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Where Can I Buy A Zoot Suit Uk

Despite being worn by a relatively small number of people, who themselves formed part of a minority in early 1940s America, the zoot suit occupies a conspicuous place within the intertwined histories of fashion and cultural identity. For this reason, a recreated zoot suit was included in the exhibition 'Streetstyle, From Sidewalk to Catwalk, 1940 to Tomorrow' held at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 1994-5. The exhibition, which traced the development of 'subcultural' fashions, included the suit as an example of an early subcultural style. The replica suit was later acquired by the V&A's Textiles and Dress department as an example of a distinctive style of dress which represents a critical moment in the history of race relations.

where can i buy a zoot suit uk

The origins of the zoot suit are unclear. What is clear, however, is that as a style it became strongly associated with young working class black, Hispanic and Filipino men living in urban areas of North America in the early 1940s. 'Zoot' meant something worn or performed in an extravagant style and the zoot suit was an exaggerated, elaborate form of dress.

The suit consisted of a long jacket with wide lapels and padded shoulders and high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed pegged trousers worn with a flat-crowned, wide-brimmed hat, a 'ducktail' hair style, thick-soled pointed shoes and a long watch chain. The attitude adopted by the wearer of the zoot suit was equally important. As writer Thomas Sanchez had one of his characters in his 1978 novel 'Zoot-Suit Murders' declare;

One of the reasons behind the adoption of the suit by the young and disenfranchised was its association with some of America's most prominent black musicians and performers. Dizzie Gillespie's choice of a zoot suit helped popularise the style as did zootsuited members of the cast of 'Carmen Jones', the broadway musical which transported George Bizet's Carmen to an African-American setting.

The V&A's replica suit was based on the most famous zoot suit; that worn by Cab Calloway in the high-profile 20th Century Fox musical film, 'Stormy Weather'. Purportedly made before rationing orders were introduced which restricted the purchase of cloth, the suit cost a phenomenal $185.

The self-confidence and assertiveness shown by young zoot-suiters, most of whom were from communities marked by poverty and racial discrimination, hit a nerve in wartime America. So too did the extravagant amount of cloth used in the creation of zoot suits, which contravened rationing regulations introduced in 1942.

In 1943 simmering tensions between zoot-suiters and white servicemen stationed along the Pacific coast and in the industrial cities of Los Angeles, Detroit and Pittsburgh erupted in a series of violent episodes. The zoot suit provided a focus for what was essentially a racial conflict: white servicemen toured black and Hispanic neighbourhoods, stopping streetcars and buses and entering theatres. Zoot-suiters were dragged out onto the street and assaulted. Many had their clothes ripped off and their long hair cut. Despite the brutality of these incidents, most press coverage was sympathetic to the servicemen, as were officials, including the police, who frequently arrested victims rather than perpetrators of the violence. Military intervention, press appeals for calm and investigatory committees eventually put an end to the riots. However, the social injustices which lay behind them remained unchallenged and unchanged.

Perhaps predictably, following the relaxation of rationing regulations after the war ended, the zoot suit re-entered the fashion scene, now as a mainstream style. By 1948 a slimmed-down version of the suit was being marketed by the American fashion industry as a new, postwar 'bold look' for the average (white) man. In this way, the zoot suit reflects a 'bottom-up' movement rather than 'top-down' in the diffusion of fashion, i.e. a form of streetwear inspiring designers of high and mainstream wear rather than the other way round. This 'bottom-up' movement was one of the central themes of the exhibition in which the V&A's recreated suit was displayed. 'Streetstyle' sought to highlight the importance of streetwear on high and mainstream fashion. The zoot suit represented one of the earliest styles of streetwear on display. Strenuous efforts by curators and exhibition researchers failed to identify an original suit so a replica was commissioned from Chris Ruocco Tailors, London. In the display the pale green wool two-piece was worn with a cotton shirt and wool bow tie (also by Chris Ruocco), a satin handkerchief, braces and leather shoes.

Feel like tailoring lacks the attitude of modern streetwear? Well, hold tight, House Rulers. A long-length sartorial sea change is a-coming, so batten down your wardrobes and get hip to the new Zoot-geist stance. Anyway, long-length suit jackets are finally hitting these fashion shores, with wearers channelling the swagger and attitude of the mighty zoot suit.

Back in the Forties, such lavish use of fabric attracted violent reaction from off-duty US servicemen, who beat up and disrobed zoot wearers as the extravagance was deemed unpatriotic during the hardship of the Second World War. This led to the Zoot Suit Riots (yes, really) and one has to wonder how such a trend will go down with the penny-pinching, stockpiling Brexit preppers.

