Zoot suit

A Zoot suit (also spelled Zuit Suit) is a suit with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed ged trousers and a long coat with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. This style of clothing was popularized by African Americans, Italian Americans, Hispanics, and Filipino Americans during the late 1930s and 1940s. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/29/LVGUJPE1AP1.DTL Zooting up / Brighten prom night with flash, dash - and panache ] ] [ [http://www.civilization.ca/academ/articles/durf1_1e.html Civilization.ca - Scholars - The Montreal and Verdun Zoot-Suit disturbances of June 1944 ] ] [*http://www.pww.org/past-weeks-2000/Zoot%20Suit%20review.htm]


Harold C. Fox, the Chicago clothier and big-band trumpeter, claimed credit for creating and naming the zoot suit. Its creation has also been attributed to Beale Street tailor Louis Lettes, as well as Detroit retailer Nathan (Toddy) Elkus. [cite news |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E01E0DF143FF932A3575BC0A960958260|author= ROBERT MCG. THOMAS JR.|title= Harold Fox, Who Took Credit For the Zoot Suit, Dies at 86 |quote=Harold C. Fox, the Chicago clothier and sometime big-band trumpeter who claimed credit for creating and naming the zoot suit with the reet pleat, the reave sleeve, the ripe stripe, the stuff cuff and the drape shape that was the stage rage during the boogie-woogie rhyme time of the early 1940's, died on Sunday at his home in Siesta Key, Florida. He was 86. ... Never mind that the zoot suit has been variously attributed to a Beale Street tailor named Louis Lettes and a Detroit retailer known as Nathan (Toddy) Elkus. Anyone who doubts that a fashion that became widely associated with black and Hispanic swells, World War II drugstore cowboys and Harvest Moon jitterbuggers was actually created by one man, even a trumpet-playing Chicago clothier who once took his own integrated band to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, wouldn't get much of an argument from Mr. Fox. |publisher=New York Times |date=August 1, 1996 |accessdate=2008-01-08 ]


A zoot suit has high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed ged trousers (called "tramas") and a long coat (called the "carlango") with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. Often zoot suiters wear a felt hat with a long feather (called a "tapa" or "tanda") and pointy, French-style shoes (called "calcos"). A young Malcolm X described the zoot suit as: "a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic's cell." Zoot suits usually featured a watch chain dangling from the belt to the knee or below, then back to a side pocket.

Zoot suits were for special occasions – such as a dance or a birthday party. The amount of material and tailoring required made them luxury items. Many young people wore a more moderate version of the "extra-bagged" pants or styled their hair in the signature "duck tail".

The oversized suit was an extravagant personal style and a declaration of freedom and auto-determination, although many people still consider it a "rebellious garment of the era." Fact|date=September 2007


The Zoot Suit first gained popularity in Harlem jazz culture in the late 1930s where they were initially called "drapes". [http://just-the-swing.com/doc/liv/jive.htm]

The word "zoot", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, probably comes from a reduplication of the word 'suit'. It was probably first coined by Mexican American pachucos as part of their slang, "Caló", evolving from the Mexican Spanish pronunciation of the English word "suit" with the "s" taking on the sound of a "z". In any case, the zoot suit became very popular among young Mexican Americans, especially among those in Los Angeles who styled themselves as "pachucos", but the style first started in El Paso, Texas, where the orginal word "pachuco" came from, meaning if you were from El Paso nicknamed "El Chuco", and wore zoot suits, then you were called a "Pachuco".

Anti-Latino race riots in Los Angeles during World War II are known as the Zoot Suit Riots.

In popular culture

Bandleader Cab Calloway wore a zoot suit in one of his 1930s short films.

August Darnell, Frontman for Kid Creole and the Coconuts, wears a zoot suit as part of his trademark style.

Zoot suits were satirized by Al Capp in 1943 in the comic strip "Li'l Abner", in which Abner Yokum appeared as "Zoot Suit Yokum", a gullible but near-indestructible man chosen by a clothing manufacturer to serve as role model for white youth through dangerous, staged heroic feats. The story ended with mainstream businessmen also taking to the zoot suit, whereupon it suddenly went out of style. The "Li'l Abner" character "Evil Eye Fleegle" also wore a zoot suit.

In a Tom & Jerry 1944 short, "The Zoot Cat", Tom tries to win the affections of a female cat, but is rejected for being "corny". Sitting on the front porch, he hears an ad on the radio telling Tom that to be a "hep cat" he needs to wear a zoot suit. Tom immediately makes one out of a hammock and re-appears by the female cat, impressing her with his new "hep" clothes. However, when Jerry interferes, the suit gets wet and shrinks so much that the suit winds up fitting Jerry perfectly.

As with other contemporary fads and topics, zoot suits were frequently portrayed or mentioned in Warner Bros. cartoons. One example occurs in "The Big Snooze" (1946), in which a group of literal "wolves" howl at Elmer Fudd, who has been "disguised" in drag by Bugs Bunny. In another example, Daffy Duck dons a zoot suit in "Book Revue" (also 1946).

"Zoot Suit" is the name of a musical play by Luis Valdez, featuring music from Daniel Valdez and Lalo Guerrero, the "father of Chicano music." When it debuted in 1979, "Zoot Suit" was the first Chicano play on Broadway. In 1981, Luis Valdez also directed a filmed version of the play.

