Narcoculture in Mexico develops its own fashion


Narco-clothing has undergone a series of variations over time. From capos to drug dealers, and more recently millennials who seek to imitate characters from narco-series, have adopted styles of clothing, footwear, and accessories, which for them denote a checkpoint of power.

Narco-fashion has undergone a number of variations over time. Image: Narcos series @ Instagram
Narco-fashion has undergone a number of variations over time. Image: Narcos series @ Instagram

Narco-wear, also called narco-aesthetics, is one of the many manifestations of the altered fashion, whose origin in Chihuahua dates back to the 1970s, when cowboy and Texan boots began to be a trend among those who wanted to imitate those rude and reckless men who lived off the land.

The book "La reina del Sur" (The Queen of the South), by Chihuahua's Ricardo Legarda, shows the transition in the way of dressing within organized crime, with a journey from the first "cowboy" characteristics, to the "chic" era, in which mainly young people, show a fascination for "cachuchas" (a type of boots with colorful stones), sport or casual pants, and tribal boots or those who want more comfort, "huaraches".

For the cartels, fashion becomes just another weapon to demonstrate their power over other people, just as they do with violence and extortion. Clothing, jewellery, and shoes are generally a way of expressing their nouveau riche status, as well as glorifying "business" and emphasising their masculinity.

Within or outside of the drug trade, those who follow this custom wish to transmit respectability, distinguishing themselves within society, because consciously or unconsciously they feel outside of it, so all they wish to transmit is control and manipulation.

Specifically, in the municipality of Parral, the taste for the narco-fashion was maintained for more than 10 years, since both those who were in the business and those who only admired this style paid large amounts to dress up as the narcomoda commanded.

Although this style reached men of all ages, those "admirers" who ranged from 18 to 27 years old were the ones who bought boots of up to 9 thousand pesos. Lizard, ostrich or armadillo boots were the most sold, in addition to a Texan boot of up to 1,800 pesos, all this before the narcomoda "collapsed".

From excesses to camouflage

Seventies fashion, still considered sober, was followed by the eighties and excessive look with which the luxuries represented by the sale and transfer of drugs could easily be related, with gargantuan and unbuttoned shirts in bright colours, as well as a large amount of gold jewellery, such as chains with medals of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to those of the "patron saint of narcos", Jesús Malverde or Santa Muerte.

This way of dressing in the '80s was characterized by the ostentation that made movie characters fashionable, giving life to criminals who became real "anti-heroes".

In its beginnings, the "narcomoda" emerged as a result of the fascination that middle and lower class men showed towards characters who, thanks to drug trafficking, achieved an "expensive" way of life.

Later, in the 1990s and until practically the year 2010, the altered clothing has suffered a series of transitions, passing through the huaraches sierreños, piteado belt, denim pants, and fajada shirt, fashion that was imposed mainly in the mountainous area of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Sonora.

With the new millennium, the narco-fashion stopped being a fashion, that is, it became widespread and extended to so many sectors of society that it was no longer so characteristic of drug trafficking, explains researcher José Carlos Hernández Aguilar.

Thus began the so-called "strawberry" or "chic" fashion, also characterized by the use of jewelry, now more refined, and boots that stopped being cowgirls to become tribaleras (in pastel colors, with a tip of up to 90 centimeters curved toward the knees).

These shoes marked an era in the fashion of drug trafficking, initially established in some parts of the United States and central Mexico, but soon became widespread in both the north, center, and south of the country.

A characteristic element of heavy fashion has been the printed shirts, whether with Hawaiian details, tropical inspiration or geometric figures.

If they ever get to wear a suit, the "heavy ones" prefer pastel shades, chains, pendants with religious motifs, Rolex watches, and pilot style sunglasses with eye-catching frames from prestigious brands, because for them, all that glitters is the best.

At present, those in the drug business want to go unnoticed, mainly in the ranks of drug dealers, using loose denim trousers, cross-bags for men or pansies, and loose-fitting work boots, shirts, and polo shirts.

Nowadays, the narco-fashion has many nuances, but today social camouflage is more popular, which is ordinary clothing, since the bosses themselves force their subordinates to dress in a discreet way, so as not to attract attention and to be able to have access to all social environments.

And you feel the brides of the drug lord

Narco-clothing has not been exclusive to men, and although it has not undergone as many variations among women, it has been forceful in recent years, when the girlfriends of drug dealers or "buchonas" (women who are drug addicts), begin as companions and end up as saleswomen, spies or traffickers and set their own style.

Their wardrobe is essentially everything that is eye-catching, from pronounced necklines, miniskirts, and tight jeans, everything that can mark their curves. Dresses that are tight and low-cut, flashy jewelry, high heels with a platform, and leggings.

This is how they are described in the book "Jefas del Narco" (Heads of Narcotics), in which it is shown that in Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Jalisco, crimes against health prevail and therefore there are more women who serve only as companions and drug consumers than as narco-criminals and even murderers.

