zoot suiter

In popular memory zoot suiters are often associated with African Americans and Chicanos during World War II, but many Nikkei (second generation Japanese-Americans) also participated in this cultural movement. While it is not possible to determine the exact numbers of Japanese-American zoot suiters, the available historical evidence suggests that they were a visible presence in 1940’s California.


(Pt.2) #チカーノ #Chicano
The #loveAffair between #Japanese youth and #ChicanoCulture ..

First off, WHAT IS #CHICANOstyle?

Our style has evolved as a resistance to the mainstream culture that continually demanded that we #assimilate. 🔹The earliest Chicano style was #Pachuco #ZootSuit style of the 1940s ..there was a great deal of pride taken in our appearence, but not everyone was happy for us. In 1942 War Time Productions Board regulated the amount of fabric used on suits, and the Zoot Suiter was considered #unAmerican and became the target of hate crimes. 🔹 The Chicano style evolved into the #Cholo style of the 70s and 80s and many Chicanos avoided the cholo style because they were not #gangRelated and did not want to be confused for #gangsters.
Today the Chicana Chicano style is more dynamic than what is stereotypical, but it continues to retain a certain level of nostalgia. 🔹 Chicanos wear styles from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s with little regard for what is going on in the mainstream fashion world, there is also a great deal of pride in representing indigenous textiles, traditional dresses, #guayaberas, etc.

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LA’s Zoot Suit riots

The zoot suit was a popular style of dress among Black and Latino youths during WWII. With ballooned pants that tapered at the ankle, oversized jackets, and a broad-rimmed hat, zoot suits were a way for these marginalized groups to express autonomy. Mainstream society, however, viewed zoot culture as rebellious and aggressive.

In June of 1943, violence escalated in Los Angeles when white servicemen scoured the city attacking zoot suiters. The targets were predominately Mexican Americans, but African Americans and Filipino Americans were also attacked. For several days, servicemen dragged nonwhite youths into the streets where they beat them and stripped them of their zoot suits. Police often aided the attackers or arrested the Latino victims. The Zoot Suit Riots lasted for days and sparked racial violence across WWII America.

4 Books on Latin American and Latino art
A Shelfie from Selene Preciado, Program Assistant

Hi, I’m Selene Preciado, program assistant at the Getty Foundation. Outside of my work at the Getty, I am an independent curator of Latin American and Latino art.

In anticipation of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, this selection of books is inspired by the initiative’s effort on advancing the fields of Latin American and Latino art history by promoting their dialogue, as these are often perceived as separate fields of study albeit sharing narratives and historical contexts. One of the strongest points of convergence between the two fields is in the strategies of conceptual artists, particularly in arte de acción or performance, which has been a significant area of production in the Americas since the sixties. 

PST: LA/LA exhibitions such as the Armory’s Below the Underground: Renegade Art and Action in 1990s Mexico; the Hammer’s Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985; or Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., organized by ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries, as well as the highly anticipated performance art festival organized by REDCAT (January 2018) will include performance artists from across Latin America, the United States, and other diasporas.

1. “Arte No es Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000,” by Deborah Cullen. (El Museo del Barrio, 2008).

This exhibition catalogue for Arte No es Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas at El Museo del Barrio is one of the most comprehensive compilations on performance art by Latino and Latin American artists, and it includes a detailed chronology of the most important actions since 1957 until the year 2000. The exhibition was also a curatorial laboratory for exploring the problem of exhibiting performance—a time-based medium—through documentation, video, ephemera, and objects.

2. “ASCO: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987,” by C. Ondine Chavoya and Rita Gonzalez. (Hatje Cantz, 2011).

This 432-page tome is the most important document on the East Los Angeles collective ASCO (1972–1987), produced on the occasion of the major retrospective organized as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945–1980 in 2011. But don’t let its girth intimidate you—the exhibition catalogue is very dynamic, fully illustrated, and contains about twenty essays of different lengths and topics, such as ASCO’s walking murals, collaborations, or “No-movies,” as well as a section on documents and extensive bibliographic information.  

3. “Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas,” by Coco Fusco. (Routledge, 1999).

This book was edited by theorist, curator, and artist Coco Fusco, whose work since the 1980s has explored postcolonial, gender, and race issues. Corpus Delecti is an excellent resource and one of the very first performance art surveys that bridged together regions and movements by including art from Latin American, Chicana/o, and Caribbean artists, as well as genres that blurred the lines between fine arts, theater, vaudeville, and staged political protest.  

4. “MEX/LA: ‘Mexican’ Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985,” by Rubén Ortiz-Torres and Jesse Lerner. (Hatje Cantz, 2011).

Like ASCO: Elite of the Obscure, this catalogue was published in conjunction with the groundbreaking exhibition MEX/LA, part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945–1980, and organized by the Museum of Latin American Art. Just like the exhibition, this catalogue is an unconventional and thought-provoking approach to telling the story of the relationship between Mexico and Los Angeles. 

Departing from forked origins—from the mythological location of Aztlán, the founding of L.A. as a “Latin American city” (since it was Mexican territory back in 1781), to the presence of Mexican muralists in the 1930s who ignited local production—it visits chapters in L.A.’s history that explore exchange, remix, appropriation, and ongoing negotiations of race, class, and gender. Through the work of Chicana/o artists like ASCO, Barbara Carrasco, Yolanda López, and Ricardo Valverde, as well as Americans such as Wallace Berman, the Eames, or Millard Sheets, MEX/LA pushed boundaries also in exhibition making. Its non-chronological, non-thematic approach consisted in connecting artists and artworks through ideas.

While this book doesn’t solely focus on performance art, the MEX/LA catalogue might be the unifying thread of this list, in that it offers a critical view on hybrid and shifting identities as performative constructs. You only have to take a look into the performativity of figures such as Robert Stacy-Judd, the Zoot Suiters (a counterculture of the 1930s–40s), or even the borrowed Maya elements in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright—all included in the particular universe of MEX/LA. The concepts explored in the exhibition and catalogue of MEX/LA are part of the origin story of what is now Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.

While doing research for a talk on the history and future of vanity, I found this incredible photograph by Max Yavno of “las pachucas” – Chicana zoot suiters, in pant suits! This archive already holds several photographs of women zoot suiters but they’re wearing skirt suits or just the pants and a top. This is such a detailed photo of the entire look of las pachucas from the hair to the shoes. Beautiful! 

The photo is called “Two Women”. It was taken in Los Angeles, California in 1946.