In this day and age, it’s really important to be aware of what cultural appropriation is and to be careful to not fall into this trap just for being uninformed or ignorant. If you’re someone who really enjoys wearing comfortable clothes, you’ll likely have stumbled upon the so-called Baja hoodies.
These pieces are almost too good to be true, and their quirky designs are something else. But you might also be aware that their origin is foreign, and maybe that’s even stopped you from buying one. If you’re curious about where “drug rugs” came from and if you’d be committing cultural appropriation by wearing one, keep reading this article.
What is a Baja hoodie?
The Baja hoodie is also known as a Baja jacket, a Baja sweatshirt of the infamous “drug rug”. This garment is similar to a Mexican poncho, but with sleeves, a single, large pocket at the front, and a hood. A Baja hoodie also features vents on the sides.
While some people think the name is due to the region it comes from, the word Baja actually describes the material. Baja hoodies are made of a thick woolen fabric similar to flannel that’s called “jerga”. This flannel fabric (in Spanish called “franela”) has a synonym which is “Baja”. As for the name “drug rug”, it can either come from the fact that another material used to make them was hemp, but they’re also widely known as being used by “stoners”.
This wool or cotton fabric is multicolored and with crossed patterns that consist of vertical stripes and horizontal stripes on the sleeves and pocket. Unlike typical hoodies, the drawstrings of Baja hoodies are made of the same material as the rest of the garment, and they’re rectangular, flat, and wider.
Although the original Baja hoodies were made from cotton or natural wool, nowadays you can find them in polyester and synthetic fabrics or recycled materials. One of the main features of drug rugs is that they’re extra warm (perfect for cold weather), somewhat lightweight yet waterproof and they dry really fast and absorb humidity. The Baja hoodie is, undoubtedly, a jacket made for all weather.
Where do drug rugs come from?
There are plenty of theories as to where the Baja hoodie actually comes from. Throughout history, we’ve seen appearances of the drug rug in several parts of Central and South America, in countries such as Chile and Argentina. We could say, once more, that the drug rug is a derivative of the poncho found in most Latin- American ancient cultures.
But when did this comfy jacket become popular in the US? It all started in the 1970s, with the boom of the surfer/hippie culture. In this decade, Californian youngsters liked to get away from their crowded beaches and headed South to Baja California, Mexico, to ride some waves. These foreigners saw the locals wearing these chunky and colored woven hoodies and instantly liked them. It’s important to note that, in Mexico, this piece is also worn by more hippie-style people or even people from the cholo style gangs.
But back to the story, young American surfers quickly adopted the Baja hoodie not only in Mexico but on their own coasts as well. They thought it was the perfect garment since its absorbent and warm material made them perfect to wear after surfing to avoid getting cold.
The Baja hoodie became so popular so fast that soon many famous musicians, surfers, and skaters rocked the piece along with their “Peace & Love” style.
Advantages of wearing Baja hoodies
There are many qualities of owning and wearing a Baja hoodie. If you live in a cold place or you’re always chilly, these pieces are perfect. They’re even typically worn by people who live in the mountain areas in Mexico. In fact, it doesn’t matter which weather you live in, Baja hoodies are great for warm weather as well since they’re really good at absorbing humidity. If you usually dress with casual clothing, this item can complement all of your outfits perfectly.
Are drug rugs cultural appropriation?
If we leave the “free-spirited” 70’s behind us, our modern society considers that Baja hoodies are commonly worn by hippies, highly spiritual people, alternative artists, and, of course, stoners. But the truth is, this piece of garment has leaked to other social spheres as a fashion statement that’s also pretty comfortable. Some major fashion designers have even made a reinvention of the Baja hoodie under their labels to get famous and chic people to jump into the trend.
But even if not sold by high-end fashion brands, drug rugs are more popular than ever because local vendors in Mexico make sure every tourist takes one home before they leave the country. Just as you would buy a bottle of tequila, you can take a Baja hoodie with you. While there is plenty of debate around drug rugs and cultural appropriation, the truth is, at least in Mexico, these pieces are not the property of any indigenous tribe in particular nor it’s a crucial part of their beliefs. In fact, Baja hoodies are not that common in big cities and they’re probably sold to more tourists than locals nowadays.
But what does it all mean? Are you “free” to wear a drug rug or not? Our advice to you is “relax”! While the Baja hoodie might have been a discovery that the Americans found in Mexico, it is nowadays one of the most beloved pieces of garment for young people, particularly students. These colorful and original jackets offer comfort and warmth even on the most chilly days, and they can certainly be worn by any type of person who likes the pattern.
So it’s time to leave your worries aside, as well as the people’s judgments. Baja hoodies are not exclusively for stoners, they’re not for hippies only, they’re definitely not for criminals, and they’re not cultural appropriation, so you can start rocking them whenever you’d like. Are you ready to wear your first Baja hoodie?