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back of female model standing in the desert wearing a striped poncho and white cowboy hat framed by cacti

Photo: Raisa Nastukova

west coast style

Ponchos: Let’s Discuss!

Who wouldn't be obsessed with a jacket that's as cozy as a blanket? Here's how to make it werk.

Written On 1/23/2022

Much like the caftan had its moment in the sun last summer,

another style consisting of voluminous amounts of fabric is having a super hot moment right now. We’re talking folks, about the poncho. While there’s no question this iconic item can easily work its way into your closet (and heart!), there’s also no denying it can be a tricky lewk to most definitely rawk. Let’s go over some basics, shall we?

The origin story of the poncho

Plenty of Californians, Mexicans, and Phish fans are familiar with the Baja hoodie, a kind of “poncho light” if you will. The traditional poncho, however, originates in South American culture and IMPORTANT PEOPLE: lacks sleeves. Hear that? Because this ubiquitous in SoCal style has roots in Californian surfers borrowing the look from what we can only assume were EPIC trips to Baja in Mexico, somehow the hoodie is lumped in with ponchos, even though it’s not like, really a poncho, ok?

If you want to dig deeper into ponchos, you should totally go for it. But in a nutshell: We know that ponchos first showed up on “Native American peoples of the Andes and Patagonia since pre-Hispanic times” (thank you Wikipedia) and even ancient renderings of people rocking this style prove that the look is indeed both timeless and fierce.

When to wear a poncho

Just as the caftan is designed to look elegant and unflattering/flattering to all in its total ignorance of the idea of “body con,” a poncho will truly camouflage all “flaws,” which we don’t believe in anyway, but more importantly, this garment provides infinite comfort, warmth, and dare we say, an element of je ne sais quoi to all. For those in warmer climes like California, a poncho provides an alternative to say, a down jacket, which really does look ridiculous when it’s 70-degrees outside in January, and lends a chic transitional moment during the fall months for those who reside in colder temps.

How to style a poncho

While the US military has historically adopted waterproof ponchos to wear on the battlefield during inclement weather times, we feel that a serious uniform would make this casual sartorial choice appear far too formal. 

Instead, a poncho communicates to those around you that you are confident enough to sport what truly amounts to a large blanket, outside of the house. (And yet, it somehow conveys that you are trying just a bit harder as opposed to say, simply wearing a robe.) Less-is-more with the poncho, especially if it boasts a pattern or bright colors, as this statement piece is brave enough to stand alone. It looks cool over a simple dress, and on the daily, for like, running errands or walking the dog, pairs well with a pair of high-waisted jeans and a solid cotton T or light cashmere sweater. Know this: Heels are way too fussy for the poncho lifestyle. Leather boots can get too literal “gaucho.” Sneakers or slides are a more appropriate and modern choice.

Ponchos and multitasking

One last note on this most versatile success-ory: Next time you travel, why not layer with a poncho instead of a boring old jacket!? Everyone knows that unless you’re flying in business class, airlines don’t hand out blankets anymore. Hell, they won’t even let you carry-on a bag anymore; (we’re looking at you Jet Blue, ugh). Your poncho is not only fabulous-looking and makes you look laid-back and yet stunningly sophisticated at the same time, it doubles as a cozy snuggy that looks way more polished than say, an actual Snuggie. OMFG does anyone remember those? Anyone?

stay warm