Zoot Suit Riot

Soldier inspecting a couple of zoot suits at the Uline Arena, June 1942
My experience on Metro yesterday made me think of Zoot Suits. Worn first by black and Hispanic teenagers on both coasts in the late 20s/30s as a statement against the majority, the zoot was soon picked up by musicians and dancers in the early 1940s and even found its way into mainstream fashion.

The fabric for zoot suits was like the suits themselves – dramatic and overstated. The fabric was either brightly colored or boldly patterned with wide pinstripes or glen check. With fabric, the bolder the better – the goal was to distinguish oneself from the mainstream.

After cloth rationing began in 1942, men’s suits became shorter, narrower, and plainer. Zoot suits were seen as unpatriotic and wasteful. Many Americans, especially servicemen, resented those who wore zoot suits. The photograph above is from June 1942.


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