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Seersuckers and Summertime

Traditionally, seersuckers are worn between Easter Day/Derby Day and Labor Day.  It's very much summer attire.  But what exactly is seersucker, how did it develop in popularity, and how might you consider incorporating it into your wardrobe?  We'll discuss all that in today's article.

What's in a name

Seersucker is the anglicization of an East Indian take on Persian words shir (milk) and shakkar (sugar).  The fabric that got this nickname was smooth (like milk), due to its stripes, but rough (like sugar) due to the way the fabric "puckered."  It is this puckering that gives seersucker fabric some of its cooling properties - it holds more of the fabric away from your body, allowing more circulation.

What's the fabric, exactly?

It's made with a cotton weave that causes the thread to bunch together in various places, which gives it a "bump" appearance (the "pucker" referred to above).  This appearance also means it doesn't need to be ironed, as the pucker is permanent and other wrinkles are made less visible as part of the effect.  The light fabric also dries easily, and one of the men who is credited with making the first seersucker suit (back in 1909) famously dove into the ocean wearing a seersucker and then showed others that the suit had dried completely before dinner.

This alternating puckering pattern, combined with the lightweight cotton fabric, is what gives seersucker its trademark cooling property. The puckering causes more of the fabric to be held away from the body, allowing greater air circulation between you and your clothes.

One stripe will always be white while the alternating stripe is traditionally blue, but can also be bright yellow, Granny Smith green, pink, or gray, just to name a few.

How did it get popular?

It wasn't popular originally.  It was very much considered the uniform of the working class and you can find old black and white photographs of engineers and even gas pump attendants wearing seersucker.  This all changed when some Princeton preppies started wearing them in the late 1930s which gave Brooks Brothers the impetus to feature it in their catalogue.  Success followed upon success, as the Duke of Windsor, Miles Davis, and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch all prominently sported seersucker.  Most recently Jamie Foxx sported a red white and blue Vineyard Vines seersucker jacket at a Kentucky Derby.

Should you add some seersucker to your wardrobe?

To be clear, seersucker is highly seasonal.  It's functionally built for hot weather and is comfortable all throughout the summertime.  It's not something that can be part of your wardrobe all year, but it's a great way to give yourself some variation in your wardrobe, some relief from the heat, and to be distinctive and stylish.  While a seersucker jacket and trousers are the most traditional way to wear the fabric, you can also pick up some seersucker shorts if you want to be casually stylish.

Do you wear seersucker?  Let us know when you first started doing so via the comments below.

Ben Davis

About Ben Davis

A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.

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