Kathy Peiss


On her book Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style

Cover Interview of August 28, 2011

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“When, and under what circumstances, a fashion has been understood as political, and when not.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“I show how this style took hold among young men, circulated rapidly in the popular culture, and then became caught up in the racial politics of the home front.  As it did so, the zoot suit became a symbol, but an enigmatic one.  The style eluded the efforts of experts and academics to fix its meaning—then and now.”

On the second:

“The “politics of style” has become the chief framework for understanding the popular culture of marginalized youth.  I do not hold to an old-fashioned concept of culture as a domain separate from the political world.  I would argue, however, that many interpreters of style have imposed a political reading on this phenomenon.”