Hatmaker Gilbert Marquez Pays Homage to Pachuco Culture With Custom-Made Hats Now Worn by Madonna
Gilbert Marquez, the founder of Pachuco Supply Co., discovered his love for hat-making on a whim.
While working in the agave fields of Mexico as a mezcal ambassador, he met a sombrerero, and the rest is history.
Growing up in North Orange County, Los Angeles, Marquez was raised by a community of bold Chicanos. They embodied lowrider culture and a tidy wardrobe as a statement of personal and cultural pride.
Marquez is a fan of the Western hat. He remembers his father dressed in a clean tailored suit always topped off with a bolo hat.
Since getting into the hat-making business in 2017, Marquez has become a master at his craft. Stretching his reach into other ambitious projects he harmoniously brings together at Savila House.
However, his journey didn’t start with hats. In fact, Marquez explored different avenues, before finally finding the one that truly spoke to him. Here’s what he shared with mitú.
Mixology, mezcal and digging into his Mexican roots were a starting point for Marquez
Marquez began his journey with a desire to become a chef. A first-generation child of immigrants, his father hailing from Sonora, Mexico and mother hailing from Jalisco, Marquez soon realized attending culinary school would not be an option for him. He turned to the next best thing, mixology.
“One day I booked a class and went off to do mixology where I was pouring gin, whiskey, bourbon and realized [those spirits] were not for me,” he says.
Simultaneously, while working as a mixologist, Marquez learned Danza Mexica (or Aztec Dance) and immersed himself in pre-Hispanic Aztec culture. Soon after he was introduced to mezcal and suddenly something clicked. That’s when he began concocting his own take on old-school cocktail recipes he restructured using mezcal on social media. Marquez refers to it as “cocteleria a la Mexicana.”
As his social media presence grew, so did the demand for his craft cocktails. The entrepreneur soon began traveling back and forth from the United States to consult for restaurants both in the U.S. and Mexico. During these travels, he came across Illegal Mezcal and everything changed.
As a global brand ambassador for Ilegal Mezcal, he came across his new passion — hat making
Working for Ilegal Mezcal for 10 years, Marquez met his new love — the sombrero. While traveling back and forth as a brand ambassador and mixologist, he met a sombrerero. That’s when the desire to make his own sparked.
“When I met the sombrerero, everything just hit me like a ton of bricks. I said ‘this is what I want to do, I want to learn how to make lowrider hats and I want to learn how to make tejanas’,” he says.
Marquez expressed that all of his idols, like Chalino Sanchez and Valentín Elizalde, and the lowrider zoot suiters he grew up around, were the catalyst for him deciding on the kinds of hats he wanted to learn to make.
Pachuco Supply Co. started when Marquez purchased a stack of old hats from someone in Mexico intending to throw them away.
“I knew that recycling, repurposing and upcycling was important, and there’s something about an old hat that just has so much soul,” he describes.
Marquez saved the doomed accessories and brought them back to his little apartment in Boro Park, Brooklyn where he lived with his wife, Cynthia. He watched YouTube videos and taught himself how to restructure the old hats and bring them back to life.
A hat-making business honoring Pachuco culture
In 2017, he and his wife Cynthia bought a small house in Southern California with a garage. Including his cousin, Danny, they began making hats from that same garage.
Marquez set up a cellphone and tripod, sharing the process of hat-making on social media. Eventually, he drew a curious crowd. Pachuco Supply Co., is based on his understanding of Pachuco culture, was and still is. As Marquez puts it, someone who has deep self-respect for and makes sure that they are always well put together.
Madonna, Los Dos Carnales and other artists have their own pieces by Marquez
One day Marquez got a call from Madonna’s stylist requesting a custom hat for her and her dancers. The small team got cracking and Madonna’s custom hat was made from denim, featuring an “X” engraved on the front by Cynthia.
This project validated Marquez, he knew he was on the right path. Slowly, the team got custom orders for more musicians including Los Dos Carnales, Nergal from famed death metal band Behemoth, Roco Pachukote, lead Singer of La Maldita Vecindad, and more.
“The growth of Mexican música regional, which is international now, particularly with the popularity of Peso Pluma, has helped grow our sales,” Marquez shares. “Just recently I had a couple order a pair of custom matching sombreros so they can wear them to a Peso Pluma concert. Even though [Peso Pluma] himself doesn’t dress in the traditional regional style or wear sombreros, it has still inspired people to embrace and even take more pride in their culture.”
Today Pachuco Supply Co. makes many hats ranging from wool, rabbit, beaver and straw. They use handwoven Ecuadorian straw, the material most often seen on famous Panama hats. They also treat and tan the raw materials by hand in-house. Similar to his early beginnings with mixology, Marquez remixes materials used for traditional Panama hats and structures and shapes them in the Tejana hat style.
“A finished hat can be simple or can be flashy with pearls, feathers, or satin bands over the brim,” he shares. Marquez also has more experimental designs some of which may feature a hat with a straw dome and a felt brim.
Custom hats leave an abundance of room for the imagination, often people request memorial hats where the band at the top can feature fabric from the tie of a passed loved one, or Cynthia can engrave the portrait or quote of a loved one onto the hat.
The present and the future of Pachuco Supply Co.
In early 2022, Pachuco Supply Co. opened its first workshop in L.A. under the 6th Street bridge and have recently moved to its newest location off of Cesar Chavez Avenue in Los Angeles.
“We’re so happy that this has grown into a business that is sustainable and viable. What has helped us grow is transparency, consistency, and being real,” says Marquez.
He also realizes that not everyone is as comfortable wearing a bold statement piece like a custom hat. “A lot of people are too scared to wear one of these traditional hats and walk into a bar with their heads held high. We always tell them you’re wearing the hat, the hat isn’t wearing you.”
“Pachuco culture today doesn’t necessarily exist within the confines of specific style and zoot suit wardrobe. More so the philosophy of self-respect, self-care, connection to native roots, connection to your motherland, is very much alive,” Marquez says. “Traditions adapt and change over time.”
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