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We were due to host The Harlem Meer Cats at the end of April. This seems unlikely to happen now. As their promotion photo illustrates then in Zoot suits. We thought it appropriate to present to you an article from Killer Diller. If you enjoy it you can find much more on Facebook, just search Killer Diller.

ZOOT SUIT .. Cloth cut to zoot the mood

Harold C Fox, who has died aged 86, was the Chicago clothier who always claimed that the zoot suit and ~ bizarre name were his invention. Whether the zoot suit evolved or was created is one of those arcane subjects which, when two or three fashion historians are gathered together, has them arguing into the small hours. Either way, although only briefly fashionable, the suit had influence.

Outrageously theatrical in cut - its jacket draped almost to the knee, its shoulders so wide that they sagged, its high-waisted pants hoisted almost to the armpits, all setoff by the ubiquitous and ludicrously long watch chain dangling provocatively halfway down the leg - it was not elegant. But it was spirited. It was also guaranteed to enrage the guardians of public morals, especially as it was worn almost exclusively by young black and Hispanic music and fashion freaks, for whom it was the dress of non-conformity. In fact, they made the zoot suit a political weapon in wartime America. It was immediately seen by the authorities as the dress of alienation. its outrageous self-confidence a threat to stability at a time when the war effort required conformity.

It was a sharp and salutary reminder that not everyone was so in love with the patriotic concept of saving the American way of life that they were prepared to jettison their own culture for the sake of what was, for many, an alien and hostile state.

Fox was born into 1920s Chicago, the son of a factory owner who produced woollen piece-goods. The men who mattered in that city, even the honest ones, were very conscious of their second city status compared with New York. They lived the style and dressed the part to try to show the world their superiority.

In such a style-conscious city, a boy with a ragtrade background could not fail to be interested in fashion. Fox, earning a living as a salesman and itinerant jazz musician, occasionally made suits for his band from bolts of cloth he obtained on the cheap from his father. From such beginnings were careers made in those days. Fox became a designer when he returned from New York to take over the family business on the death of his lather in 1941. He had a flamboyant hand which appealed to the music fraternity, with whom he still occasionally played - even briefly leading a local band himself - and he soon had a devoted clientele of boppers and players, including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton. But it is for the zoot suit that Fox wished to be remembered.

And it was for the suit that people were ready to fight. There were bitter street battles between police and groups of young men determined not to let the war effort overwhelm their cultural pride. It was the first example of ethnic armour. And it was more. The riots that swept through workingclass Los Angeles and Detroit were the first call to arms in the true battle of the century; the war between youth and authority.

If Fox created the zoot suit, he was a seminal, if minor, figure in social as well as fashion history. In its country of origin, the suit lasted as a fashion for fewer than five years, killed by conformity of white American teenagers, although its influence on French youth was more permanent. It became their dress of defiance in the face of Nazi occupation.

In Britain, it was taken up by the wide boys and spivs, then guyed by music hall comics such as "Arfer" English before becoming the template for the Teddy Boy suit in the 1950s, when working - class young men decided to dress in a way that would ridicule the upper-class posturings of the New Edwardians.

From there, it has frequently resurfaced as part of the dress of disaffection and the classic garb of working-class male nonconformity and, as such, worthy - along with the name of Fox himself - of discussion by more than just fashion historians.

Colin McDowell - The Guardian August 96

Harold C Fox, fashion designer and musician, born July 9, 1910; died July 28, 1996



If you are ever asked to dance in America, think twice before hitting the floor. It may be wise to draw up a contract with your partner first. The case of Frank Snyder should serve as a cautionary tale. Six years ago he danced a polka with Linda Daniels, aged 59, at a New Jersey wedding. Now he is being sued. To be fair it was an especially unfortunate twirl. After a quarter turn, Snyder tripped, falling on Daniels and fracturing her hip. she now claims that she hasn't danced since and walks with a limp. "l love to dance, but 1 probably should have stuck to the slow fox-trots at the beginning of the wedding," she told the Wall Street Journal. Last week an appeal court reinstated her lawsuit which had earlier been dismissed by a lower court, though one judge noted that he doubted "there is anyone who has engaged in dancing who has not at some point been stepped on, kicked, pushed, or otherwise been subjected to unintended bodily contract while on a dance floor". Snyder's lawyer, Robert Pindulic, insisted dancing was not an appropriate subject for litigation: "Can you imagine suing over the polka?"

lan Katz - The Guardian July ’96

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