Style of suit characterized by a nearly knee-length coat with wide shoulders accompanied by baggy, high-waisted, pleated trousers tapered towards the ankles (drapes
), a low crowned, wide-brimmed hat, pointed-toe shoes and an extra long keychain. Emerging in the late 1930's within black youth jazz culture (hepcat
s), the zoot suit was a wild exaggeration of the typical men's suit and accessories of the era and reputed to have been originally inspired by a custom order based on the civil war period costume worn by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind". The name "zoot" suit likely has roots relating to a combination of the mainstream culture image of the reefer
slang. It is believed that the style was quickly popularized among the Harlem jazz scene and spread westward where it became adopted as the hallmark of the pachuco
. As world war II-era materials restrictions were imposed articles of clothing utilizing excessive fabric were demonized as "unpatriotic" and a mark of rebellion against the status quo, subservience and anything square
. Acts of hooliganism among some members of the pachuco
crowd in war-era Los Angeles gave ample reason for drunken servicemen to seek out and bash on Mexican youths, leading to the "zoot suit riots". Today the zoot suit remains as an outlandish reminder of what may be the original fashion symbol of minority youth-culture rebellion.
As soon as we get our shore leave we're headed downtown to beat the hell out of some of those zoot suit-wearing, draft-dodging pachucos.