The continuing exploitation of Chicano culture part 666 or “sexy wetbacks” and selling cholo in SoHo

I probably shouldn’t write about this. Not because it’s taboo and gonna draw the ire of the new church ladies (see: SJWs), but because I probably shouldn’t waste my time, but here goes anyway. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before…

Hip New York designer “discovers” Chicano fashion, recreates it to suit their own agenda and then repackages it for the masses at ridiculous prices, citing originality and fighting the good fight. Cue the press fawning over the “innovation” and never-before-seen cultural “rawness” that has been brought to see the light of civilized day. Ka-ching. Roll credits.

Sound familiar? It should by now because it’s the M.O. of just about every other asshole out there who has jacked Chicano culture and turned into an art project for profit. The latest carpetbagger to draw the adoration of the media for reinventing the wheel is a fashion designer from New York who is repackaging cholo style as some kind of chic, high dollar, runway fashion that will sell on Fifth Avenue to people willing to shell out thousands of dollars for “innovations” on clothes normally sold down at the army surplus on the cheap, to people society normally doesn’t give a fuck about.

Yes, NYC fashion designer Willy Chavarria has struck social media gold by doing what people have been doing for decades now: taking Chicano culture, sanitizing it, polishing it and scraping off all the dirt and grime and filth, and then turning around and slapping a hefty price tag on it in order to sell it as “art” in some high-end gallery where Chicanos wouldn’t be caught dead.

As I’m sure he’s aware by now, real cholos noticed and they’re not happy, Willy.

Vice Magazine also noticed and they say that Chavarria is single-handedly “changing the style game” with his “high end” designs. Huhn. Who knew? Better not tell the local army surplus store they’ve been one-upped by New York City!? 

(get a rope)

Vice also goes on to say a lot of other interesting things. For example, that cholo subculture is “contentious.” I would ask: to whom? The mainstream? Fashion designers? Academics? SJWs? SoHo?? The article doesn’t say, of course.

Vice also claims the cholo-subculture was “birthed in East Los Angeles.” Again, we have this nod to East L.A. as the Mecca of everything Chicano (see my previous blog on Lowriders), which, contrary to popular belief, just isn’t true. Cool at East Los is, you’d be making a “contentious” argument that cholo style solely originated from there. In fact, if you want to start a fight, I’d suggest saying that out loud in Northern California (or many other places in the Southwest), but I digress.

Vice also says that cholo subculture has a “loose affiliation with gangsterism,” again, with zero explanation, which leads me to believe the writer did their research strictly on Wikipedia. Or maybe Tumblr. Probably Tumblr.

Oh, and the article uses the words “cholx” and “Chicanx,” which again, signals that little research went into this topic, as real cholos (see: NOT SoHo ones), do no use those words. Never mind that you cannot pronounce them, but they are made up words used strictly by academics and social justice warriors with an agenda in select social media circles. If you don’t believe me, go ask your local cholo or chola about it, after you’re done picking up your teeth, I’d love to hear what they said.

The article goes on to give a rundown of Chavarria’s background and not surprisingly, it does not include being a cholo. Seriously, color me surprised. Whew! If you could see the look of shock on my face right now.

No, Chavarria simply borrowed what he saw growing up in CA and the ran to NYC with it, no doubt with dollar signs in his eyes. Instead of being a  – GASP! – cholo, Chavarria rubbed elbows with Ralph Lauren. Cuz everyone knows that’s how you earn some serio street cred in the barrio these days. Que wow.

“”I loved the fact that [the cholo] was a distinct identity,” the Mexican American designer said to me inside his flagship store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. “It was about taking these clothes that weren’t high fashion and making it high fashion. I always appreciated that.””

Yes, because flagship shops SoHo is where all the cholos buy their clothes…I mean, just look at all the Ralph Lauren graffiti on the walls!

Chavarria is also fond of taking derogatory terms like “sexy wetbacks” and using them to his advantage when promoting his work, because nothing says, “Hey world, take me seriously!” like using phrases like “sexy wetback” in order to sell your stuff. Hell, maybe the food truck industry will catch on. Imagine the “Sexy Wetback Burrito Truck”!

He also does things like dress up his “sexy wetbacks” in his designs and then places them behind cages in his art shows to make a political statement about…?? Well, no one knows.

Hey, fucker! Wetbacks behind cages can be sexy too!!  


Chavarria says he is intent on “taking back” the cholo style from the people who have grifted it over the years, which is puzzling because he’s one of the grifters himself.

Further, his designs are gay fashion twists on cholo style, so I’m not sure who, exactly, he is going to be taking the style back to.

Again, cholos don’t shop in SoHo for thousand dollars Dickies that don’t fit in order to make a political statement about being sexy or a wetback.

Which begs the question: who the fuck are these clothes for? Spoiler: it ain’t cholos.

Ok, you’re saying, so what? This dude is free to take a bunch of army surplus duds and fuck them up and sell them to idiots for insane prices. It’s a free country. yeah? Yep.

That said, my issue comes with the sensationalizing of what he’s doing as some kind of political crusade for purity and reinvention of the wheel. It makes me gag how Vice fawns over his work for its “originality” and innovation, when it’s anything but. You could argue that it’s a mockery of the culture and a further watering down of something both the press and Hollywood can never get right.

No one gives a fuck about these kinds clothes and or the people who wear them, until some fancy asshole with name recognition comes along and “discovers” them. Then all of a sudden it’s “news.”

I call bullshit.

Vice cites cholo culture as “radical” but doesn’t delve into why. They don’t dare venture into the history of cholos and cholas because to do so would enter into Chicano history and its working class roots and struggle for self-determination.

Here’s a hint: Chicana/o self-determination has nothing to do with a SoHo runway. Asshole.

This style, which they are fawning over, and which has been ripped off countless times now, had humble beginnings! These clothes weren’t popular because they were making a political statement, they were popular because they were cheap!

The disconnect from the working class, poverty-stricken and survival of the fittest roots of cholo culture, and to a larger extent, Chicano culture, is laughable. It is an insult to take a style that has been time-honored and preserved out of necessity in order to exploit it for personal gain because you think it’s “sexy.”

And I’m not here to fall on the sword for the sanctity and purity of St. Cholo and Chola, again, it’s a free country, but if you don’t know the history of something, but you steal it and then sell it and then pretend you’re innovating it, you look like an asshole.

Maybe rich folks in SoHo will fall for that bullshit, but most Raza who grew up with this stuff will not.

Many of the people who live the cholo lifestyle will tell you it’s a way of life and not a goddamn fashion statement, not that I expect the Ralph Laurens or new church ladies of the world to understand that.

It’s been interesting these past few years to see everything Chicano get exploited for profit. If it’s not wack ass NY fashion heads doing it, it’s Hollywood or college kids playing dress-up “for the gram.” What was once taboo and considered the bottom of the barrel is now suddenly trendy and “chic.”

And it sells, mostly to people who wouldn’t give the time of a day to a cholo.

It always kills me how 100% of the people who do the exploiting fail to understand that the people who they are exploiting did what they did out of necessity, not for the “likes.”

These kinds of fashions could get you beat up back in the day, if not killed. Look it up! It wasn’t a fuckin’ game to dress like this. No one wore these things to impress people on a runway.

But again, I find myself at the crossroads of where Chicano history begins and this huge void of ignorance grows, and yet there’s a giant cash register there and it’s continually ringing up a sale. Ka-ching.


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