Tuesday, January 15, 2008

" 'B' is for 'Beaner'":Clothing, Stereotypes, and the New Economy

Just a quick minute--time enough to share a link to a Chicago Tribune story by Oscar Avila from Mexico on Naco clothing, aka surropa.com. More on this soon.

The NaCo Manifesto is pure art:

"Naco is originally a derogative term used by upper and middle class Mexicans to describe things and people they felt were way beneath them in terms of hipness, taste and economic status. It's usually employed as a synonym for "poor & ignorant", but Naco-ness knows no economic or educational boundaries. Naco-ness is about complete earnestness. The typical Naco is very passionate bout his/hers likes. They will argue for hours on end that Quiet Riot is, indeed, the best band ever, after Creedence Clearwater Revival, of course. Their dislikes are irrelevant. Naco-ness is a style that goes beyond kitsch, camp or plain old cheesiness. It is very spiritual in its acceptance of the Self, and so, if one's Self wants to dress in unbuttoned brightly colored shiny shirts, skin-tight faded black jeans, gold chains, white socks and black shoes, topped off by a magnificent mullet, so be it. Naco is more a state of mind. It's more a self assured disregard for what others think is cool without being arrogant or closeminded. Naco-ness is about being your own person regardless of if you're ever in the right or not. Ultimately, Naconess is about being yourself..."


More on the dynamics of NaCo--a blend of threadless.com, dada, surrealism, agit-prop savvy, stategic essentialism, DFchic, and web 2.0 ballsy-ness (or, to be fair, inyourfaceovaries) is here.

The Mexican Mothership esta aqui!

update

Here's the entire story by Avila, in plain-text, as the Trib-link is limiting some readers to an annoying subscriber page:

www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-corr_mexicojan13,0,2184802.story
chicagotribune.com
THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS' ISSUE


Wearing the stereotypes set by the U.S.
With T-shirt slogans such as 'Brown is the new white,' the cheeky NaCo clothing line looks to bring Mexican culture level with the pervasive American pop culture.

By Oscar Avila
January 13, 2008
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO


The land that produced Diego Rivera and Carlos Fuentes should not have an inferiority complex about its cultural contributions.

But growing up in Tijuana, Edoardo Chavarin chafed under the bombardment of culture from other countries, especially his northern neighbor: Bruce Willis billboards towering over leafy plazas, Mexican rockers trying to look and sound like Robert Smith of The Cure.

With that chip on his shoulder, Chavarin helped found NaCo, a clothing line that does not flee the onslaught of American pop culture but argues that Mexico's is equally essential -- not just the meticulous murals and romantic folk tunes but also the trashy and disposable components that belong more on E! than in an art gallery.

Mexican culture came into its own in 2007, thanks to a breakthrough by three filmmakers at the Academy Awards. But even that success came with a touch of bitterness. As I interviewed young members of the Mexican film scene, they grumbled that directors Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron had to leave Mexico and buy into Hollywood to find their success.

The NaCo line, hatched in 1999 by Chavarin and fellow Mexican Robby Vient while they attended art school in California, looks to even the score. The name stands for Nacido Corrido ("born ordinary," in Spanish).

The abbreviation also refers to "naco," a slang term that loosely translates as "uncool" or "tacky." The term has a class connotation, usually coming from upper-class Mexicans to refer to poor, unrefined people from the countryside.

The NaCo manifesto, according to its Web site, is "very spiritual in its acceptance of the Self, and so, if one's Self wants to dress in unbuttoned brightly colored shiny shirts, skin-tight faded black jeans, gold chains, white socks and black shoes, topped off by a magnificent mullet, so be it."

It is impossible to get the NaCo joke unless you are Mexican or know Mexico. But it also is impossible to understand the humor unless you have been schooled in American and European pop culture. And by culture, I mean the stuff that is more profane than sacred, the slang of bar stool conversations or battered cassette tapes.

One shirt says "Chilangolandia" in the same typeface as the Disneyland logo but using the slang term for Mexico City residents, chilangos. Some shirts take more political slants, including: "Brown is the new white."

Another NaCo shirt reads "Judas Tadeo." The typeface is a direct copy of the heavy-metal band Judas Priest. But the name refers to St. Jude, a saint so widely venerated in Mexico that his feast day draws tens of thousand of pilgrims each year to a Mexico City church.

Judas Priest's Rob Halford never had groupies this devoted.

"It's taking something American, but it's making a Latino joke about it," said Chavarin, 32. "So Latinos are in on a joke that Americans don't understand. All of a sudden, instead of being below them, they are above them."

Another T-shirt shows the iconic Che Guevara image with a red clown's nose and the caption: "Chepillin." The shirt is an homage to Cepillin, arguably Mexico's most famous TV clown.

One of the most popular shirt logos is "Estar Guars," written in the font of the 1970s blockbuster with Darth Vader. The pronunciation is in Spanish but it gives you two words in English (English with a Mexican accent, to be exact).

This is post-Spanglish thinking. This is English spoken by the guy fresh off the farm from Michoacan, not the guy in a suit in a Mexico City office park who attended a Berlitz course.

"I might have a bad pronunciation or an accent," Chavarin said. "But I should be proud of it and not hide it.

"It's about embracing your culture. Yes, I say 'Estar Guars.' Yes, I say 'Pecsi' [for Pepsi]. I don't need to be embarrassed," said the bilingual Chavarin.

As families continue the back-and-forth between Mexico and the United States, the NaCo line speaks to cross-pollination, of a young man cruising the parking lot of a Waukegan apartment complex with banda music coming out of his pickup truck and then returning to a village in Jalisco with a Beck CD.

This fall, the NaCo line reached more mainstream consumers when a few Macy's and Urban Outfitters stores sold the clothes on a trial basis. The company hopes to launch free-standing stores in the U.S., possibly including in Chicago.

Chavarin isn't in any hurry to run away from stereotypes of Mexico, producing clothing that features quesadilla stands, masked Mexican wrestlers, telenovelas, even ironic and humorous spins on Mexican drug lords.

"When you embrace something," Chavarin said, "I think the taboo is gone."

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Oscar Avila covered Latin America for the Tribune in 2007, based in Mexico City.

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