The term Zazou is believed to have derived from the above referenced tune by Jazz Great Cab Calloway. More than just a another cool phrase of the “hep cats”, it was adopted as a meaning of rebellion and resistance in Nazi Occupied France. In 1940, when the Nazis seized Paris, they immediately implemented a ration on textiles in attempt to reserve all resources for the German war effort. In addition to the numerous food and rationing efforts, the Germans also put into effect a prohibition on “Entartete Musik” literally Degenerate Music, commonly called Jungle Music-the popular jazz and blues music of African Americans. African American Jazz musicians had a long established presence in Paris since the mid 1920’s when artists such as The Great Josephine Baker relocated to France finding the audience more accepting of African American Entertainers. The youth of the 1940’s also gravitated to the Jazz and Swing styles and are believed to have established underground clubs for dancing to the outlawed sound of Black artists. They also adopted a style of dress similar to the “Zoot Suit” created by young African Americans. The Parisians modified the style adorning themselves in wildly striped, excessively long, sport coats with heavily padded shoulders. The style was intended to openly defy the Nazi ration on textiles and fabric.
Above you see the signature “quiff” hairstyle, thick cotton socks, and cropped trousers with overly wide cuffs. The slacks were cut short, too short, almost as if in addition to WWII there was also an imminent danger of flash floods in 1940’s Paris. Unlike the Zoot Suit, Zazou trousers were narrow and often worn in contrast to the extravagant sports coat loudly draped above the torso. In addition to excessive fabric, some zazous even went as far as to wear the Star of David to further protest against Nazi Occupation. Like all things, this era came to an end with the effort to rebuild in Paris in the 1950s,but, what a time it was. The legacy of the Zazou leaves us with the understanding of an ethos that remains significant to this day. The notion that the way you dress is a refection of your values, attitude ,and lifestyle. Seventy years after the age of the zazou, their legacy is still true.