The Seersucker Suit – the reinvented classic
It’s official: the heatwave of 2019 was the highest ever registered. And not unlike a wave at the beach, this heat has made its comeback sporadically throughout the end of July and beginning of August. While linen has been en vogue since Egyptian times, not much of a case is made for the seersucker suit. But in history, the seersucker suit has made for some of the most iconic looks of the century.
Look closely at the striated fabric and you’ll notice the different textures of the two stripes: one smooth and one coarser in texture. Invented in India, the resilient fabric became known by its Persian nickname, shir o shekar, meaning ‘milk and sugar’, in reference to its crease-free combination of smooth & rough pinstripes.
While seersucker fabric may evoke images of blue-blooded arcadia, its origins are unambiguously working-class. Originally from India, it was reborn in 20th-century America as a heavy-duty textured cotton for men who worked under hot conditions.
From Ivy League to Mockingbirds…
Adopted by students at Princeton during the 1920s, seersucker went mainstream in the North-Americas when Brooks Brothers began selling suits in the 1930s. By the 1930s seersucker had made its way to the Ivy League and was a symbol of working-class’ ultimate counterculture: Wall Street’s epicenter of snobbery.
In 1960, giving it three decades to come into its own, icons from Miles Davis to Gregory Peck were convinced that no matter the situation, the seersucker fabric isn’t made for suckers and losers. Davis’ summery Live at Newport performance featured him in the airy fabric, and when Atticus Finch defended Tom Robinson in the memorable To Kill a Mockingbird scene, he withstood the heat in a seersucker suit.
How to wear it?
Let’s start with what not to do: no bow tie, white bucks or dare we say… a straw hat. Dark accessories will refrain you from looking like a budget Colonel Sanders counterfeit, and making it tailored will definitely be worth the investment. With a fabric that has volume and rumples a bit as you wear it, a tailored Mr. Blue treatment is key.
Match the look with a subtle knit tie and oxfords to complete the careless yet sophisticated aesthetic. Sunglasses will also add a bit of panache, but only when the sun is shining.