Cover

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Contents

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p. ix

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Introduction

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pp. 1-14

In June 1943, in the midst of World War II, the city of Los Angeles erupted in violence. White sailors and soldiers, egged on by Anglo civilians, stopped streetcars and invaded movie theaters in search of young Mexican American men—known as pachucos—beating them, tearing their jackets, and stripping them of their trousers. ...

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1 Making the Suit Zoot

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pp. 15-42

When civil unrest and violence erupted in Los Angeles in June 1943, the zoot suit became a preoccupation of adult Americans across the country: What was the zoot suit and where had it come from? ‘‘Here’s what all the excitement’s about,’’ explained the newspaper PM, which ran a photographic...

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2 Going to Extremes

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pp. 43-75

What drew young men, and even some women, to the zoot suit? Most historical studies depict the zoot suit as a ‘‘street style,’’ devised by those whose experience of racial discrimination and prejudice led them to create distinctive sartorial responses to their situation. In these accounts...

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3 Into the Public Eye

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pp. 76-105

Although the penchant for extreme drapes began to appear toward the end of the 1930s, neither the mainstream press nor the entertainment industry paid much notice at first. Men’s Apparel Reporter, usually alert to trends in menswear, did not publish Clyde Duncan’s 1940 zoot-suit photograph until a year after it was taken. In early 1941...

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4 From Rags to Riot

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pp. 106-130

On the night of June 3, 1943, a band of fifty sailors armed themselves with makeshift weapons, left their naval base, and coursed into downtown Los Angeles in search of young Mexican Americans in zoot suits. For many weeks, name-calling and small-scale skirmishes between the uniformed men and the zoot suiters had escalated...

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5 Reading the Riddle

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pp. 131-156

Even as the Los Angeles riot was quelled, a war of recrimination erupted. Local and state officials began a series of investigations, while newspapers, opinion journals, and radio networks avidly covered the story in its aftermath, trying to account for the unrest on the home front. ...

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6 Zooting Around the World

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pp. 157-182

‘‘Some authorities feel that the only thing to do is to let the whole mysterious business wear itself out and disappear through inner exhaustion of its possibilities,’’ reported Agnes Meyer in the wake of the Los Angeles riot.1 In fact, it was much harder than those authorities thought to shrug off the zoot suit. ...

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Aftermath

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pp. 183-191

Even as new clothing styles prevailed among postwar American youth, the zoot suit did not vanish. Into the 1950s and beyond, ordinary Hispanic, African American, and white working-class men continued to wear variations of drape jackets and pegged pants. What had been a controversial outfit during the war years now went largely unremarked. ...

Notes

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pp. 193-226

Index

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pp. 227-236

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 237-238

When I was a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to participate in a method of teaching called ‘‘Inductive Approaches to History,’’ which explored vivid public controversies, used only primary sources, and taught students how to conduct historical research and analysis. ...