Hover For Menu

Zoot Suit

Are you in the groove? Can you "dig a zoot suit with a reet pleat and a drape shape and a stuff cuff to look sharp enough to see your Sunday gal?" Want to see more of this once-cool but now quaint jive talk?

If your answer is yes, the lyrics from a popular 1941 song called A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal) by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Bob O'Brien make a great way to get in the groove. The version you are now hearing, one of the most popular of all the versions, is by the Big Band of Kay Kyser and his Orchestra. Vocal credits go to Sully Mason, Jack Martin, Ishkabibble, Dorothy Dunn, and Trudy Erwin.

other renditions

A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal) was written by Wolfe Gilbert and Bob O'Brien. It received a lot of attention; it was one of the most popular tunes of its time. It was played on jukeboxes, in diners, bars, and juke joints everywhere. It seemed to say something valid and important about the music and spirit of the times.

The song was recorded by these artists in 1942:

  • Kay Kyser & His Orchestra, vocal by Sully Mason, Trudy, Jack Martin, Max Williams
  • The Andrews Sisters.
  • Paul Whiteman & And His Orchestra.
  • Bob Crosby & His Orchestra, vocal: by Nappy Lamare.
  • Ray Herbeck & His Orchestra, vocal by Hal Munbar & Yvonne Walker.
  • Harry Roy & His Band.

The song is still popular in some circles. In a recent performance, the song was played by Wendi Williams in the 1999 film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. It was also recorded by Benny Goodman and the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra.

Kay Keyser

the lyrics examined

Kaiser's version consists of three sections: start, orchestral bridge, and end. The bridge in the middle portion is excluded from the playback on this page because it contains no lyrics.

Watch out: Kyser's arrangement takes liberties with the original lyrics. Some of the lyrics on the page you are now reading, which are the Gilbert and O'Brien lyrics, don't agree with the words the vocalists are singing. That's because Kyser revised the order in which some stanzas are sung and has given male and female vocalists parts to sing that don't coincide with the printed version of the lyrics. The male vocalist also makes a contribution to confusion by turning the second stanza into a mouthful of mush.

Despite these discrepancies, we've presented the lyrics you see on this page because they're faithful to the original lyrics; we've retained Kyser's revisions because they make for what we think is a mighty fine musical arrangement; you might even say it's cute. We hope you can tolerate the asynchronism.

Careful examination of the lyrics can tell us a lot about the clothes zoot suiters wore and how they felt about them. As you might expect, the clothes made the man, even then.

The lyric is printed below. Notice that it's divided into two halves. Click below to play each half and read along as you listen.

first half

  • The guy sings to
  • The gal, who appears to be a seamstress, describing the clothes he wants her to make for him. If she makes them well, he can properly sport his favorite lady in the style he desires on Sunday, his day off. Of course, the style he wants is the zoot suit.
  • The gal assures him that she knows exactly the kind of clothes he wants by describing the outfit she's going to make for him. She's so in, he confirms his order. Then he asks her what she wants to wear.
  • Play the first half of the lyrics for A Zoot Suit: click here.

second half

  • The gal answers by describing the outfit she's going to wear to please her man on Sunday, her day off. The guy realizes that her man wears a zoot suit and that she wars the female counterpart to the zoot suit. She must be in the groove.
  • The guy is now positive the gal knows the clothes he wants her to make for him and he reaffirms his order.
  • Play the second half of the lyrics for A Zoot Suit: click here.

lyrics from A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal)

First Half Second Half


I want a zoot suit with a reet pleat

And a drape shape, and a stuff cuff

To look sharp enough to see my Sunday gal.



You want a reef sleeve with a right stripe

And a rare square, so the gals will stare

When they see you struttin' with your Sunday pal.


Guy: (That's me).



You wanta look keen so your dream will say

"You don't look like the same beau"

So keen that she'll scream, "Here comes my walkin' rainbow."



