In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to shed light on 8 Ways Hispanic and Latino Heritage is Rooted In Fashion (and in your closet) In the United States. Gathering inspiration from toreadors, South American Pampas cowboys, and the toquilla palm trees, the pieces that make up your wardrobe wouldn’t be here without the rich culture of Hispanic and Latino communities and traditions. We are honored to unpack the following eight fashion pieces to give a brief history and ways these timeless traditions have been reinvented in today’s fast paced fashion world.
Boleros—sometimes called shrugs—are cropped, cardigan-like garments with short or long sleeves. In our decade, they are typically knitted, tight and tailored but the open-fronted short jacket dates back to the 19th century to the bullfighting rings of Spain**.** Before the garment became a staple piece in the closest’s of women worldwide, the bolero was worn by toreadors, or bullfighters, who needed clothing that was light & bright.
The garment later became a symbol to the legacy of Spain in most of the countries they colonized. Interestingly enough, the name bolero has many meanings as it is also a form of love song that originated in Cuba in the 19th century. With lyrics often relating to themes of eternal, bittersweet or betrayed love, the style of music was popularized by mostly Mexican composers who were writing these types of songs throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
Over generations the bolero has seen may iterations and has stayed engrained in the fashion culture of the United States. An item that is seen in wedding fashion to sport wear and many outfits in between, the bolero and all jackets it has inspired, is here to stay. We love this Blazer by Allen Schwartz that feels inspired by the bolero legacy.
2: Cluttos, Gaucho Pants, Flowy Pants
The long, flowy and loose pants that transcend geography are known by many different names but hold the same origin to be true. The leather gaucho pants gained their name from the native cowboys of the South American Pampas, dating back to the 17th century, who were called gauchos. These pants were intentionally made from leather, oversized and wide-legged so they could be worn as a protective layer over another second pair of pants and functional while on horseback.
In 1911, thousands of miles and centuries later, the pants were introduced in a new light named jupe-culotte. They created controversy and were even banned in some theaters since they were targeted to women. Being that gender stereotypes were in full force, some people did not approve of masculine wear being targeted towards women. Did you know there was a time in history that women were arrested in Paris for wearing culottes in public? ****This of course caused intrigue for many women who found these taboo pants fascinating and why we believe they are still in fashion today.
Somewhere between then and now we’ve blended renditions of these pants to transcend centuries and gender stereotypes to commonly be known as wide leg, flowy or loose fitting pants. Our current favorite version of these pants comes from KES.
3: The Guayabera
The guayabera is traditionally an open-necked shirt with two breast pockets and two pockets over the hips. This shirt typically has short sleeves and is worn untucked to combat the hot climate due to its origins in Central America. Originally these shirts were considered formal attire for men in Cuban or Mexican cultures and are still seen at weddings now. The guayabera is sometimes referred to as a “Mexican wedding shirt”.
As with many other traditional pieces, the guayabera has seen its share of versions over the years. From the Hawaiian shirt to the untucked button up and now commonly known as the camp shirt, this shirt can be spotted at occasions calling for “tropical cocktail attire”. We are loving Amanda Uprichard’s take on this classic look, foregoing the pockets and adding feminine touches.
#4: Cowboy Boot
The cowboy boot has many different paths of origin and is very common with Texas and cowboys as popularized through television and movies. Yet just as gaucho pants originated from necessity with the South American Pampas, what do you imagine they wore on their feet? In fact, the cowboy boot we think of today dates back to the 1800’s for wear in the desert of the midwest and far western United States. The Cowboy boot was originally inspired by the vaquero-style boot brought to the Americas from Spain in the 1600s.
These days cowboy boots are worn across the United States for various occasions not limited to weddings, two-step dancing, working or for a night on the town, so you can only imagine all the how many different styles and renditions are in existence. Our favorite take on the classic cowboy boot is the Ateliers Briggs Bootie which brings a feminine feel to functional fashion.
#5: Off the Shoulder
Clothing that falls off the shoulder in some way has been in our closets for generations but how far back does it go? Historian Laura Beltrán-Rubio, explains the off-the-shoulder look as part of the traditional attire worn by mestizos.
Mestizo is a term used for racial classification to refer to a person of mixed European and Indigenous American ancestry that dates back to the colonial era. The name comes from a Spanish word meaning “mixed” and just as the genes come from blended cultures, so do the traditions. The Mestizo off-the-shoulder dress was created from blending different traditions and cultures and has transcended generations to remain constant in fashion all over the world.
We are big fans of the MVN off-shoulder knit dress that puts a modern twist on a classic Mestizo design.
#6: Panama Hats
Panama hats are made with tightly woven toquilla straw that is made from the toquilla palm tree. Despite popular belief, the Panama hat was never made in Panama. According to Varlea Rodríguez, “the hat originated in Ecuador but became popular in Panama because of the country was the epicenter for commerce at the time, around 1850.”
Since toquilla palm trees naturally grow on the coast of Ecuador, a traditional authentic panama hat is made of toquilla straw. Yet many different versions of the hat have been adopted in different countries and areas of the world because access to similar material makes it easy to develop slightly different versions of the original hat.
We are fans of the Elegancia Tropical Hats Santa Fe Urban Straw Panama Hat.
#7 & #8: Bags; Raffia Bags & Saddle Bags
The raffia bag and the saddle bag are very different styles of bags but both hold deep roots in Central and South American. The raffia bag is a woven bag from palm and the saddle bag is made of leather.
The raffia bag became a concept due to an abundance of material. The raffia palm grows thick in Central and South America and the palms were gathered and woven to create a bag made from natural and abundant material. Because of the simplicity and easy access to the materials, the raffia bag has been replicated in different versions and styles from many different indigenous communities across Central and South America. The different techniques used by artisans became a symbol of the community work of a tribe.
The Saddle Bag has is roots in the Aburrá Valley region in Colombia. It was created for coffee farmers to use on horseback so they could be hands-free when tending to the farm. The saddle bag was very practical and served numerous purposes and it’s hard to imagine hands free bags without the creation of the saddle bag.
We are absolutely obsessed with the Sancia Cesanne Saddlebag. It takes the traditional saddle bag and adds a modern twist that is sure to bring out your inner fashionista.
It’s hard to imagine a traditional closet without the influence of Hispanic and Latino culture. Without the toreadors, South American Pampas cowboys and the toquilla palm trees, the pieces that make up your wardrobe wouldn’t be here without the rich culture of Hispanic and Latino communities and traditions. Digging into the origins of some of our go to pieces was a beautiful reminder that fashion can be a beautiful was to connect through generations, geography and shared experience.