The Chicana pachucas of the 1940s and ’50s and the cholas in the decades since have consistently served as inspiration for style and beauty. The looks are usually timeless, and are constantly redone again and again, to add in little updates of the current times and newer trends. From super skinny brows, to huge hair, and dark burgundy lips and out-to-there eyeliner, there are specific elements which are integral to the chola look, depending on the decade you are looking at. Some styles have survived longer than others; for example, you instantly think about the ’90s dark lips when you think of chola beauty. Others have not; the ’80s and ’90s sky-high hairstyles aren’t really a thing anymore. But who is to say what chola element makes a comeback next?
The following photos range in dates, from the 1940s to the 1990s, and give us an up-close look at the pachuca and chola beauty trends that Chicanas were taking part in during those times. This will serve as both a historical look at Chicana and Latinx beauty, and as inspiration, for any looks you wanted to learn about, see more of, and/or try out yourself.
1960s Geometric Eye Makeup
You can find a lot of photos showing cholas of the past at the SoCal Instagram account @veteranas_and_rucas. It’s where we sourced a lot of the photos for this article, including this super cool snapshot. Can we discuss the amazing eyeliner in this pic?! The ’60s-era photo is of Mary Ayala, who is from the Maravilla projects (the pic was taken at a photo booth in East Los Angeles). Her eye makeup is so cool — taking the 1960s dark, graphic eye and light lip trend to another level, with multiple eyeliner lines for a dramatic, geometric look. Strong liner and her skinny brows are definitely chola trends that have withstood the test of time.
Throwback Brown-Toned Makeup
This photo of Xiomara, from Santa Ana, is said to have been taken in 1993, but the makeup and hair are giving off total vibes from another decade. From the soft waves and warm, reddish-brown hair color, to the brown eyeshadow and glossy brown lips, the style looks like it came out of the 1970s, or early ’80s. Regardless of when it was taken, the snapshot captures Chicana, Latinx, and chola beauty in a great way.
Scrunched hair, achieved with loads of gel and/or mousse, and a halo of hairspray, was definitely a part of the chola look, in the late 1980s and 1990s. The late ’80s and early ’90s also had the addition of super-tall, waterfall-like bangs, that defied gravity. This throwback photo also showcases the classic dark eyebrow, dark eyeliner, and dark lipstick trifecta that is chola makeup. During those decades, it was also a Chicana, Latinx, and chola trend to take studio photos with your homegirls.
Bouffant and Bold Eyes
Our next photo in the throwback chola beauty collection is this great one from the ’60s. Based on the bouffant hairstyle, which was in style from the early to mid 1960s, you could date the photo within that time range. The hair is big and beautiful and the photo was also chosen for the dramatic eyebrows and eyeliner. As was the mainstream trend during the ’60s, the eyes were made to look more dramatic, while the lips were often a pale nude, beige, peach, or even white shade. Another theory is that the hairstyle is an exaggerated pompadour style from the pachuca era of the 1940s. Either way, we like the whole look!
La Belleza Pachuca
To fully understand the chola aesthetic, you have to go way back to the 1940s and ’50s, when the pachucas were the ones dolling themselves up. The coiffed hair; bold, penciled-in brows; dramatic eyeliner; and dark lips originated with these Chicana women, in cities such as El Paso (known as Chucho Town), Los Angeles, and Tucson). This photo, most likely from the 1950s, shows a pachuca wearing a curly sort-of pompadour hairstyle, bold brows, maybe some eyeliner, and dark lips.
Light and Dark Makeup of the ’70s
Based on the makeup and the small amount of feathering of the hair, this photo was probably taken sometime in the 1970s. Major feathering didn’t happen until the ’80s, but if this photo was of this decade, it would be the early 1980s. Another identifier of the time period, and a big chola beauty trend was to add white eyeshadow to the eyes, and sometimes up and over the eyebrows. This created a halo effect (possibly a continuation of the white eyeshadow trend of the ’60s); a grey or brown shade then created an obvious crease in the eyes. The eyebrows were almost non-existent, and the blush and lips were dramatized, often with a berry or brown color.
How Big Can Your Hair Get? ’60s Edition
The 1960s were all about how big, high and teased you could get your hair. As we mentioned previously, the style was big (pun intended) from the beginning up until mid-’60s60s. This photo shows three Latinxs with huge hair, ’60s clothes, and makeup looks that seemed to only emphasize the area around the eyes.
Angelic Makeup Vibes from 1979
As with any beauty trend, you can choose how much, or little, you go with it. How extreme you make the look, or don’t. This photo, from 1979, and taken by Rachel (according to Veteranas and Rucas), appeared in a magazine. The first look is so bold, yet angelic in its halo-like qualities. The eyes and brows are whited out, and the eyeliner is geometric but more subtle than other eyeliner looks. Finally, the blush and lip color is obvious, but the hue itself is a rosy flush.
Big ’80s Hair and Chola Beauty
The next look takes us into the 1980s. The hair is voluminous, with bangs that reach up towards heaven. The rest of the look didn’t go with mainstream ’80s beauty trends, however. This look is pura chola. Her lips are burgundy, brows skinny and penciled in, and eyeliner out to there. The finishing touch for this look? Big gold hoops and gold chains, of course.
No matter how fly your makeup is, your chola look isn’t complete if you don’t have your hair done perfectly. This historically has meant gel, mousse, hairspray, scrunching, or ironing, blow drying, diffusing, and more. Chola looks take time, commitment, and dedication! Just look at this photo from 1996. Each girl is rocking her ‘do, which took time and effort.
’70s Hair, Feathered Like Wings
Teen Angels, the old school cholo magazine that showcased cholo style, has this cool illustration, which shows the evolution of pachuca/chola hairstyles. This is great if you want to recreate a look. This photo was most likely taken during the late 1970s (or possibly the mid-’70s). The hair then was often “plastered back with spray, and more hair hung to the front.”
1940s Pachuca Style
Our next photo goes way back, to the beginning of the pachuca style. This lady has all the beauty elements of a great, and classic, pachuca look. First, she has the voluminous pompadour, which is still being copied today by Latinxs. Then, we have the makeup, defined brows, most likely some eyeliner (the photo was taken from too far a distance to know for sure), and the dark lips that have stood the test of time as a pachuca and chola staple.
All Chola Style, But Each Unique
The cool thing about chola beauty is that, although there are major looks, products, and colors, each girl interprets it in her own way, making the look unique. Take this photo from the mid-’90s, for example. All these girls, from the Chicanas with Pride party crew, are reppin’ the chola look, but each style is different. Some girls chose to bleach their hair, some rocked half-ponytails, while others wore rock bangs.
Jordana Sienna Lipliner Days
What’s even better than learning about classic chola beauty looks over the years? Getting to find out about a specific cosmetics color that you can wear to mimic a throwback look! This photo from 1995 features two amigas who are wearing another ’90s trend that cholas wore as well — terracotta and rust-brown lip colors. Veteranas and Rucas shouted out Jordana’s sienna lipliner, which you can still buy and rock today.
1970s Exaggerated Beauty
The final chola beauty look we will be talking about today is this photo of Amie from Torrance, taken in the mid-1970s. Instead of the feathered looks seen on other women during the ’70s, Amie’s hair is in more of a bouffant, retaining those 1960s vibes. Aside from the hairstyle, the doll-like exaggeration of the look continues, with super skinny brows, heavy black eyeliner, and spiky lashes.