Image courtesy of Aaron F and Wikimedia Commons
In this family the slang phrase ‘Zoot Suit’ is used to describe a man’s smart apparel or formal business clothes. When I looked up the expression in my ‘Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable’ (the ampersand is used in the title) I discovered that it dates from the late 1930s and was used to describe an extravagant fashion adopted by followers of Swing who were known as Hepcats.
It comprised high-waisted, baggy trousers with turn-ups tapered at the ankle, a long coat rather like a frock coat with wide lapels and exaggeratedly broad padded shoulders, often in vibrant colours or bold patterns. Worn with it were a flamboyant tie and a broad-brimmed hat, frequently sporting a long feather. The essential finishing touch was a long key-chain dangling from belt to knee or even below and then rising back to a side pocket.
Further research led me to the Zoot Suit Riots which began in Los Angeles in the first week of June, 1943 between American sailors and marines and disaffected Latino youths. You can read about them here.
Thanks go to the Zealous Denise Nesbitt and her Zippy team who host this weekly meme. Click here to see more Zs.