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Pachuco Supply Co.: Preserving Corrido and Lowrider Culture Through Handmade Hats in Boyle Heights

4:04 PM PST on December 9, 2022

    “For some, these hats are a way of invoking the spirit of someone who has passed,” Gilberto Marquez owner of Pachuco Supply Co. said while steaming and molding a tejana in his studio in Boyle Heights.

    “For me, it’s a connection to my ancestors, my grandparents, and my father who passed away.”

    Marquez is a first-generation Mexican American born in Anaheim, growing up in a Chicano household he was no stranger to lowrider culture, cruising on the weekends was like a ritual for his family. At these events, it’s well-known that la Raza dresses to impress, their attire must complement their classic cars. Some wear zoot suits, high wasted wide-legged pants often accompanied by suspenders, and a hat that brings the outfit together. While others wear their freshly pressed dickies or 501 jeans, slick back hair, and a fedora. Every garment is carefully curated.

    “That's when I realized hats were a staple and a very important part of someone's outfit especially when you’re going out with the intention of looking good,” said Marquez who was fairly young at the time. 

    Naturally, as he grew older, his style evolved and he took over his father, a man born in Sonora who would always be seen rocking a sleek fedora similar to the ones Marquez is now making. He would make sure to wear a hat with all of his outfits and soon he began to collect hats that he would customize for himself.

    “I never thought I would sell hats but one day a friend said to me ‘hey sell me your hat’ and that's where it all started even though I didnt know it then,” said Marquez reminiscing on his early beginnings. 

    “I thought that was it,” he added. 

    But then after creating an Instagram to share his designs he received a call that took his then-small business to a whole new level. 

    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO
    Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO

    That’s when Madonna's stylist asked me to make her and the dancers seven hats and I’m like holy shit,” he recalls. “Everything that I have done has been by myself from trial and error fucking up a hat and figuring out what works and what doesn't, so getting that call was wild.”

    Soon he and his wife Cinthya Marquez who freestyles the branding on the hats began to make orders for prominent figures like Los Dos Carnales, La Santa Cecilia, Edward James Olmos, Dolores Huerta, Kat Von D, and more. 

    His now famous hats take about a week and a half to make, he first begins by steaming the material which ranges from fur felt, wool and straw. The process of steaming the hat by hand allows the material to loosen up enough to shape the outline. After this he must let the hats dry for at least two days then the sowing and branding begin.

    Marquez and his wife Cinthya get to work, each to their designated stations, one steams and molds while the other (Cinthya) the artist, begins to brand customized images by hand on either the top or side of the hat. Everything is done out of his studio in Boyle Heights, an impressive studio that makes you feel at home right when you walk in. Marquez offers his guests a shot of Ilegal Mezcal, a brand he’s worked at for the last decade as Global Ambassador. By the bar there's a wall that is filled with hats that he has designed. One side of his studio is for hosting while the other hidden behind a curtain is where the magic happens. 

    “It’s meditation for us; we’re hyperfocused, focusing on one task and giving it the attention it deserves,” Marquez said as he switched his music from oldies to corridos. “It's a disconnection from the world but a connection to my past and my culture.”

    If you ask Marquez what hat represents Pachuco Supply Co. he will tell you it's their “El Clasico” hat. A dark brown hat made out of brown hare, with intricate details like an escapulario of La Virgen Maria sowed onto the side, a smile now cry later pin and a Palo Santo. The hat is a tribute to many things but mainly his late father who had a huge Virgen Mary tattoo on his chest.

    “That’s where the escapulario comes in on the hat, but El Clasico also represents me growing up in my neighborhood where murals were everywhere, there was always a Virgen, and usually, there's a botanica around so that’s why I added the Palo Santo,” he said.

    For him, the name Pachuco which he named his brand after, represents self-respect and defending of a community. This is why from the beginning he knew he wanted to use his platform to give back.  Raising money for team Brownsville, Border Kindness, No Us Without You, and the Chicano Park Museum.

    “It's been a real goal of mine to solidify a little rinconsito in Chicano history, that for me is the way that I can use this platform to serve my community. So it's not just hats, it's hard work and giving back.”

    Follow Pachuco Supply Co. on Instagram for more information.

    This story is part of a two-part series on brands that are preserving vaquero culture in their own unique way.

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