Chola style has always been a balance of timeless, classic elements, mixed with the trends of the time. You can look back at photos from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and see some of the same brands and looks today, sometimes revamped a bit to reflect the current styles and trends. Some chola elements, such as bouffant hairstyles and dark lipstick, go back even further to the time of the pachucas — the 1940s and ’50s. It safe to say the chola aesthetic is timeless and continues to be reinterpreted, generation after generation.
That’s why it’s important to break down and chronicle what makes chola style so iconic, feature the brands, and highlight the culture, We’ve looked into what cholas were rocking in the ’90s, and now we’re taking a deep dive into the fashion, popular brands, and items that became chola mainstays. Without further ado, check out 24 chola essentials.
Dickies are one of those classics you’ll often see on both cholas and cholos They are the quintessential work pants that create a stiff, sleek line. In the ’90s, pants were worn oversized and belted with extra-long, military-style web belts and interchangeable initial buckles. The company also makes shorts, which are worn with tall socks and sneakers, or slippers.
Long a symbol of West Coast badassery, Locs is a brand of sunglasses that cholos and cholas have worn since the 1970s and ’80s. In the ’80s and ’90s, rappers like NWA, and Tone Loc further popularized the OG shades. Today, the brand is still popular within chola and cholo culture.
You weren’t doing your hair right in the 1950s (and for as long as this trend existed) if you weren’t finishing it off with a huge cloud of Aqua Net. From the biggest beehives, to the slickest buns, and the scrunchiest curls, it kept your hair exactly where it was supposed to be, and still does. No wonder it’s an iconic chola fave.
Maybelline is a timeless brand for many women, but it will always have a special place in the heart of all cholas and Latinxs. First, you have the iconic Great Lash Mascara, which serves well-defined, non-clumpy lashes (so you don’t have to separate your lashes with the point of a safety pin). Then you have the Twin Brow & Eye Pencils, which you melt to create the smoothest and most pigmented eyeliner. You can also use them to pencil in the brows and line the lips.
Gold jewelry was (and still is) the bling of chola fashion. Hoop earrings, rings, and nameplate necklaces were more often than not in gold. Roses, la Virgen de Guadalupe, and names or initials are just some of the common jewelry themes.
Ben Davis is the other timeless label and is also known as a workwear brand. Their shirts, overalls, Gorilla Cut (oversized) pants, jackets, and beanies were emblazoned with the Gorilla and all fit into the chola and cholo aesthetic.
Flannel shirts have been around forever, but they will always be linked to cholo culture. These are usually buttoned all the way up or buttoned at the top with the rest of the shirt open and a top layered underneath. Pendleton, a brand that has been around for 150 years, is an OG classic label that cholas have been rocking for decades.
The Nike Cortez debuted in 1972 as a running shoe and since then has become an essential part of any chola or cholo wardrobe. These were definitely rocked in the 1990s, with Dickie’s or Ben Davis pants, jeans, or shorts. The shorts were often worn with tall socks. The black with the white Nike Swoosh or the white with the black Swoosh are the most popular, but these shoes come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Joker is a clothing brand that launched in 1995, owned by Latinxs Estevan Oriol, B-Real, and Mr. Cartoon. The streetwear line is influenced by the streets of Los Angeles, skate crews, graffiti, tattoo culture, and other facets of L.A., West Coast life. A lot of the visuals on their T-shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, and more are their modernized takes on the classic cholo aesthetic.
A lot of cholo culture is about preserving tradition and continuing to celebrate the oldies but goodies. This is apparent in the love of oldies music, but also in the dedication to buying, restoring, and cruising the dopest lowriders ever. On Sundays, you will see cholos and cholas doing both, cruising slow and bumping oldies. One of the top brands for lowriders is Chevrolet. Some of the popular makes include the Impala, Chevelle and Monte Carlo.
Lowriders are an essential element to cholo culture. In addition to the cars themselves, there is also Lowrider Magazine, the Bible for all the cars that ride low and slow, and the people who love them. Although the brand Lowrider Clothing has been promoting cholo culture with their tees emblazoned with low lows, since 2001, lowrider T-shirts have been around since at least the ’90s.
Legendary cosmetics brand Revlon introduced its first lipstick in 1940, and we have been wearing it ever since. This means decades and decades of pachucas, cholas, and other Latinxs wearing their glamorous reds, classic nudes, and moody burgundies. Some of the dark, chola shades (made darker with brown lip liner) that were rocked during the ’90s include Coffee Bean, Toast of New York, and Iced Mocha.
There are certain shoes that were and continue to be a part of the cholo/chola aesthetic. Converse Chuck Taylors were also rocked with Dickies and Ben Davis, as were Cortezes and Vans. Converse sneakers have proven to be a timeless, iconic wardrobe staple (part of many different subcultures) that literally never go out of style.
These striped polo shirts, called cholo polos or Charlie Brown polos, have been fashion staples for cholas and cholos for decades. As the store Gunthers explained, they were made in the 1970s under the Cascade label. The company closed, but in 1991 FB COUNTY was created and they continued the tradition.
Tres Flores/Three Flowers
Chola aesthetic is about never having a hair out of place. Some of these hairstyles took a long time to style and get perfectly right, so you want to finish them off with the perfect product. That’s where Tres Flores, a.k.a. Three Flowers Brilliantine comes in — an old-school pomade that slicks and smooths the hair, moisturizes, and adds some sheen and hold to your ‘do.
Chola Bands/Jelly Bracelets
Accessories are a major facet of chola style. One essential accessory that has made it through decade after decade are chola bands, also known as jelly bracelets. Although Madonna popularized them in the 1980s, stacked up on the wrist, cholas were already wearing intricate layers and weaved patterns of jelly bracelets in the 1970s.
Chinese Mary Jane Slippers
These delicate fabric shoes were the finishing touch for so many chola outfits during the ’70s, ’80s and beyond. They go with anything, are stylish, classic, come in a variety of colors and styles (although the black pair is the most iconic), and cost practically nothing!
Another of the big beauty brands that cholas rocked back in the day, and continue to wear today is Wet ‘N’ Wild. They have the super dark lipliners, and black, and white, eyeliners. Plus, the pencils are super long and super inexpensive. It’s a win-win!
White Tank Tops
Chola fashion emulated cholo fashion quite a bit, with the baggy creased khakis, flannels, and other “masculine” gear. To feminize these outfits and put their own spin on it, some cholas would wear tighter fitting tops and rocked them as crop tops as well.
You know you’ve seen — and probably even rocked — belts with your initials on them back in the day. These belts came with silver metal buckles that would often be used as a way to rep your name or the name of your boo thang.
The finishing touch — but also the first order of business — of the chola beauty regimen is acrylic nails. These traditionally are square or round (although current trends include coffin/ballerina, almond, and stiletto shapes) and the longer the better. Gotta’ have your acrylics on point.
Old English Letters
Old English is the unofficial font of all things cholo culture. It’s bold, it’s pretty, and it’s old school. It makes everything you wore it on look more badass. It’s an instant signifier of the culture, updated a bit today according to the audience, current trends, and brand.
Some chola trends go way back, past the ’70s and ’80s, and even before the pachuca era of the ’40s and ’50s. Huarache sandals, which have been worn with socks by cholas, date back to pre-Columbian times. The shoes are a super old school shoutout to Indigenous and agricultural cultures and history.
The final chola (and cholo) essential we will be discussing are Garcia lowrider hats. The Frankshats-Garcia Hats brand has been making these toppers, first out of East L.A., and then in Pomona, since 1927. They have appeared in such iconic films as Blood In, Blood Out; American Me; and Boulevard Nights, and continue to be worn today.