A young Malcolm X described the zoot suit as: “a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic’s cell”. Zoot suits usually featured a watch chain dangling from the belt to the knee or below, then back to a side pocket.
Zoot suits were for special occasions, such as a dance or a birthday party by zooting up.
The amount of material and tailoring required made them luxury items, so much so that the U.S. War Production Board said that they wasted materials that should be devoted to the World War II war effort.
This extravagance during wartime was a factor in the Zoot Suit Riots. Wearing the oversized suit was a declaration of freedom and self-determination, even rebelliousness!