Where the most obvious creativity comes in is the “candy” or custom paint jobs of the cars. This takes using several layers of colors, marbleized, pinstripes, pearl, oxide flakes in metal, among other things, to create airbrushed scenes or hand-painted graphics that have some specific meaning to the owner.
The show featured a classic car area, Chevy Impala’s, and other sections including California “surfer” station wagons and trucks, as well as the subculture of lowrider customized bicycles featuring the famous Hollywood cruiser. Many cars and bikes were showcased with a stage-set consisting of the real relics of the time of the car, such as outdoor movie theater volume boxes, take-out trays, dolls, dice, old-school Coca-Cola signs, crates, and bottle (still full), among other props.
What’s very interesting about lowrider culture is the fashion surrounding the scene. First, there’s the utilitarian uniform look of blue or black Dickies pants, white T-shirt, pulled up tube socks, and white sneaks with a mechanic-like zip jacket; or button-down short-sleeved mechanics shirt with corresponding bandana in the back pocket. Girls can be just as donned with flannel or mechanic shirts, usually paired with short denim shorts or skirts and high-wedged shoes, topped with a rockabilly coif.
In addition was a strong showing of the Zoot Suit—the high-waisted, wide legged trousers with a long coat and wide lapels, padded shoulders, topped with fedora with long feather, pointed shoes (Ducky-style), and pocket watches with chains going below the knee and back up to a side vest pocket. The brand ElPachuco.com was onsite featuring their latest wares, including mini zoot suits for boys. You can also find the emergence of the zoot suit scene across the street from the Cooper Building in downtown LA on 9th and Los Angeles with several stores showcasing the style. What’s interesting about the zoot suit is that it’s roots come from the Mexican-American culture clash and “zoot riots” of 1943 in downtown LA when military personnel coming back from war pummeled all the guys they could find in zoot suits, also known as pachucos. Hundreds of Mexican-Americans were arrested and only 9 soldiers.
The zoot suit has a varied history that stems as part of symbol of self-defiance from a strong cultural group representing their own individuality. In March of 1942, the zoot suit was banned because of all of the material it took to make one and the luxurious aspects of the style that were considered opulent during a time of war when things were rationed including fabrics. Brave young guys wanting to look fly and garner respect still wore them and were often associated with gangs and the underground. Today, the zoot suit and variations of this style are part of the growing subculture of a new version of American upper urbanwear.
With the Lowrider show in it’s 30th year and growing, things you can expect is more attention to this scene as the customized car culture, as well as motorcycle and bicycle culture take root across a wider cross-cultural demographic. Bike-night rides in New York and LA (i.e., “Sins and Sprockets” social club) are already taking back the streets, and the lowrider clubs, creativity, and fashion subcultures are all building a lifestyle that we’ll probably see more of on MTV and reality shows in the near future.