A zoot suit (occasionally spelled zuit suit[1]) is a men's suit with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and a long coat with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. It is most notable for its use as a cultural symbol among the Hepcat and Pachuco subcultures, although it was popular among African, Mexican, Filipino, Italian, and Japanese Americans in the 1940s.[2][3][4][5]

The zoot suit originated in an African American comedy show in the 1930s and was popularized by jazz and jump blues singers. Cab Calloway called them "totally and truly American". The suits were worn mainly by men of color, including a young Malcolm X.[6] During the rationing of World War II, they were criticized as a wasteful use of cloth, wool being rationed then. In 1942, the War Production Board issued restrictions aimed at stopping the sale of zoot suits.[6]

Predominately Mexican and Black zoot suiters became victims of racial mob violence in the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots.[7][8] Shortly after, wearing of the zoot suit was indefinitely banned in Los Angeles via a city wide ordinance.[9] The zoot suit become an important symbol of cultural pride in the Chicano Movement.[10] It experienced a brief resurgence in the swing revival scene in the 1990s.[11] The suit is still worn by Chicanos for memorialization events and special occasions.[12][13]

"A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal)" was a 1942 song written by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Bob O'Brien.[20] Jazz bandleader Cab Calloway frequently wore zoot suits on stage, including some with exaggerated details, such as extremely wide shoulders or overly draped jackets.[21] He wore one in the 1943 film Stormy Weather. In his dictionary, Cab Calloway's Cat-ologue: A "Hepster's" Dictionary (1938), he called the zoot suit "the ultimate in clothes. The only totally and truly American civilian suit."[22]

Pachucos and Pachucas were early Chicano youth who participated in a subculture that fashioned zoot suits.[23] The subculture emerged in El Paso, Texas in the late 1930s and quickly spread to Los Angeles.[24] Pachucos and Pachucas embraced this style that challenged white American norms around race and gender norms[25][26] The Mexican American zoot suit style was usually black, sharkskin, charcoal gray, dark blue, or brown in color with pinstripes.[8] African American styles usually incorporated brighter colors, thick chalk stripes, floppy hats, and long chains more often than Mexican Americans.[8] Both Pachucos and Hepcats functioned on the margins in American society.[8] Some Pachucos and Hepcats shared solidarity or respect for one another because of this.[8]

In the early 1940s, Pachucos were associated with violence and criminal behavior by the American media, which fueled anti-Mexican sentiment and especially negative views of the zoot suit style in Los Angeles.[27] Pachucas, some of whom also wore the zoot suit, often with some modifications and additional accessories like dark lipstick, were seen as threatening to ideas of family stability and racial uplift, often shunned by their communities and the wider public.[28] The zoot suits became framed as unpatriotic, referring to the excessiveness of cloth.[7][29] In 1942, police from across Los Angeles arrested 600 Mexican Americans in the Sleepy Lagoon murder case, which involved the murder of one man, José Gallardo Díaz, at a party.[7] Almost all of those arrested as allegedly potential suspects were wearing zoot suits.[7]

Media coverage before and after the case sensationalized and further fanned the flames of hostile anti-Mexican sentiments in the city and abroad.[7] This made some Mexican Americans hesitant to wear the zoot suit, since they did not want to be viewed as criminals simply for their style of dress.[8] Some Pachucos became affiliated with early gangs in Los Angeles and embraced their presumed-to-be criminal status with the zoot suit.[8] Others wore the zoot suit, but refused to refer to themselves as 'zoot suiters.'[8] Mexican Americans who rejected Pachucos and zoot suit attire became known as 'squares' who were said to believe in assimilation and racial uplift theory.[8]

This tension exploded in 1943 in a series of anti-Mexican riots in Los Angeles that became termed the Zoot Suit Riots.[27] For ten days, white U.S. servicemen cruised Mexican American neighborhoods searching for zoot suiters to attack.[7] In some cases, youth as young as twelve were attacked and dragged out of establishments.[7] Filipinos and Black zoot suiters were also targeted, such as a Black man who had his eye gouged out with a knife by "a crowd of whites."[8] After being attacked, Mexican and Black zoot suiters rioted against white U.S. servicemen.[8] On the fifth day of the riots, the zoot suiters repelled attackers in a coordinated effort.[8] Busloads of police were brought in to rescue "the retreating servicemen," after which "dozens of Mexicans" were arrested.[8] Military officials declared Los Angeles off limits to servicemen the next day.[8] 041b061a72


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