Mexican folk music, or rancheras, continue to be the means of expression and the Mexican people's soul, with all its variations and ethnic richness. Ranchera music is quite a popular folk music genre, generally related to mariachis. Its interpreters can perform in any format (singer-guitarist, duet, triplet, quartet, norteño ensemble, band, etc.).
Besides the qualities related to its unique sound, the attire worn by ranchera interpreters is also quite distinctive. In this article, we'll start with some general knowledge associated with this kind of music, including its importance and iconic artists. Afterward, we'll focus on the particular outfit preferred by artists of this genre. The latter includes historical influences and current events that have created this specific look.
The importance of Mexican folk music
Even though the genre has spread internationally, the most faithful fans are in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Its human expression and strong sentiment are evident. Some of the main topics in songs include an underlying "machismo" that proclaims lost love, adultery, and ingratitude. In other words, the eternal themes present in romantic relationships. These traits have made this genre a total hit in the Spanish musical culture for many years.
Many artists have contributed to the immortalization of Mexican music. Some of the classics are Vicente Fernández, Lola Beltrán, Ana Gabriel, Pedro Infante, and Rocío Durcal. There's also a whole newer generation of artists. Régulo Caro, Gerardo Ortiz, Larry Hernández, Banda el Recodo, and Pancho Barraza (Banda Los Recoditos), Carlos Sarabia, and Banda MS, El Kommander, are only some of them. These artists' musical talents are undeniable. As any huge artist does, they have created entire personas. Their wardrobe is an essential component. Let's dig a little deeper into that.
Indigenous roots in clothing
Clothing is one of the cultural traits that form the identity of an entire society. The clothes in which people spend their lives reflect the essential characteristics of their beliefs, aesthetic ideals, and relationships with the environment.
In Mexico, for example, there is a vast amount of typical clothing. Since ancient times the first inhabitants of the country (depending on the region from which they were) were passionate about transforming their natural resources into beautiful things. They used to cover themselves from the weather with lively colors and various symbols that reflected their beliefs and details of their cosmogony.
Despite all the changes over time, the textile traditions from centuries ago are still alive. Indigenous artists still use some techniques, like using natural fibers, intense colors, and references to nature, including fauna and flora.
Mexican folk music and textile tradition
But what does this all have to do with Mexican folk music, you ask? Everything! Rancheras are considered rural music. Its name means music of the ranches, which is what they call rural areas in Mexico. It is a form of "peasant music" that, as with other Latin American genres, arises in response to the notions of "cultured music" of the reigning aristocracy (link to Kitsch-fashion article). Without a doubt, this has played a very important role in the construction of the ranchera artist look.
Nobody can deny that the successful Netflix series "Narcos" has also played a significant influence, which has set fashion trends. Due to this TV series, an excessive look with a Latin aura has become an easily recognizable and popular style. So much so that it even has a unique name: "narco- fashion" or "narco- aesthetic." The latter means a flashy or ostentatious way of dressing that combines perfectly with drug lords' personalities, who are also fashion criminals.
Fashion becomes another weapon for cartel members to demonstrate their power over other people, just as violence and extortion. The clothes, jewelry, and watches they wear are a way of expressing their "new money" status. It's a statement that glorifies their business and highlights a tremendously "macho" masculinity. Are you starting to notice the similarities with rancheras? It's because we're talking about a society's characteristics as a whole, which encompasses every cultural expression.
Specific attributes of narco-fashion
The wardrobe of a drug lord is, in their case, more striking because of the use they make of the colors and patterns of their shirts. They try to convey respectability but always seek to distinguish themselves within society. That's because they consider that they are outside of society, at the top, controlling others at will.
Forget the dull, embrace the loud
If there is a characteristic trait in "narco-fashion," it is the printed shirts. There are no plain shirts on sight here since they prefer prints of tropical inspiration and atypical geometric motifs. Fashion thrives on what happens around the world. So, it's not surprising that the Narcos TV series' success has influenced fashion trends somehow. Renowned fashion firms such as Gucci, Dsquared, Valentino, or Dolce and Gabbana have presented garments with some inspiration in "narco-aesthetics" in their men's collections. In these collections, they opted for silk shirts with striking prints and rare colored suits.
El Chapo's shirt
Barabas Men is a living example of this trend. The shirt that el Chapo Guzmán (insert picture), the great Mexican drug lord, wore in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine sold out in a couple of hours! Something unthinkable in the past for a shirt with a herbal print, with vertical stripes in blue tones, from our brand. "Narco- fashion" has come back in a big way due to Netflix's Narcos, but historically speaking, this isn't a new trend. Many brands have taken advantage of the fascination that gangsters and controversial characters always create, since the days of Al Capone.
Different ingredients present in a specific culture build a particular idiosyncrasy. It's only natural for some Mexicans to be outraged when associated with drug traffickers since there's so much more to Mexican culture, including their rich indigenous heritage. However, it's also true that drug cartels have played a significant role in the past decades, not only in Mexico but worldwide. This is the kind of influence that, sometimes unknowingly, shapes a country's culture as a whole, including its primary expressions. Music, including lyrics and attire, is, of course, not the exception.