Appreciating Chola Style

Do you like my new shirt ese?

When I was thirteen, my “cousin” Gigi came to live with us for a couple of weeks. ["Cousin" as in the Filipino way where everyone is your auntie and your cousin, probably even your boyfriend] Anyway, she got into some sort of shenanigans back home and was sent to stay with me, who was a perfect angel back then. Gigi loved cholos, and looked like a chola herself or at least had the hairdo, which was stiff as straw, raped-by-Aquanet, peroxide-lightened hair. In the two weeks Gigi was with us, I learned how to concoct a makeshift cocktail from Boone’s Strawberry Hill and my mom’s mangoes, and we would sip them while sitting in my front yard catcalling at the guys who would drive by in their cars, pumping their music as loud as they can. Gigi called that move “The Mating Call.” I was sad when she went back home since it was nice having a chola sister for a little while.

After years of other similar friendly run-ins, I theorized that cholos and cholas may be the undiscovered comedians of the world. They come up with more pop culture-referenced, witty one-liners than you could ever imagine. Their style was very fashion forward, with their now ironically hip Virgin Mary shirts and other Catholic paraphernalia. They were fixing classic cars longer than your rockabilly boyfriend and listening to the best band in the world, Zapp & Roger.

If you grew up in southern California, then you know what I am talking about. You were probably appreciating cholo/chola style long ago. Of course, Gwen Stefani rocked wife beaters and Dickies back in ’95 and obviously still sports some chola-esque elements. In the past decade cholo/las have become a popular choice in Halloween costumes [aside from Halloween 2007's easy-to-do costume: Amy Winehouse.]

Are you down for chola style and want to know where to begin? Perhaps my do-it-yourself Chola Style Guide can help pave the way.

chola style guide

+ Watch movies about cholos. Blood In Blood Out, American Me and Mi Vida Loca are good starters. Then you can watch Scarface, which isn’t a movie about cholos but they love it and think Al Pacino is a badass just like you do.

to my lovah

+ Refer to this Ultimate Gangsta Starter Pack that I made for Robyn Swank a few years ago when she was obsessed with cholos. The starter pack was my first foray into custom gift basket making [which I will of course get into at another time]. Items included were a 40 ounce of malt liquor [don't forget to spill some for your homies], a switchblade [to cut fools who try to step to you], brown lipliner, an appropriate movie [as reviewed in#1], a hooded sweatshirt featuring a gangsta and his heina with Jesus watching over them, crip slips [even comfortable enough to wear to Coachella! ], a Virgin Mary bandanna, and big gold hoop earrings.

+ Give yourself a chola-themed nickname. In seventh grade I used to write Gigglez all over my Trapper Keeper. If you are a wallflower, Shy Girl will work perfectly. This is pretty simple. As Dlisted pointed out, “Chola girls in High School had nicknames that sounded like the names of the bitches on Flavor of Love.”

+ Write some poetry to your man in lock-up. A chola loves doing this for her man. I know it’s been years since you let your own feelings out on pen and paper. Don’t be afraid to let go and show Chuy just what you mean to him. If you are not poetically-inclined, post the lyrics to “Angel Baby” on his myspace page. When he gets out of jail he will undoubtedly appreciate the sentiment.

+ Last but not least, take some pictures at the mini-mall with your homegirls. Choose your background wisely [you can never go wrong with the classic "Smile Now, Cry Later"], coordinate your outfits, and get together beforehand to draw on each other’s eyebrows and drink wine coolers. My homegirls and I did this a little while ago as you can see up above. Make sure to get a lot of wallet-sized photos because everyone will want one. Don’t worry about covering up your hickeys. Your man likes it when his heina is all tagged up.


1 klaus { 01.09.08 at 12:29 pm }

aii! i’m your new #1 fan. give me a hickey!

2 Tweety { 01.09.08 at 1:06 pm }

i want a hickey too!

3 C-Monster { 01.09.08 at 1:09 pm }

don’t forget the Kid Frost cds and the liquid liner.

4 pepper { 01.09.08 at 2:31 pm }

for valentine’s day i am being a chola cupid in a show- with a pink gun. because in east LA we don’t need no bow and arrows.

5 fish { 01.09.08 at 2:36 pm }

this is important cultural documentation. you need to publish this shit stat. wordup.

