Zoot Suits

The zoot suit was a type of subculture around after WW II. They were recognised with their suits featuring exaggerated feature such as lapels, length of jacket and trousers. The zoot suits break rules of the norm for the time with bright colour, vivid patterns and a baggy appearance. To paraphrase Alford his suggestions of the function of the zoot suit is that of identity. It was a way for the african-american male to express their own personal style while being an emblem for their ethnicity. Wearing them to show who you were and where you wanted to go, it was a statement for others. Tulloch’s quote about zoot suits were relating to common subcultural concepts. He explains that zoot suits were a political statement for the time much like many others subcultural styles like punk and hiphop. The suits were a statement about Americas position in WW II and that they should have had a Example of Zoot Suitslarger stance in defending ethnic minorities. To feed into this the large amount of fabric used in the suits was to reference the rationing that was taking place during WW II.
The zoot suits were a powerful identity statement, they were ‘instruments that empowered the body’ to contradict what was correct at this time. Karaminas explains that they came with certain connotations such as rebellion and nonconformist which ’emerge as powerful agents for change’. This is a common factor for subcultural groups who want to impact the public and promote change. Others things that the zoot suits have in common is resignification such as using the Crombie top coat which iconically is a sophisticated  item that is associated with high-class members of society. The african-american boys took this and used it as a symbol for ethnicity, changing the original meaning. They also showed this by taking out the pocket lining so it was visible which otherwise was not done, it was a secret language to those who followed the trend. Zoot suit wearers were politically motivated which follows other subcultural groups including the hippies, with which both have very identifiable and iconic styles.

Sources Used:

  • Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg
  • Tulloch, C (2006) „My Man, let me pull your coat to something‟ Malcolm X
    in Bruzzi, S; Church Gibson, P (eds) (2006) Fashion Cultures. Theories, Explorations and Analysis London: Routledge
  • Elms, R (2005) The Way We Wore, Picador, London, pp46-47
  • Jefferson, T (1976) Cultural Responses of The Teds in McNeil, P; Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader, Berg: Oxford pp366-369
  • Alford, H (2009) The Zoot Suit: Its History and Influence In McNeil, P; Karaminas, V (eds) (2009) The Men’s Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg Karaminas, V (2009) Introduction – Subculture: Style and Resistance in McNeil, P;

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