Gangster Gear

~September 12th, 2010

American Zoot Shooters Association is a shooting sport at its core and in order to call yourself a shooting sport you must involve firearms within competition. Zoot Shooters also portrays the 1920s-1930s and without costumes this would be difficult to do. Therefore, dressing up is equally as important as the period correct guns. In this article I will be discussing three important things next to the “Chicago Typewriter” and they are costumes, holsters and eyewear.

For the men, I contacted costume expert Steve “G Man” Fowler. He is always wearing great costumes at our capers as well as at the SASS matches where he is better known as “Bat Masterson”. “G Man” started by saying that, “zoot suits do look great and would sure be a lot of fun but consider that you have plenty of other period correct options.” He went on to say, “You can do this one of two ways. Enjoy putting together something that’s fun and more or less correct or, you can do exhaustive research and create an exact reproduction of an actual period photo.” He thinks, “most people will end up somewhere in the middle.”

Steve "G Man" Fowler

Steve "G Man" Fowler

As the reader, your first thought, as was mine, may be to get a suit. “The Undertaker”, “Machine Gun Alan” and I purchased our suits from a store called Gentleman’s Collection. It was nice to go to a retail store in the mall, get professional help and try things on. If you do not have easy access to a walk-in retail store, you can find suits on the internet both vintage and new. I have found an internet forum that discusses clothing of the era; they are The Fedora Lounge and are eager to help! If you cannot find what you are looking for by internet searching, spend some time in The Fedora Lounge and you will get more than enough ideas for a costume.

As our name may imply, participants are not required to wear zoot suits or fedoras in our sport. Fedoras were not the only hats worn during that time. “G Man” suggested several that are correct for the era including Panama, straw skimmer, driving, news boy, homburg, derby, cowboy, “Smokey the Bear”, and police uniform type hats. Also, let your imagination stretch beyond playing cops and robbers. People of the era were involved in more than just law enforcement and criminal activities. “G Man” suggested a few suit alternative ideas that are easy and fun such as a “simple working stiff to a society golfer or tennis player.” Do not forget the argyle socks!

According to “G Man”, “solid color shoes were very popular in this era. Short oxford type shoes were available but the higher top shoe boots were still being worn. This high top style of shoe is still being produced as the ‘Madison Shoe’ by Stacy Adams. The two tone or spectator type shoes were also very popular in this time frame. You can also look for a pair of two tone golf shoes and simply remove the spikes. Ladies can get away with the ‘saddle shoe’ style but they would be wrong for the men.” On that note, let us move on to the ladies…

Stacy Adams lace-up brown leather boots

Stacy Adams lace-up brown leather boots

Sonya “Bricktop” Decman found her dress at Flossy McGrew’s on South Broadway in Denver, Colorado. They are more than a costume store in that they sell vintage clothing and jewelry as well. “Bricktop” said, “you have to pick through things there, but they tend to have more selection than the standard flapper dress.” I am sure every town has a place like this and let us not forget Goodwill. “Bricktop” went on to say, “there are a few good sites online, if you search, that will show you the shoe styles. You can’t really go wrong with ‘T’ strap pumps. Remember, they should be shoes you can run in.” She also found a website that showed her how to make a turban type hat.

Sonya "Bricktop" Decman

Sonya "Bricktop" Decman

Jodi “The Flamingo” DePorter of Auto-Ordnance found her costume by doing a little internet keyword searching. “The Flamingo’s” first focus was the costume and it would be the guns later! She Googled “vintage clothing” and “flapper dresses” to see what she could find. “The Flamingo” found “a lot of websites that sell costumes, but I didn’t want a costume, I wanted a higher quality dress, and didn’t want to empty the bank on a true vintage dress. I needed to find quality clothing, but at an affordable price.” Klassic Line Vintage Clothing & Costume had exactly what she needed. “The Flamingo” bought her dress and “proper era shoes” on the Klassic Vintage website. She then “visited a store in the Dallas area that sells costume jewelry and found the perfect accessories of elbow length gloves, long strands of pearls, and the headband with a feather. My outfit was complete and then it was time to prepare my 1911 and my Tommy Gun. Zoot shooting is a blast and I look forward to the next one!”

Jodi "The Flamingo" DePorter with "The Hammer" (left) and "Four Fingers" (right)

Jodi "The Flamingo" DePorter with "The Hammer" (left) and "Four Fingers" (right)

The ladies are probably more resourceful than the men. If you cannot buy it, make it! My girlfriend has two dresses that were made by her mother; a flapper dress and a more formal looking one that resembles a costume worn by Marion Cotillard in the movie “Public Enemies”. She also has a dress that she purchased from Express. It gives a nod to the 1920s especially when worn with the right accessories.