So make a zoot suit with a reet pleat

And a drape shape, and a stuff cuff

To look sharp enough to see my Sunday gal

Now, what you want, baby?


I want a brown gown with a zop top

And a hip slip, and a laced waist

In the sharpest taste to see my Sunday man

Guy: (In his zoot suit).



A scat hat and a zag bag

And a slick kiss, so the other chicks

Will be jealous when I'm with my Sunday fan

I wanta look keen so my dream will say

"Ain't I the lucky fellah"

So keen that he'll scream, "Baby's in Technicolor."



So make a reet pleat with a drape shape

And a stuff cuff, to look sharp enough

To see my Sunday, Sunday gal.


More about the song and lyrics

Did you know that there are alternate versions of the lyrics? Different bands recorded the song and thought nothing of using their own variations on the lyrics when it pleased them to do so. The song was popular and received a lot of attention. It was played on music boxes in diners, bars, and juke joints everywhere.

  • Explore the Paul Whiteman version of the lyrics. See who else recorded the song: click here.

explore zoot suiters and the Zoot Suit era

A zoot suit (For My Sunday Gal) was an integral part of the Big Band era when it was cool to be cool in America, but only in certain circles. The vast majority of "circles" varied from conservative to ultra conservative. Most of America was square.

There were far more "not cool" people than cool people. Their differences rubbed some of them the wrong way, causing friction that gradually heated up until it boiled over into the streets of wartime Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and other cities. A succession of riots lead to some deaths and many arrests, rapidly bringing to a close this brief but colorful period in American history.

A zoot suit was not just a song, it was a style of dress and a symbol of a lifestyle that a group of people in search of their own identity used to distinguish themselves from others whom they believed to be "not cool."

Click here for the zoot suit story
See more about zoot suits and zoot suiters on the next page. Click this guy

The mentality behind A zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal) was an integral part of the zoot suit scene, which in turn was part of the Big Band era. Also part of the zoot suit scene was a now-famous series of riots that broke out in Los Angeles in 1943 between whites and Chicano zoot suiters. These riots became known as the Zoot Suit Riots.

What mentality did the song and the suit give voice to?

  • Explore the connections between the Zoot Suit music, zoot suits, the zoot suit mentality, and the Zoot Suit Riots: click here.




ETAF Recommends

Why not get your personal copy of A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal), the song? For those who like what they're hearing, this version is the one by Kay Kyser and his orchestra, which was the most popular version of its day. It's mellow compared with other versions.

For those who want to branch out, ETAF also recommends versions by the Andrews Sisters (more lively), Paul Whiteman & And His Orchestra, and Bob Crosby & His Orchestra,  which were also big hits at the time.

They're all hard to find but well worth the effort. May be pricey because they're dated.

See the Zoot Suit movie, a filmed version of the famous play, with a sensational performance by its star, Edward James Olmos, when he was a brooding actor just beginning his screen career.

Olmos plays a wild, flamboyant, hectoring, all-seeing figure called El Pachuco, a Greek chorus with an attitude. Zoot Suit is a landmark Latino work directed by Luis Valdez, an important figure in Chicano theater. Valdez based his acclaimed play on the zoot-suit riots of 1940s Los Angeles, when a group of young Chicano men were railroaded into jail on a murder charge.

  • Explore the zoot suit riots at Page 2 of this feature: click here.

Page 1, 2



Contact Us
Print This Page
Add This Page To Your Favorites (type <Ctrl> D)

This web site and its contents are copyrighted by Decision Consulting Incorporated (DCI). All rights reserved.
You may reproduce this page for your personal use or for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.
Additional copyright and trademark notices

Exploring the Arts Foundation
Today's Special Feature
To Do
More To Do
Feature Pages
Related Pages
See Also
Our Blogs
Visit Electricka's Blog


Visit Urania's Speculative Fiction Blog


Our Forums
Click here to visit Electricka's Forums.

About The Forums