6 defekto { 01.09.08 at 3:22 pm }

I miss good burritos and cholas. They don’t have them on the east coast!

7 Marshall { 01.09.08 at 6:35 pm }

My first girlfriend was a Chola from Wilmington who was using her aunt’s address to attend school in Palos Verdes.

She used to have this big puff of hair at the front of her head and she used to talk about putting razorblades into her bangs so that if someone grabbed them in a fight it would be blood and guts time. Weird girl. I’ve got a soft spot for chola style to this day thanks to her.

8 Robyn Swank { 01.09.08 at 8:03 pm }

HOLY FUCK YES!!!!!!!!!

9 Smiley { 01.10.08 at 5:04 pm }

Thats not a hickey. It’s a curling Iron burn.

10 brandi { 01.14.08 at 3:34 pm }

I’m just here for the hickeys. Tag me up, please!

11 Shaun { 01.22.08 at 11:44 am }

This is the best!!! I love the part about cholos and cholas being undercover comedians and the fact the boys were into classic cars way before your rockabilly boyfriends! This blog is a stroke of pure genius! And I just can’t wait to purchase one of those care packages in order to begin my life-long dream of being a dirrrty hilarious ass-kicking chola bitch!

12 Agent Lover -Your recommended dosage of whimsical absurdity » Cholo y Chola Bingo { 03.27.08 at 9:20 pm }

[...] Funner to play than Hipster Bingo as long as you don’t get jumped. For more cholita goodness check out the Chola Style Guide. [...]

13 Lala { 06.21.08 at 7:25 am }

Chola culture is fun, especially Chola Photography. Check my page out:

14 Birdie! { 08.27.08 at 1:40 pm }

This totally made me think of this awesome-ass Graciela Iturbide exhibit at the Getty earlier this year. The portion of the exhibit was “East L.A.”

Good stuff!

15 Foo { 09.06.08 at 6:38 am }

A simply awesome post :-) Love it! I’m not from the U.S. so it’s kinda new to me but all good. made me laugh.

16 .:Cl3v3R:. { 09.11.08 at 8:44 pm }

Damn eyy this shit iz badd ass all true eyy frum tha heart

17 lady orn3las { 09.26.08 at 10:23 am }

chola styl3 has always b33n my styl3 3v3r sinc3 i was a youngin so i r3p chola styl3 por vida hom3z

18 Franky { 12.07.08 at 8:21 am }

this brings back so many memories.
fuckin cholas. damn they’re hot.

19 crystal aka casp3r { 12.09.08 at 4:03 pm }

cholas there down 4 there shit right some pinge chola they say there chola but they aint thats wack well chola stlye is down!!!!well holla at me l8ter iight peace!!!!!!!!

20 TiPSy { 02.19.09 at 5:23 pm }


21 Marni { 04.08.09 at 10:31 am }

Perfect, you hit the nose on the button. the gift basket is genius. I love Cholas, they are fierce.

22 ElDulceAmorCouture { 04.17.09 at 12:46 am }

Ha this is on point!!! My bffe and i always reminisce
and act like we were still in junior high, when we are just hanging out at her house.. or quote mi vida loca lol
im blue eyes except my eyes are brown lol see below

23 Brianna florez { 07.16.09 at 4:21 pm }

My Name is Brianna Florez and my homes in new mexico have always called me cholita because that’s what I’m pround to be a latin with style like a chola always Brianna

24 Nita { 07.17.09 at 5:00 pm }

Hey girl! 1. I love your website, its awesome and so are you. 2. I recently did a post on Chola style, featuring this amazing photo shoot with Isabeli Fontana in Numero Magazine. I also referenced this post :)
I’d be honored if you would check it out.

Also! I talked to you on twitter (peterpanpaisley) about the Catholic Movie inspired party, its still in the works but without your awesome site we would never have been inspired!
Thanks :)

25 Agent Lover: They've given you a number and taken away your name. | Awesome All Day { 08.18.09 at 12:38 pm }

[...] recently took a break from her rigorous schedule of handing out Chola street lessons, calling out social networking sites on their fashion faux pas, and  having real talk with dreamy [...]

