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Hommage to formal extravagance

Every Friday a Spring House members will share with us a tip: a favourite movie, a must-read article, an event we cannot miss this weekend or just some general life advice. Here’s this week's tip!

I am Wieteke Vrouwe, I work at Kennisland as an advisor social innovation.


Struggling to find occasions for wearing your suits and chic designer shoes? Look no further! This Friday, Spring House organises the first ever Formal Friday.

Shortly before dull, unicolor formal work attire became a dominant image in our societies, African Americans and jazz musicians made Zoot Suits popular in the 1940s. Quickly, they became a key item for Latino, Italian American, Filipino American and Irish American youth. Some of them combined the Zoot Suit with a fedora hat (color-coordinated with the suit) and pointy leather shoes.

It is rumoured that 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". The amount of tailoring and material required made the suits extravagant luxuries, which many considered unpatriotic in wartime. The U.S. War Production Board stated the 'wasted' precious materials were of better use in the World War II war effort. In 1943, thousands of white American servicemen and civilians attacked and stripped youths of their Zoot Suits, starting the Zoot Suit Riots.

Although police personnel (mostly white) accompanied the rioting servicemen and civilians, they had orders not to arrest any, and some of them joined in the rioting. After several days, more than 150 people had been injured, and the police had arrested more than 500 Latino civilians on charges ranging from "rioting" to "vagrancy". Afterwards, to some, wearing the oversized suit became a declaration of freedom, rebelliousness and self-determination – quite unlike our current formal work attire.

From now on, every first friday of the month will be an hommage to formal extravagance at Spring House.