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 Zoot Suits  :: Zoot suits during world war II
Zoot suits during world war II

Zoot Suits during World War II

During the World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt established War Production Board (WPB) in 1942. The War Production Board limited the consumption of many items nationwide due to war needs. Zoot suit production was banned by WPB as it was considered waste of cloth material. The amount of material and tailoring required made it a luxury item.

Being extremely popular among the Mexican Americans and African Americans, it was unlikely and the zoot suit fashion persisted. Most of the tailoring companies stopped manufacturing zoot suits. Despite restrictions for manufacturing of zoot suits, these suits were made illegally by the tailors. The illicit trading of zoot suits was cracked down.

Zoot Suit Riots

In 1943, unfortunate incident of riot occurred in the Los Angeles city, which came to be known as zoot suit riots. The refusal of Mexican American of stop using the zoot suits brought doubt and mistrust in people of Los Angeles in USA for they considered any person who wore zoot suit belonged to the gang member "Pachucos." Pachucos were street rebels in 1940s most of them dressed in zoot suits with long hairs combed into duck's tail at the back.

The media depicted the zoot suiters as hoodlums and believed that they carried out criminal activities. Many Mexican American teenagers challenged the prejudice they faced. In this tense situation, the soldiers and marines who had returned from the war were in conflict with Mexican zoot suiters. The servicemen considered the zoot suiters as bad citizens creating disturbances.

On June 3, 1943 , a group of servicemen complained of being attacked by Pachucos gang. Hundreds of marines and sailors headed towards East Los Angeles where Mexican Americans lived. They assaulted all the men who wore zoot suits, ripped their suits and burnt them in streets. To maintain peace, the Mexican Americans and the servicemen were arrested. The riots lasted for two weeks. Finally, the military authorities brought situation under control by restricting all the military personnel to enter the Los Angeles city.              

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