Osborne.Zoot - 98 F ashioning a n Identity Popular Culture...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
9 8 Popular Culture Review costume, one that made the Negro performers more interesting,,more comical perhaps. It is no surprise, then, that the last explanation which connected the zoot suit with political statement does not appear in the white press. They did not want to acknowledge that clothing could be used to communicate rebellion and hostility to the . > dominant culture (Cosgrove 78-79). Malcolm X, in his autobiography, reports that he was fir3 attracted to the zoot suit primarily for its subversive meaning. When he arrived in Boston from Michigan, Malcolm imitated the you@ "cats" in town. His new sky-blue zoot, complete with gold-plated chain, made him accepted on the streets as part of the world of gambling, hustling, and drinking, the world that fascinated him for its opposition to the white-aspiring world of Roxbury. The suit communicated the arrogance, the bravado, and the sexuality of the street youth. In lnvisible Man, Ralph Ellison writes about the power this outfit had in expressing the solidarity of the young black men of the Harlem streets. The narrator in this section of the novel has been trying to fit into the white-dominated Brotherhood. Just as he is - --- discovering that the white organization is controlling him for their own purposes, making him a paper doll without an identity of his own, he observes several young men dressed in zoot-suits, At first the narrator assumes that these young men are "outside of historical time," serving only as "men of transition," yet suddenly he asks himself if these are "the saviors, the true leaders, the bearers of something precious. The stewards of something uncomfortable, burdensome, which they hated because, living outside the realm of history, there was no one to applaud their value and they themselves failed to understand it" (431). Even though he has been successful in working for his people within the structure of the Brotherhood, the narrator realizes he has never really noticed the black individuals on the street, those whose dress, communicating "remote, cryptic messages," expresses a solidarity within the black community. Clothes functioned, for both Malcolm X and for these men in lnvisible Man, as a way of announcing affiliation with a group, in this case a group instrumental in shaping black identity as cool, mysterious, formidable. Cosgrove maintains that the zoot-suit "was, in the most direct and obvious ways, an emblem of ethnicity and a way of .A Fashioning an Identity 99 , 8 negotiating an identity . . . a refusal: a subcultural gesture that refused to concede to the manners of subservience" (78). Young white jitterbugg+s appropriated the zoot as a symbol of rebellion from their parent3 and as a way of announcing their identity within a new youth culture (Chibnall57). Mexican-Americans who later became involved in the riots h LOS Angeles adopted the style as the uniform of pachuco gangs (Mazon 4). Although the zoot was worn by people of all ethnic origins, many people still considered it simply a black fashion.
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 09/29/2011 for the course SPANISH 3261 taught by Professor Vega during the Fall '11 term at Temple.

Page1 / 8

Osborne.Zoot - 98 F ashioning a n Identity Popular Culture...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online