Why Japanese Women Are Dressing Like Chicanas | Style Out There | Refinery29

You’re gonna get Pinche Loca. Right there? Yes. Like f*cking crazy? Are you nervous about people who know what
“pinche loca” actually means see’s that tattoo? It’s burrito night at the California Social Club. A night to kick back with Coronas and scope
out fashion. There’s bandanas, rosaries, and lowriders. It’s blowing my mind because the thing is,
I’m not in California. This is Nagoya, an industrial city on the
coast of Japan. I was invited to a barbecue, I don’t know
if it’s gonna be Japanese food or Mexican food but I brought Connie food: chips! Everybody loves chips right? Hi! Oh my god, I’ve never had burritos in Japan
before. I feel like I’ve stepped into bizarro world. Never in my life have I seen a subculture
styled as people from another race. If you feel a kneejerk reaction seeing Japanese
women posing as Latinas, thank pop culture. Selena Gomez in a bindi, Kylie Jenner in corn rows. America is locked in a virtual shouting match
right now around cultural appropriation. That’s when you take something that’s
meaningful to another culture and wear it just because it makes you look good. This debate can spark a wildfire so, take
a deep breath. We’re about to dive in. What is the line between celebrating another
culture, and stealing it? I’m hoping Ayaka can give me some insight. Each morning Ayaka transforms her face to look like a Chicana, an American of Mexican decent. Ayaka felt drawn to the power she saw in Chicanas from ‘90s movies, like Mi Vida Loca and Selena. Where bandanas, dark lips, and Nike Cortez sneakers channeled stories of romance and resilience. Take a look in the mirror, guero. These movies were huge hits in the states. But they also became international cult classics. So this is your closet? A woven poncho. I think I had one of those in high school. Oh, sports jerseys? Does it matter what team? As an American who lives around real Chicanas, my spidey sense is tingling. Ayaka’s clothes look in line with ‘90s
Chola style, but where is the substance? Oh. This is a costume…for a prison inmate. I have some Mexican American friends who might
see what you’re doing and be like, “There’s a red flag here,” because some of the elements of the style that you have are what they consider to be the worst stereotypes about their community. In my experience, playing up stereotypes is
a big no-no. But I see that Ayaka feels a real kinship to the idea of Chicanas. I feel conflicted, so I check in with Denise
Sandoval. She’s an expert in Chicano Studies at California
State University Northridge. Do you think that what Japanese women are doing in regards to Chola style is cultural appropriation? Yeah, I do. But they’re making their own meaning from it. They see it as they’re honoring and they’re
respecting Chicana/Chicano culture. But I think on the other side, they have freedom from the life and death politics of the style
in the streets of L.A. Denise tells me that there are political roots
to that rebellious look Chicanas are famous for. Chicano identity is tied to the civil rights
movement. The Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. You’re refusing to split, you’re both Mexican
and American and now it’s that style of resistance of women empowering themselves. Tough, right? You don’t want to mess with these women. What is it about Chicano/Chicana culture that
might be so appealing to Japanese communities? I think for Japanese people there are a lot
of things happening, right? I think what they appreciate is the diversity
that exists here in the United States. You have to understand the culture of Japan,
how it’s very traditional. There’s something in Japanese culture that
they’re not connecting to. That’s the fascinating part, right? That they’re finding liberation and freedom
in other cultures. In Japan, all the women’s fashion I’ve
seen seems to strive toward a single ideal. Cute, soft and submissive. I have to know, what is it from their own culture
these women are rebelling against? There’s someone I’ve been wanting to meet:
the rapper who inspired Ayaka’s style. She goes by MoNa a.k.a. Sad Girl. Say what you will about Mona’s Chicana cred,
this diva has done her research. Her songs are packed with English and Spanish
lyrics. Her room looks like a shrine to retro swag
from the Barrio. This case is so full of stuff. JV? How many times have you read this magazine then? Countless? What do Chicana women have that you wish you
saw more here with Japanese women? Many people in America believe that if it’s
not a culture you were born with, it’s not a culture you should participate in. I see Mona’s point. Every culture appropriates in some way. It’s how we share ideas and hobbies. In fact, that’s how this whole fad started. When some Japanese autoworkers took a trip
to L.A. and fell hard for the cars. Welcome to Paradise Road, a hobby shop run
by Junichi, one of the original Japanese Chicanos. Wow. So this is a car guy’s candy store? Yeah. There’s so much to look at. Car manufacturing is Nagoya’s top industry. Here, car culture is an integral part of the
city, just like it is in L.A. It led Nagoyans and Angelinos to share skills and become friends. Japanese mechanics began building lowriders as a passion project. But, until recently, it was a man’s game. Sumire is not your average auto mechanic. How many other women work here? Sumire has fashioned herself out of the sort of fierce woman Mona sings about. She’s learning how to pair eyeliner with
coveralls, and teaching herself how to lower her own car frames. Oh my god! This is your car? I love it! Oh my god, it’s so cute! Are you Catholic yourself? You’re not? You just like the look. It must feel good for a female mechanic to
know that somewhere in this world, getting your hands dirty on car engines carries some
serious sex appeal. If Sumire can get that kind of confidence
from someone else’s culture, who am I to say that she doesn’t appreciate it? Once a month Japan’s greater Cholo scene convenes
to show off what it does best, lowrider cars. Lavish, loud and low. What I’ve learned is…Chicano culture has
provided a source of inspiration. That there’s more than one way to be a Japanese woman. And, if you ask me, that’s reason enough
to put on a pair of Dickeys. I have to admit, this cultural appropriation
makes sense to me. There’s respect, and it actually leads to a deeper understanding of other people. Maybe this is what the future looks like:
A world where culture isn’t only where you come from, but also where you fit in. So for now, I’m rolling with it. Thanks for watching Style Out There. To subscribe to Refinery29’s YouTube channel,
click here. For more videos like this, click here.


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