As the 40s arrived in full swing, jazz emerged along with it. Jazz clubs featured spirited music, high-energy dancing, and the fashionable zoot suit. People of all different races and ethnicities came together to dance, drink, and enjoy themselves. Jazz was created to get people to dance and sing along to songs. This style of music came from early blues and ragtime and was heavily influenced by African-American culture in the United States. Jazz music contrasted European classical music, which was favored at the time. By the 1940s, jazz and its simpler variation, swing, was very popular among African-Americans and other minorities.
However, not all people enjoyed the new change of interest in music. Jazz immediately gained a bad reputation because of its habit of ignoring the long-standing rules of white supremacy. For many older Anglos, this was a threat to morality. Some even claimed that jazz encouraged sexual promiscuity and drinking. This music was considered the “wave of youthful rebellion” and evidence their “slipping morality.” One reason was that race-mixing was common on the band floor, and that was simply outrageous to many Anglos. Overall, jazz and its culture were seen as a social danger to Anglos and one that had to be stopped.
Jazz culture also featured zoot suits. This getup was usually worn with thick-soled shoes, a broad-brimmed hat, suspenders, narrow belts, long watch chains that swung from vests or pant’s pockets, and long hair that was combed back or in a ducktail. However, it was more than just a bright, colorful attire; it was a statement. Pachucos, a hostile slang term for young Mexican-American men who were seen as gang members, wore these suits for multiple reasons, primarily as a rebellion. Part of this had to do with them self-consciously rejecting the standards of “proper” behavior held by their parents and community, which resulted in a “hipster” attitude. Eduardo Obregón Pagán, a writer and historian wrote, “The hipster carried the air of the tricking for the constant edge of excitement and pleasure. Hookers and marijuana were rumored to be his constant companies and defiant hood his creed.”
Many people had different views about youth wearing zoot suits. Octavio Paz, a Mexican writer who lived in Berkeley, California, viewed the behavior of the Pachucos as a desperate need for the rest of the world to take notice of them. “As a victim, he can occupy a place in the world that previously ignored him; as a delinquent, he can become one of its wicked heroes,” Paz noted. However, Anglos had a very hostile view towards Pachucos wearing zoot suits. They thought of them as a “likely threat to the law.”