Holsters are not required in Zoot Shooters and capers are designed to allow the use of pistols without them. For those shooters who wish to use holsters, there are only a few correct options available. Vintage holsters can be found on the web and at gun shows. Some shooters with the skills can make them too. There is a shooter who made his own, fashioned after John Dillinger’s double gun rig and he has shared the pattern on the Kahr Talk forum. I found one online at AE Nelson Leather Company; they refer to it as the “Untouchables” shoulder holster. According to the sales person I spoke to, it is the very same one used by the actors on the 1960s television show. It is well made and very affordable. I like it and have used it at a few of our matches. I do know that there are custom holster builders that are working on models appropriate for Zoot Shooters and we may see more choices in the near future.

AE Nelson Leather Company "Untouchables" Shoulder Holster

AE Nelson Leather Company's "Untouchables" Shoulder Holster

We want to have fun but safety is our biggest concern. Proper eyewear during our capers is a must! Unfortunately, glasses worn during the 1920s-1930s do not offer any eye protection while shooting or spectating. Safety and shooting glasses may not fit with your costume but they are mandatory for participation. Fortunately, Smith Optics formed their Elite Division and their mission is “following our heritage we use our expertise to design, develop and deliver the finest battle proven eye protection systems on Earth.” I have been wearing Smith Optics for many years and was very excited to see them at the 2009 SHOT Show. Though not period correct, “The Smith Elite Tactical sunglass line fills the gap in the tactical world by bringing performance and style to protective eyewear.” I have always been impressed with Smith Optic’s products, customer service and I must say their new glasses look great with a fedora!

Smith Elite Director Tactical Sunglasses

Smith Elite Director Tactical Sunglasses

Use your imagination, fashion a fun costume, pick the right gear, grab your gats and join us in our capers!

The Hustler

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10 Responses to “Gangster Gear”

  1. Race Bannon says:

    Excellent article!! Thank you Hustler, the websites and companies you mentioned will be very helpful to me in refining my costume.

  2. Ron says:

    Great job! Any chance in the future that shoulder rigs are going to be allowed for revolvers? We use them in SASS (think huckleberry-style rigs ala Doc Holiday in Tombstone) and they are perfectly safe, even with single action revolvers.

    Keep up the good work, everyone!

    Ron “Schemer” Schramm.

  3. Tom "The Boilermaker" says:

    “The Fixer” and I are on the hunt for a double holster rig to holster two 1911’s.

  4. zootshoot says:


    I believe Mernickle Holsters is working on a 1911 double shoulder rig.

  5. zootshoot says:

    Thanks Schemer! We are still not planning to allow revolvers with shoulder holsters. The way we start capers would cause the shooter to sweep himself and others up-range with a hot gun. Can it be done safely? Possibly, but we question that with a new shooter. It’s not the empty chamber under the hammer we’re worried about. It’s the next one in-line that could become a deadly accidental discharge with a double action revolver. If shooters would like to wear them unloaded as part of their costume, that is okay. They just cannot draw loaded revolvers from a shoulder rig during capers.

  6. zootshoot says:

    I bought a Halloween / SASS costume from Historical Emporium Inc. They sell wonderful, high quality clothing for the Victorian and Edwardian eras plus some Old West. When I placed my order, I asked about 1920s and 1930s costumes. The sales associate said it has been something they have been getting requests for and they have been considering it though it is the back burner. Let’s persuade them to move it to the front burner…

  7. Gerry says:

    Idaho Leather Co. makes versions of the two gun 1911 rig used by bruce willis in the movie last man standing, though they no longer seem to have a website, the company is still up and running as far as i know

  8. zootshoot says:

    I’m a big fan of Dr. Martens shoes. I’ve been wearing an old pair of Dr. Martens wing tips part of my costume since we started Zoot Shooters. I think they are now discontinued but I found a new style that seem to be much more fitting for a 1920s-1930s costume. They also have an aggressive boot sole that may be much more suitable for outdoor range use than dress shoes. If they’re like any other Docs I’ve had before, they’ll be comfortable and will last forever. Check ‘em out…

    The Hustler

  9. John Lisbeth says:

    I have some period women’s clothing, a feathered hat, etc., that I’ll give away if someone will pay for shipping.

    Viera, FL

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