chapter  16
26 Pages

Zoot Suiters and Sapeurs: The Politics of Dress in the World War II Era


World War II profoundly infl uenced dress culture during the 1940s. Although the politicization of dress did not necessarily begin during this period, conditions in the fi rst half of the twentieth century, particularly during World War II, ignited segments of the populations of the United States and Congo-Brazzaville.1 Despite their various diff erences, zoot suiters and early sapeurs responded to forms of state violence and repression by donning fl ashy outfi ts through which they could exert their presence in the oppressive states where they lived. In the United States, this phenomenon primarily included young Mexican Americans and African Americans in urban centers across the country. The sapeur movement grew signifi cantly in the post-war period as African soldiers that fought in Europe during the war returned to Congo-Brazzaville with new ideas of politics, colonialism, communism, and democracy.