walls of local taquerias. My abuela lighting candles de la Virgin Maria while we’d quietly watch novelas on Univision. These things remind me and take me back to those moments before I realized how rich a culture I was a part of. Now that I’ve grown and can appreciate it, I’m choosing to embrace these things as a part of my identity and hope that other Chicanos follow suit.
Special thanks to instagram user @Jeriardo for contributing the first and last images!