26 Calamity Jill { 08.26.09 at 8:23 am }

I’m all too familiar with all of this and I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. I was but a minority white girl in my high school, surrounded by exactly these gals.

27 victor G { 09.10.09 at 1:21 pm }

please write a book!!!

28 .:babii-loca13:. { 11.03.09 at 3:15 pm }

shit ma im frm krazy town burque, new mexico n though here all tha cholas lost their big hair, we still got big hearts 4 our jail birds haha na but ur tlkin real tlk…puro mucho respecto comin ur way

besitos y habrazos,
babii loca a.k.a lil g’s lil ma

29 Tanya { 12.28.09 at 2:03 pm }

I love it!

30 Cara { 12.29.09 at 3:11 am }

Ohhh I can’t believe I’ve not seen this post before now! I love the chola look, it’s so trashy and fabulous and all their own. We don’t have ANYTHING like this in Australia and it makes me sad. I think I might have to have a cholos and chola party just or an excuse to dress up like this :D

31 Bobbie aka Ravenez { 01.09.10 at 9:21 pm }

YES…we do! You must not be far enough south! lol

32 Bobbie aka Ravenez { 01.09.10 at 9:22 pm }

That was to the chick that said there aren’t any cholas on the east coast :) lol

33 Rachael { 02.09.10 at 5:02 pm }

When I was in Jr. High in ’96-’97 (Whittier represent) there was a brief period when all of the cholas got into a raver look so they wore neon plastic-bead necklaces with plastic figures of characters like Elmo & Cookie Monster in the middle and carried Angelica (ala Rugrats) backpacks that were about three sizes too small than any of our books. They still wore the brown lip liner though. It was a curious look.

34 La Roc { 02.10.10 at 11:47 am }

This is nothing like the real thing… I grew up in a house full of cholas…
a real chola would kick your ass if she saw this,cute though. orale!

35 LaPayasita { 02.16.10 at 5:30 pm }

um yea u wna make da page al apreciating chola style no? wel how bout stating by not mispelling hyna a….we aint heinas….we hynas…and its pretty down but cholas aint the ones that get hickeys n stuf like dat cholas r the ones that figt fr there vatos n known for being hardcore…..cholas aint always mean and agresive we ken b kind only if other hynas n vatos treat us lik dat

36 Heina Vidalia { 02.18.10 at 11:39 am }

Just to let you know, it’s spelled both ways HEINA and HYNA. The spelling HEINA is closer to the origin of the word which is REINA (queen). HYNA is the hoodification of the word. Neither one bothers me to see… kind of like AI AI AI and AY AY AY. Also, the following words in your comments are misspelled:

37 La munaca { 04.04.10 at 9:56 am }

ay vatoz mah homez need help on choosing nicknamez so hit up my inbox and tell me if you got any

38 wiicked chula { 04.20.10 at 5:49 am }

supzxx??? hell chea baes appreciating chola style is important….jejejeje….ii am a choliita &nd also iin love wiit one….beiing a chola iis dee best tiing

39 alicia { 07.11.10 at 10:42 am }

hey its me the only gorda what i have you been up to… put just want to say hi….;p

40 wtf Osider { 09.23.10 at 10:23 am }


41 Vidalia { 09.23.10 at 12:27 pm }

wtf Osider: Shouldn’t you be in a remedial reading class or getting your tattoos removed or something?

42 califasbabygirl { 10.05.10 at 4:12 pm }

haa wasuppp

43 hannahsanchez { 03.21.11 at 12:18 pm }

heyyy nigga this shit wass hella bad ass am guessing yus frm cali hmm?????guess wer am frm

44 silent smoker { 06.13.11 at 1:27 pm }

IM a chola SUR 13 rocks,my home girls are the f**** best u guys should all be cholas!!!
X l V

45 la flakis.... { 11.05.11 at 7:47 pm }

I’m now 28 was jump in at 14 still dwn for the barrio….now I’ve got babies hoping they don’t get in the same shit us cholas got into…….always down…..simon on all the goodtimes….flakis…….

46 Megen { 12.16.11 at 4:53 pm }

I feel the need to point out that isn’t the Virgin of Mary, it’s the Virgin of Guadalupe.

47 Rosita { 05.11.12 at 8:34 am }

hahah some real shixt there ESSE!!!!

Leave a Comment