Yara Shahidi never ceases to amaze us with her impeccable style and Monday night was no exception! The Grown-ish star attended the MTV Movie & TV Awards in a pastel blue custom Tory Burch pantsuit and nude pumps, and was styled by her longtime stylist Jason Bolden. The suit jacket had an oversized drape with a matching belt, while the pants had a loose, baggy fit with tapered legs.
On Instagram, Shahidi captioned the photo, “Zoot suiting in vintage fabrics ✨ thank you @toryburch for this custom piece of the sky + @mtv for a great show.”
Shahidi, who has been a longtime activist and stands up for social justice and criminal justice reform, described the oversized pantsuit as “zoot suiting” and the cultural significance behind this statement makes us love her even more. To give a bit of background, zoot suits first became popular among African American men in urban cities like Harlem, Detroit and Chicago back in the 1940s, and also became popular among Mexican-American, Italian-American and Filipino-American men. Malcolm X, Dizzy Gillespie and more used to wear zoot suits as a form of rebellion and as a symbol of freedom and self-determination.
During World War II, politicians tried to outlaw zoot suits because they considered the excess use of fabric as unpatriotic, and argued that the materials should be put toward the war efforts. It actually led to tension between Mexican-Americans and U.S. soldiers and led to the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles in 1943. It was described in Kathy Peiss’ book, Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style as “perhaps the first time in American history that fashion was believed to be the cause of widespread civil unrest.” In Invisible Man, author Ralph Ellison also described the zoot suit as having profound political meaning.
Essentially the zoot suit became a form of expression for minority men and served as a symbol of resistance between men of color and the government. Shahidi wearing a “zoot suit” in 2018 also serves a powerful fashion statement particularly in Trump’s America.
As Shahidi once said, “If you look at the history of art and fashion, it’s always been political. It’s always been pushing boundaries.” And that’s exactly what the young actress has been consistently doing through both her fashion choices and activism.