The word Cholo derives from the Aztec word ‘xolotl’ meaning humanoid creature with dog features, used as a slur by the
Spanish during the 16th century to refer to individuals of mixed or pure indigenous ancestry. The word has different meanings in different places but in modern usage it is more commonly applied to the Mexican-American subculture. Despite its long history as a derogatory word, it became a symbol of pride during the 1960’s ethnic power movements in the United States.
Cholos evolved from the Pachuco subculture which was around from the 40s eventually dying down around the 60s and 70s. The new generations of Chicano (an American with Mexican descent) street crews and youths of southwestern United States began adopting the cholo culture. In the media cholos are often associated with the gang culture and although some are gangsters, being a cholo is a lifestyle choice and not does not mean they associate themselves with street criminal activities.
The cholo subculture ideology takes its bearings from a very social and family based Mexican culture. Finding themselves in impoverished and under represented circumstances the cholo subculture is a way for young hispanic youths to find a sense of belonging and diversifying themselves from the American culture. The subculture wasn’t just exclusive for men, at the beginning Cholas (female version) were the sisters or girlfriends of cholos but in recent years they sometimes form their own cliques or gangs.
The fashion style of the Cholos perhaps wasn’t as flamboyant as the Zoo Suits at the beginning but it has evolved through the years. The original cholos tended to go for a more casual look which imitating the workers of the time consisting of fanned botton shirt, white t shirt, khaki pants or baggy jeans. This later evolved and things like baseball caps and clothing from a professional sports team (Raiders in particular) came in. Other fashion or styles include:
khaki pants or shorts
knee high socks
plaid or flannel button front shirts
buzzed hair or some have the more traditional slicked back hair
hairnet or bandana
stacy adams dress shoes and “biscuits” (pointy dress shoes)
modern cholos wear converse, nike cortez, stan smith adidas
popular brands: Dickies, Ben Davis, Joker, Lowrider, Bighouse.
“Veterano” older cholos or more ones opting for a more traditional look adopt formal clothing inspired by Zoo Suits (dress shirts, suspenders, fedora hats)
Cholas fashion style is similar to their male counter parts but with a more feminine touch.Some teens will dress in this style during a passing phase in high school. Others simply grew up with the style. “More recently, chola fashion has received mainstream attention in urban and popular fashion. Singers such as Fergie and Gwen Stefani have cited the chola look as a fashion influence. Tattoo artist and glamor model Kat Von D has also mentioned that her style of make-up was influenced by the chola look.”
Dickies pants or baggy jeans
tank tops or t-shirts
halter tops or blouses
during the 80s and 90s they curled their hair and gelled it up into a “scare-do”
dark lipstick, bright eyeliner and sometimes painted eyebrows
Tattoos also became synonymous of the cholos as it was a perfect way for them to represent and make a connection from art to family, friends, memories, crime, pain, joy etc. they exhibit pride in struggles and hardships as well as ancestry and revolution. They sometimes exhibit a family crest or last name, state where they came from, the eagle from the Mexican flag or figures of sting Mexican-American figures such as Cesar Chavez to manifest activism. Religious figures and symbols such as Virgin Merry, hands in prayer position with a rosary are common representing the strong Roman Catholic influence in Mexican culture. Aztec and Mayan tattoos are another form of tattoos commonly found among cholos representative of ancestral roots.
Many cholos/as are known to drive lowriders, previously introduced by other Mexican-American subcultures. Lowriders are commonly classic cars from the 50s but cars from up to 2000 can be seen modified to become low riders. Lowrider bicycles are also anther popular method of transportation but the cholos are use a wide assortment of vehicles .
The cholos have their own music scene in genres like hip-hop/rap with their own artist. There are other influences from ranchera and mariachi bands. Originally the music cholos liked to listen to were the so called ‘Oldies’, music from the 50s and 60s. It’s not really known why cholos are into oldies except that It was most likely just do to the fact that their parents used to listen to oldies. There was even a radio station called XPRS AM that transmitted in Los Angeles which used to cater to them by playing Oldies all night. Today that radio station still exists, but only transmits in spanish.
The cholo subculture has made its way into the mainstream culture in the United States being featured through many mediums; movies, cartoons, music videos, pop culture and fashion. The cars, fashion and music have spread to places as far as Brazil, Japan and New Zealand
REFERNCES FOR IMAGES:
(Original Cholo) http://cholonation.com/user_images/
(Chola style 1 and 2) http://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/best-weekend-bets-chola-edition.htm
(Chevy Impala) http://cholonation.com/user_image_category/rides/