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LA streetwear brand Paisaboys celebrates Mexican heritage

LA streetwear brand Paisaboys celebrates Mexican heritage

This is part of Image Issue 4, “Image Makers,” which is an expression of LA’s stylish lighting. In this issue, we pay tribute to people and brands that are pushing the fashion culture of the city forward.

In February, LA children flocked in masks to Mid-City and stood in line in front of a low-rise building on Washington Boulevard with a yellow, white, and red sign that could be instantly recognizable to anyone who spent summers in Mexico with their cousins: OXXO. Yes, OXXO, Latin America’s ubiquitous and iconic grocery store. The first place you went when you crossed the border to bid well Ruffles. A place known to every Mexican American, either by first-hand experience or lore.

OXXO does not actually exist in LA, but Paisaboys had listed a manufactured version as a pop-up one way to release the streetwear-branded OXXO collection, which paid homage to the store’s importance. The Fall was one of Paisaboy’s many successful attempts at an inside joke. The t-shirts were sold out almost immediately.

Paisaboys is a brand built on insuendo. Its ethos can best be described as a tip – a very specific, yet deeply relatable nod to culture. It works precisely because it is without explanation. If I have a Paisaboys design, I know what’s good. If you recognize it, so do you. There is a mutual understanding.

The references are plentiful. An early piece that paid homage to a notorious bar in Oaxaca called King Kong. A dedication to “El Rey del Corrido”, the late Chalino Sánchez, in the style of the old school designs you would get screen printed at the exchange meeting to honor your deceased loved ones (think lots of tall pictures: pigeons and gold pendants)). A recent collaboration with artist Speak featured a remixed image of the Bimbo bear holding a plate of cash with a cigar between his dazzled fingers.

Javier Bandera, left, wears Paisaboys ComplexCon Collection with StreetX Tee; Javi Bandera and Joey Barba wear custom Paisaboys harnesses around their necks

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

The Paisaboys cult has been strong since 2016, when the brand was created by two West LA children, Joey Barba and Javier Bandera. “Immediately people told us, ‘This is dope. You touch something deep, ‘”Barba recalls. “That’s what people want – to feel the nostalgia, the nuance, the inside joke that you know when you grow up as Mexicans in LA”

However, it is not only Mexican Americans or Latinos who are rocking the gear. Hundreds of co-founder Bobby Kim recently wore a Paisaboys T-shirt while serving as a guest judge on HBO Max’s “The Hype.” LA rapper Buddy has been seen more than once rocking a Paisaboys design on stage, including a T-shirt that says “ILLEGALALIENS” in bold neon letters across the front. Paisaboys leaves no subject – from neighborhood politics to immigration – untouched. The deep-rooted tension between Salvadoran and Mexican communities in LA? “The beef is over,” Paisaboys exclaimed last year on his Unity T-shirt with a sharp redirect: “ENEMIGO COMUN” (common enemy) next to a photo of Trump.

Barba and Bandera are not interested in long clarifications. Why should they be? Their pieces sell out faster than it would take someone unfamiliar to perform a Google search.

“We are unapologetic,” Bandera says. “People relate to it. Even if you do not get the specific reference in a design that we release on a shirt, that is the attitude. That is the fact that we are not going to adapt. ”


Barba had the idea of ​​putting the phrase “Paisaboys” on a T-shirt back in 2015. He worked for his father’s garden business-still does-and was inspired by his colleagues, undocumented men who came here from Mexico to make money or start new lives but remained deeply connected to their homeland. He wanted to find a way to tell their stories. “All these people have these stories that you don’t even hear about,” Barba says. “They are actually amazing tales of family coming to this country, successes, setbacks and comebacks.”

A mutual friend brought Barba into contact with Bandera, an alum in Cal State LA who started a digital apparel business while working in a footwear store. Barba and Bandera clicked right away. They teamed up for the shared experience of waking up at dawn to perform manual labor with their immigrant fathers throughout LA Banderas father, who came to this country from Mexico City in the 1980s, ran a cell phone washing company. Barba wanted to help his father, a native of Jalisco, with gardening in Venice.

“Seeing how the wealthy homeowners talked to our parents, the way they treated them, created a lot of frustration,” Bandera says. “That’s why many of our T-shirts are very outspoken.”

But most of all, Barba and Bandera connected one word: paisa. Literally translates to “countryman” paisa is within Latino culture a kind of insult with an aesthetic: flashy, extra, camp. Crocodile cowboy boots with the extra long pointed toe, bedazzled belt buckle the size of a fist, 28-inch rims on a Lincoln Navigator.

Javier Bandera, left, and Joey Barba

Javier Bandera, left, and Joey Barba

(Nailah Howze / For The Times)

Barba and Bandera were excited about the idea of ​​reclaiming it. Banderas father, though not so much. “My father was like that, ‘Country? Why are you putting it on the shirt? It’s an insult, ”Remember Bandera. (Why are you wearing it on a shirt? It’s an insult.) “He was mad.” The challenge was to see that word change, Barba says. “If we can get people to go from: ‘Damn, it looks like paisa, ‘to’ Yo! You see paisa, Bro. It looks tight. ‘”

“It’s probably been the most rewarding,” Bandera adds. Now his father is rocking with his Paisaboys hat.

Despite Paisboy’s success, Bandera and Barba still work their daily jobs. Bandera now runs his own printing business, Product of LA, while Barba still wakes up at dawn to go to the garden with her father. He is his father’s only son and is expected to take over the business.

“I literally want gardening tomorrow,” Barba says, laughing. Do not care that the world begins to catch on. In 2019, one of their collections was sold at Fred Segal. Soon they will release their first collection on Nordstrom. “There have been situations where I have my big hat on and my fan, and I take a call from Nordstrom. They do not know. ”

This balance is necessary for both of them to maintain the perspective that makes Paisaboys what it is: authentic, unpretentious, genuine, intimately connected to the experience of the people who wear their clothes.

“This is a day off for us,” Barba says of making T-shirts. “Do you want hard work? Trim a tree. … Everything we do is easy and not so stressful. The reality is that life can be a lot harder. ”

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