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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Want to dress like a Boyle Heights Dandy? Then pull up your pants, put on a tie and take off that damn baseball hat

Barrio Dandy John Carlos De Luna/Jesse Saucedo

By Lucy Guanuna

Lurex. Wool. Sharkskin. Lamé. For John Carlos de Luna, artist and founder of online vintage clothing store, Barrio Dandy Vintage, these are more than fabrics, they make up pieces representative of a time when men’s wardrobes exuded the style and aesthetic of glamour and chivalry. The Boyle Heights resident considers these materials reminiscent of the “elegancia” of the era of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. The words come out of his mouth with as much awe and admiration as any guy would speak of a lover they are consumed by and infatuated with. For De Luna, they are “perfect” and “beautiful”.

“My objective is to work with dudes who’ve never really “dressed up. I help them pick something that makes them feel good about themselves and to feel empowered as a man,” De Luna said. His advice to fashion novices: “Pull up your pants and don’t sag them, put on a tie and take off that damn baseball hat.”

De Luna was raised in Boyle Heights by his grandparents. He said his grandfather was a “very dapper man” who abandoned his work clothes for fedoras, three piece suits and wingtip shoes as soon as the weekend hit. Living on modest means, De Luna was forced to learn how to navigate the racks of local thrift stores at an early age. That’s where he said he developed his love for “the search”, for finding pieces of used clothing that would make him whatever and whoever he wanted to be.

Reaching his teens, the now 33-year-old De Luna, was surrounded by the plague of gang violence during the ‘80s and ‘90s. In high school, De Luna opted out of the gangster lifestyle and fell into the small but thriving punk rock and rockabilly scenes of the Eastside, where his thrifting skills proved to come in handy.

“I wanted to be a rockabilly kid back in high school, or a greaser… any lil’ style or trend that was around, and I was easily able to recreate it. Not until recently did I begin to do it on a broader level, allowing me to sustain myself,” De Luna said.
De Luna has always been fascinated by the classic look and quality of clothing from the 40s and 50s and in looking to expand his own vintage clothing collection, he took to Ebay and his backyard more than 15 years ago, to trade and sell pieces. When his sales on Ebay were no longer giving him the same return, De Luna switched over to sales on the e-commerce site, Etsy, where he opened online store, Barrio Dandy Vintage, in May.

De Luna travels all over California and the West Coast in search of items for the store, which enables him to offer a varied selection of men’s vintage clothing from the ‘40s through the ‘70s. The items are categorized by era and the price range varies, starting at about $12 for a 1980’s pink Mexican American guayavera to about $65 for a canary yellow 1950’s gabardine flap pocket shirt. De Luna said he tries to remain accessible by selling most of his pieces for a little under market value.

Apart from De Luna’s online sales, he regularly hosts Barrio Dandy Vintage pop-up shops all over Los Angeles, at locales like Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights’ CaminArte and Downtown Flea.

Many of De Luna’s clients have learned of him through word of mouth but many have found Barrio Dandy Vintage through different social media platforms, particularly Instagram. Many clients began to ask for styling tips along with their purchases, which lead De Luna to add “Dandy Stylist” and personal shopper to his repertoire.

The “Barrio Dandy’s” social media presence lead Stones Throw Record’s soul duo, Myron and E, to seek him out to style their music videos “If I gave you My Love” and “Do It Disco”. “They were looking to do a ‘60s look and a late ‘80s disco hip hop look which I was most hyped up about because I grew up with a bunch of crazy gangster uncles who were into hip-hop in the 80s”, De Luna said.
He has also been asked to do costume design for independent filmmaker, Michael Centeno’s latest short film, “El Espiritu”, about a small boy and his fascination with a the ‘60s luchador, El Espiritu, which is currently in production.

He said he has hopes of one day making Barrio Dandy Vintage a brick and mortar location in the form of a men’s haberdashery. It would be place where men can go to find everything they need including clothing, jewelry, grooming supplies and music, De Luna said. “A place where gentlemen can go to be gentlemen. There’s never been anything like that on the Eastside.”

Lucy Guanuna, a journalism student at Cal State Northridge, has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.



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8 comments

  1. I applaud Mr. De Luna’s efforts. Nothing beats a well dressed man. While not a haberdashery, I would however point out that many a Boyle Heights resident fondly remembers purchasing men’s attire from Zelman’s.

  2. This is very interesting, as I have been the dapperest of all, especially since I’ve been dapper longer, and I live in Boyle Heights, which I don’t really like to consider it a Barrio.
    What I do like about this article, is that perhaps others will take note, and we will have an eye pleasing view of Dapper and Dandy, also in Boyle Heights.. And thought Mr. De Luna is only 33, I am in my 50’s and have a huge head start, and so did my grandparents, whom were also a part of the Chavez Ravine/Dodger Stadium situation.
    And said that Mr. De Luna, is only focusing on “dudes’, when is might more appropriate to say “boys/men”. With being Dapper/Dandy, also comes good manners, not just the outside of ones self, but also the inside of being a gentlemen. And, with well groomed men, come women, and I hope that he can also be humbled in helping the women with the “dudes”. I’m also going to contact Mr. De Luna, looks like he needs some shopping tips, and I have them, some shops in town, are also my sponsors for special events that I have been a part of…Vivian~Dapper Dyke, born and raised in Boyle Heights

  3. Is it ironic that he wears lame?

  4. Hmm, his age doesn’t match up with the styles. He wanted to be a rockabilly kid in HS? If that’s the case we are talking about the mid 90s since he was born in 1980. Rockabilly had a resurgence in the 1980s. I should know I was part of it and I’m in my early 50s. I’ve done the whole thrift store shopping thing since I was in HS and got into the New Wave/Rockabilly music scene. In fact, I still do thrift store shopping on a regular basis. Pasadena was one of my favorite places to spend a whole Saturday going to different thrift stores. Sadly, several of my favorites were closed when they started gentrifying Old Town. There are still some good ones around though.

    My favorite experiences have been when I discover a gold mine. Those are instances when you come across a whole group of clothes that happen to be your size, in great condition, and have great style. In those cases, it’s probably a set of clothes of someone who has passed and their clothes were donated all at once. I would always wonder about the person who originally had the clothes especially when the clothes are of excellent quality and style.

    However, in the last 10 years, prices at many so called thrift stores have sky rocketed. I refuse to step inside a store that labels itself as vintage for example because it just means their merchandize will be overpriced. It’s also now much harder to find good stuff from the 40s, 50s, and 60s which is why I haven’t bought too much clothes in the last 10 years. The 70s don’t interest me much because was just old enough to experience it first hand and it wasn’t all that even then.

    Now I concentrate on adding to my collection of vintage ties and mens accessories like cuff links, tie bars, and tie tacks.

    BTW, I grew up in Boyle Heights too and notice that the picture in the story is at the Mariachi Plaza across the street from the Serenata de Garibalde one of my favorite Mexican restaurants on the Eastside, the REAL Eastside.

  5. Good for him! I’ll still be wearing my baseball hat. Homie!

  6. The Boyle Heights Chipsters are very clicky-

    I did a show with this guy and other artist in the area and because I was Not part of their click/ Clica -Rock-a-Belly style, they were less then welcoming to other artist.

    Also they keep having Fundraisers for the Corazon del Pueblo…and they keep asking for money $$$ but they still have it open when they are Behind on Rent!!! Instead of asking for money.

    Pay your Bill$, vato or are you funding it for your trajes/suites- you say you have no money!

  7. Keep doing your thing,there will always be haters and kooks that don’t appreciate style..STILO born in 71 at White Memorial raised in the SGV and still stayin’ sharp..Cheers

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