You must be wondering how zoot suits are different from a business suit. If you ever had a need for wearing a zoot suit, whether it's for a costume party for Halloween or maybe a 1930s and 1940s theme costume party, you would know that these bold in your face style suits are not for wearing to the work place with their outrageous style and nature. Zoot Suits
come from a time when African Americans and Mexican Americans were not accepted into the main stream American society and racism was rampant in a way that could never be tolerated in our era. Zoot suits were always different by their very nature.
Were zoot suits counter culture?
These long style jacket suits were a thumb in the eye of mainstream society and worn for the express purpose originally to show that if they weren't allowed to fit into society, they would create their own counter culture society and do as please when it comes to clothing and what to wear. It wasn't much different from the Hippie movement of the 1960s where millions of youths in America and elsewhere were protesting mainstream society and it's ills on the world at the time whether you agree or disagree.
Whatever side of fence you sit on is purely up to you and whether you were around to experience the turmoil of the 1960s. Now the zoot suits on the other hand brought their counter culture up to the beginning of World War Two where they became outlawed for due to the limit on war time productions that cut back the use of fabrics and banned zoot suits out right because they deemed the long jackets on them wasteful and this in turn started the zoot suit riots.
How long are zoot suit jackets?
The jackets have long been the very first thing you see on how zoot suits differ from a business suit. It's all about outrageous style and attitude and very nature of the jackets makes them that much different from a basic business suit. The first thing about a zoot suit jacket is the length. We are talking long, much longer than a business suit jacket. How long you ask. Well that really depends on the man wearing it. A proper zoot suit jacket needs to be about 37 to 38 inches long and fall about knee-length or slightly above it. This is long.
Your standard style business suit is about 31 inches long and is supposed to fall at exactly crotch length on the man wearing it for a proper fit and look. As you can see, the fact that a zoot suit jacket falls to knee-length makes it that much more outrageous and a statement on how you feel about society standards and how you won't abide by them. The long length is not the only thing that makes the jacket a statement against society. Let's talk about the shoulders of the zoot suit jacket. On a traditional zoot suit jacket if there is such a term. Wider is better. A zoot suit jacket has extremely wide and padded shoulders to give the man wearing it a V sort of shape.
On your traditional suit, the shoulders are supposed to fit naturally to man wearing it. Very light padding in the shoulder and not extending past the natural shoulder of the man's body. Not with a zoot suit from the 1930s and 1940s. The jacket would be given extra padding on top as well as extra width so the jacket shoulders would jut out from the man in an unnatural and outrageous manner that was supposed to set you apart from the man wearing a standard business suit. All of this was the intention of sticking your thumb in the eye of the mainstream and telling them you're a free man to do as you please and how you please and take your society rule and you know where to put them.
The fabric that was used on zoot suits of the era was also a statement as well. Although many zoot suits were made with your basic color and pattern suit fabrics, many were not. In fact, many of these wild looking long jacket suits were made with bold pattern fabrics like strong gangster stripe patterns and plaid patterns that you would never use on a classic business suit because wearing a business suit is a uniform and not a fashion statement.
What is the purpose of the zoot suit?
The whole purpose of the zoot suit was to stand out in the crowd whereas the business suit was to blend into the crowd. It's a complete opposite design mission. Where a business suit may use fine pinstripes that are almost invisible or not overbearing, The stripes on a zoot suit could practically be seen from 10 blocks away. You want to be seen that far away when you wear these crazy style suits. It's simply the whole purpose of wearing them.
While a business suit may have a muted plaid pattern that from across the office won't even be noticed, look out, because the plaid pattern that a zoot suit may have will be able to seen from practically outer space. That's an exaggeration but you get the point, right. When pattern fabrics were used on zoot suits, you better believe that they were used to getting attention big time and not just for blending in all conservative and such. Look at me and look at me now. If you don't like it, then too bad. That has always been the intention of the zoot suit.
What makes the pants different?
Now if you have been thing that there isn't much more to the zoot suit than the long wide shoulder jacket and bold pattern fabrics used, guess again because the pants on a zoot suit weren't supposed to be normal looking either. Not by a long shot. The pants that your classic zoot suit used were nothing like your standard fitting pants on a suit, Everything that the basic suit pants had been completely exaggerated and then some. Where the waist line on your convention suit would sit on the waist of the wearer or slightly above. The zoot suit pants would go higher, much higher. We are talking about above the navel when done properly. Since the whole purpose of the suit is to be outrageous, everything must be different and the extremely high waist on zoot suit pants are one of them.
The bagginess on the pants had to match the baggy nature of the jacket as well. For this reason, zoot suit pants are extremely baggy in comparison to conventional suit pants. The pants may have many pleats as well to allow for more bagginess to be dealt with so the pants have a flow to them that basic suit pants do not. Don't think that they left the bagginess of the pants and extremely high waist line and called it a day. No, sir. Those pants had to go down the leg and finish somewhere and where they finished was sitting on top of the outrageous Stacy Adams Shoes
that most zoot suit wearers would go with.
What kind of shoes should you wear with a zoot suit?
Chances are that the shoes would be two-tone or a color that matched the zoot suit, so, in order to make that happen. The legs on the bottom of the pants would be dramatically tapered and cuffed to literally land on top of the shoes themselves instead of covering the portion of the shoes on your classic suit. Everything had to be noticed and having the leg openings taper tightly on the bottom, so they show off your shoes is one of purposes of wearing a zoot suit. So when you take the broad padded shoulders combined with a knee-length fitting jacket in outrageous fabric patterns and colors and take high waist pants with super baggy legs and extremely tapered leg openings, you have the features that make a zoot suit differ from a business suit.