At the face of growing police violence and discrimination in the 1940s, the zoot suit became a symbol of resistance among Mexican Americans and African Americans. This unique style offered young men and women a tool to navigate their own processes of identity construction as a negotiation between white middle-class norms and the expectations of their own communities.⁠

18 young men stand in a jail cell, wearing Zoot suits and other dressy attire

“Mexican American youths detained for questioning,” ca. 1942. Los Angeles Daily News, UCLA Digital Collections. digital2.library.ucla.edu⁠