Before they found success in the UK in 1965 as the look and voice of the London mod youth culture, British rock group The Who had tried to break into the record market in 1964 as The High Numbers, with a song called "Zoot Suit". The lyrics, written by their manager and leading mod Peter Meaden, include "I got a zoot suit jacket with side vents five inches long." In mod use, the term zoot suit jacket meant a hip short box jacket with narrow lapels, three buttons and side vents, perhaps in white or ice blue color. In 1973, The Who released their rock opus, "Quadrophenia", dedicated to the mods of the 1960s. A song called "Cut My Hair" contains the same lyrics about a zoot suit mentioned above.

*Zoot suits and the Zoot Suit riots are also referenced in the novel "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon.

*The prologue in James Ellroy's novel "The Black Dahlia" is centered around the Zoot Suit riots.

*A zoot suit is the name of the powered armor in the "Starfire" novels by David Weber and Steve White.

*In "Trick or Treatment," a 1982 episode of "M*A*S*H", Maxwell Klinger wears a zoot suit as a Halloween costume."

*In the mid-1970s TV series "The Ghost Busters", Larry Storch's character wears a zoot suit in every episode.

*Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses the term zoot suit in the film "Back to the Future".

*Comedian Bill Saluga's character "Ray J. Johnson" wears a zoot suit.

*Jim Carrey wore a bright yellow ostentatious zoot suit when playing the title character in the 1994 film "The Mask".

*In the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Once More, with Feeling," Sweet wears a zoot suit (the color of which he can change at will).

*In "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", Smart Guy and Greasy, both members of Judge Doom's Toon Patrol, wear zoot suits.

*The early scenes of Spike Lee's film "Malcolm X" show the famous African-American activist in his younger days. Calling himself Detroit Red, he and his best friend Shorty (played by Spike Lee) are seen dressed as zoot suit kids.

*In the comic books and cartoons of Blue Falcon the Zoot Suit Brutes were recurring villains.

*The Cherry Poppin' Daddies sang a song called "Zoot Suit Riot" and produced an album with that name.

*In UK cannabis culture, the term "zoot" has come to mean a spliff (marijuana cigarette) due to the narrow bottoms and wide shoulder resembling how a spliff is commonly rolled.

*Dick Tracey wears a Zoot Suit in both the movie and the comics.

*In the Lincoln Rhyme book series by Jeffery Deaver, during federal agent Fred Dellray's appearances, he is dressed almost eclusively in a zoot suit.

*In Project Runway Season 4 one group of contestants had to modernize the "zoot"

ee also

*38th street gang
* Pachuco
* Zazou
* Zoot Suit Riots


External links

* [http://invention.smithsonian.org/centerpieces/whole_cloth/u7sf/u7materials/cosgrove.html The Zoot-Suit and Style Warfare] , a well-referenced article by Stuart Cosgrove on the origin and history of the zoot suit and zoot suit riots.
* [http://www.just-the-swing.com/his/zoot-suit-riots The Zoot Suit Riots] . Article about the zoot suit riots of 1943.
*Difference between fedoras and [http://www.withaswing.com/hats/ zoot hats]
* cite web |publisher= Victoria and Albert Museum
url= http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/hiddenhistories/zootsuits/index.html
title= Powerdressing - Zoot Suits
work=History, Periods & Styles
accessdate= 2008-06-11

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Zoot Suit — bezeichnet einen modischen Kleidungsstil in den 1930ern und 1940ern in Amerika, siehe Zoot Suit (Stil) die Zoot Suit Riots, eine nach diesem Stil benannte Serie von Unruhen in Los Angeles im Jahre 1943 Zoot Suit (Musical), ein Broadway… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • zoot-suit|ed — «ZOOT SOO tihd», adjective. wearing a zoot suit or zoot suits …   Useful english dictionary

  • zoot-suit|er — «ZOOT SOO tuhr», noun. 1. a man wearing a zoot suit. 2. Figurative. a person who tries to dress fashionably, especially in cheap clothes …   Useful english dictionary

  • zoot suit — [ˈzu:t su:t, sju:t US su:t] n [Date: 1900 2000; Origin: zoot probably from suit] a suit that consists of wide trousers and a ↑jacket with wide shoulders, worn especially in the 1940s and 1950s …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • zoot suit — zoot′ suit [[t]zut[/t]] n. clo a man s suit with baggy, tight cuffed trousers and an oversized jacket with broad padded shoulders and wide lapels • Etymology: 1940–45, amer.; rhyming compound based on suit …   From formal English to slang

  • zoot suit — [ zut ,sut ] noun count a suit worn in the 1940s that had a long jacket with big shoulders and pants that were loose at the top and narrow at the bottom …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • zoot suit — (n.) 1942, American English slang, the first element probably a nonsense reduplication of suit (Cf. reet pleat, drape shape from the same jargon) …   Etymology dictionary

  • zoot suit — ☆ zoot suit [zo͞ot ] n. [redupl.] a man s suit of a former, exaggerated style, with high waisted, baggy trousers narrowing at the cuffs and a long, draped coat …   English World dictionary

  • Zoot suit — Le Zoot suit est une tenue (suit) et par extension une subculture apparue entre les années 1930 et 1940. On appelle un membre de cette subculture un zoot suiter ou encore par raccourci un zooter. Sommaire 1 Tenue 1.1 Le costume masculin 1.2 Les… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Zoot suit — Un soldado inspeccionando a unos zoot suits en Washington D. C. en 1942. El Zoot Suit es un estilo de vestir y fue una moda en la década de los años 40. Este estilo se hizo popular, al igual que la palabra, por jóvenes mexicanos estadounidenses y …   Wikipedia Español

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