Sunday, February 26, 2006

Shoe Palace – Tanforan

I went to high school with Cholas. They stood on the concrete benches that ran along the hallways, hair sprayed into stiff Ms, bra straps hanging out of white tank tops, dark Levi cords accessorized with navy blue canvas shoes and web belts. When it was cold, or perhaps, if the principal made them, they wore Pendleton shirts. The more femme girls wore babydoll tank tops, the smocked kind you used to be able to buy by the foot at the fabric store and turn into a top with one seam.

That was years ago. Now, the Latinas I see on a daily basis are more likely to shop at Forever 21 than the men’s department at Sears. If you want to see Chola style, you must be content to shop at Macy’s for the few bits of inspiration Gwen Stefani stole for her L.A.M.B collection. Where have all the Cholas gone? Is it a style that is no longer relevant? I used to think so, until this weekend, at Shoe Palace in the Tanforan Mall.

I was ogling the wall of youth-sized Nikes, (By the way, girls, youth sizes go up to 6.5, which is the same as a women’s 8.5, at nearly half the price.) when three girls in full Chola uniform walked in. Instead of cords, they wore Dickies, and their tank tops were much tighter and shorter, but they had the same unmistakable Chola hairdo, the same pencil-thin eyebrows and the same black plastic bracelets tied into intricate designs. They were all buying black Vans. It’s probably the closest they could get to the navy blue canvas shoes of the 80s.

If Chola-style is coming back, Tanforan mall, with it’s distinctive urban focus, is the place for it to happen. Shoe Palace is the perfect starting point. The clerks dress more hip hop than shop boy, all of the shoes are up-to-the minute teenage chic and the price is right. I bought a pair of Air Max Nikes for $80. Try doing that at Macy’s.

Tanforan Mall
San Bruno, CA 94066


Billy Batson said...

This entry rocks! You tell me a story and no twee elements bog it down.

surfclothing said...


Lots of shoes and flip flops in this photograph. Huge collection. Any collection of animal flip flops there?