They generally belong to the lower or middle class, have common faces, but exalt their appearance with tattooed eyebrows, straight black hair, and undergo cosmetic surgery to obtain voluptuous bodies that help them achieve a life of luxury and excess at any price.

In addition, the so-called "narcocorridos" have turned these women into legends, ironed hair, lips with collagen, eyebrows lined with brand name clothes and bodies with surgeries.

In Parral, sales of boots and belts made of exotic skins are falling

Narcos leave their taste for exotic skins in their clothing, because during a survey in the different businesses selling boots, they pointed out that previously the taste for exotic skins in their clothing was appreciated by the narcos, likewise, there were those who liked narcoculture and imitated this type of clothing, reaching to pay up to 10 thousand pesos, according to several traders in this area indicated that they invested up to 1,800 pesos several years ago only in the jeans and boots up to 9 thousand pesos depending on the material; However, now they comment that the trend in that fashion has diminished because they now look more for shoes or sneakers of American brands.

Roberto Domínguez, in charge of an establishment dedicated to the sale of boots, hats, and articles made of leather, mentioned that in the 90s there was more of a trend in the drug trade to dress in exotic skins such as armadillo, ostrich, lizard, etc. And that there were also people who imitated the narcoculture and who came to invest up to 10 thousand pesos in their attire since they had the facility to have a Texan of each color, boots of all styles, all skins of all colors because previously that was the garment of the narcoculture.

"Only in Texas they invested up to 1,800 pesos and that's talking about the best-known brands such as Larry Mahan, Roca Hats, among others, as for the boots there were those who paid up to 9 thousand pesos in snakeskin, today we handle ostrich skin, which is the most expensive of our inventory and costs 5 thousand pesos."

He also noted that times have changed, now it is another trend that junior persons seek, who prefer other types of goods, not those available in the market, because they tend to look more for a fashion in shoes or tennis shoes of U.S. brands.

He also said that the problem with the economy has also decreased sales of these items because now the only people who usually buy them are people from the ranch, so they do not want to buy exotic skins due to the hard work in that area.

Another reason why they do not invest so much money in their clothing is that they have been affected economically since there is no government support for livestock, which causes people to be stagnant in their economy and not give them "luxuries".

"We don't sell almost exotic boots anymore, we sell more the kind of rodeo boots, people who come from the United States are the ones who buy more because it's cheaper to get them here. The drug dealers of today are looking for another type of fashion and in this business, it is no longer profitable," he said.

Meanwhile, David Galaviz mentioned that the sale of the articles has decreased because there is too much competition, there are people who manufacture, people who learn to make boots at a lower price, which has led to the closure of several shops in this area.

He informed that the increase in the price of the dollar, which has been rising for several years, is also another reason why sales of exotic leather goods are lost, since it leads to boots, belts, wallets, jackets, hats, etc., increasing in price, so people are no longer willing to pay more for them, so the interest in bringing exotic leather has been lost.

Clothing is also a demonstration of power in Ciudad Juarez

Over time, drug cartels have evolved in weaponry, strategies and modus operandi, but like these changes, their members have also adapted over the years to new, in some cases more extravagant, fashions and with the intention of showing power.

In the 1990s, the clothing of one of these criminals was somewhat simple, but expensive, in the cowboy style, like the great narcos of that time, who came from humble families and were raised on ranches, far from civilization.

This is what Juan Hernandez said, who for more than 20 years has dedicated himself to the sale of clothing and second-hand items, which they offer in second-hand markets and the Central Zone.

Gold thread shirts, "pitiado" belts, Texan Resistol, Guess or Pepe's pants, as well as exotic leather boots, were part of the clothing of every drug dealer or hitman, which distinguished them when they arrived at the bars of Ciudad Juarez.

On their necks, they could not miss the big gold chains, with pendants of some saintly protector of drug dealers, as well as heavy slave girls, rings and brand name watches, because the more ostentatious they looked, the more they showed their leadership.

However, these clothes were not cheap at all, since a good Texan could cost from $1,000 to $3,000, the shirt was around $500 and $1,000, while the boots and belt could cost up to $5,000 or more, depending on the skin and handcrafting.

This trend continued until the late '90s and early 2000s, when the Gianni Versace brand began to gain strength, with the beginning of coordinated clothing with pants and shirts of the same brand, leaving the boots a little behind to give way to the branded and expensive shoes.

Today, the tactical boots, shoes from brands such as Ferragamo, Dolce Gabbana shirts and Hugo Boss tailored jackets or pants are just some of the preferences of the narco juniors and henchmen.

Unfortunately, in Mexico, lower-middle-class families encourage the vindication of the narco, which has made them feel like dressing up as the drug lords who appear in arrests or shared videos in networks, with the so-called "narco fashion" gaining strength throughout the country.

By Velvet González/ El Sol de Parral