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The zoot suit was a refusal: a sub cultural gesture that refused to concede to the manners of subservience. By the late 1930s, the term "zoot" was in common circulation within urban jazz culture. Zoot meant something worn or performed in an extravagant style, and since many young blacks wore suits with outrageously padded shoulders and trousers that were fiercely tapered at the ankles, the term zoot-suit passed into everyday usage. In the sub-cultural world of Harlem's nightlife, the language of rhyming slang succinctly described the zoot-suit's unmistakable style: 'a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, real-pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic's cell.

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