In a span of 50 years, sportswear in South Florida evolved from the

idiosyncratic daywear of elite Northerners vacationing in Palm Beach to a

nationally visible industry. This paper presents three stages in the evolution

of the sportswear industry in South Florida in general and in the Miami area

in particular. The first stage (c.1900-1920) relates to the founding of Palm

Beach and the growth of an American market for a blossoming French industry.

The second stage (c. 1920-1945) explores how a confluence of economic, social

and cultural trends following World War One spurred rapid growth in Miami and

gave rise to a completely new genre of clothing—one designed by Americans

for Americans. The third stage (c. 1945-1960) explores how South Florida

became a major producer of the very clothing it was instrumental in

popularizing. Ironically, this crucial third stage was propelled by the same

groups the original founders of the area sought to exclude—Jews and

minorities. The interplay between South Florida and sportswear is not simply a

nuanced study of a specific place and time. Rather, the evolution of the

industry drastically redefined the American wardrobe. This analysis

demonstrates how the study of clothing can inform our understanding of social

change by adding texture and tangibility to American history.


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