Bill's Blog

ON NATIONAL SEERSUCKER DAY ... WHY SEERSUCKER MATTERS

Posted on June 7th, 2016

This Thursday, June 9th is National Seersucker Day.  It is a day when all well-dressed, comfortable Americans will don the iconic summer fabric and celebrate the greatest fashion invention of all time.

Seersucker was imported to America from the British Colonial East Indies in the 19th century.  By the early 20th century, it was being put to great practical use in the manufacture of overalls worn by laborers in factories, particularly in the hot and humid south.

In New Orleans, a clothier and tailor named Joseph Haspel made a living using seersucker to manufacture sturdy work clothes for factory workers, farmers, and even prisoners.

And then Joseph Haspel had an epiphany.  He took that puckered cotton fabric and tailored it into a suit designed for Louisiana's blazing summer heat.

The name "seersucker" is derived from the Persian words "sheer" and "shakkar," meaning milk and sugar.  And in Joseph Haspel's hands, it was appropriately named, as seersucker is a wonderful combination of puckered fabric.

The very nature of seersucker makes it not only light weight, but its combination of both the smooth and bumpy texture (milk and sugar!) causes the fabric to lift away from the skin when it is worn.  It is a cool suit, both literally and figuratively.

Haspel invented the seersucker suit in the days of the hot and humid pre-air conditioned south.  But it is now more popular than ever.  The obvious question is why.

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius observes that “the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

The post-Elizabethan translation is, “Clothes make the man… and woman.”  Mark Twain later affirmed this, adding, “Naked people have little or no influence in society.”

No doubt about it, ever since Adam and Eve started sewing fig leaves together, clothes have been more than covers.  They are expressions of who we are and the many and varied roles we play in life.

Some clothes are made for work, while others are made for play.

Some clothes are made for comfort, while others are made as elegant attire.

There are clothes for corporate board meetings, and clothes for cocktail parties and  backyard cookouts.

There are clothes for church, clothes for school, and clothes for working in the garden.

There are clothes to wear when it’s time to get down to business, and clothes to wear when it’s time to have fun.

And here’s the extraordinary essence of seersucker.  You can wear it on any of those occasions, and it is always a perfect fit.

If you are the Chairman or Chairwoman of the Board, you will wow the directors and shareholders when you walk in the annual meeting in your finest seersucker suit.

If you are hosting a dinner party, your guests will compliment you when you greet them wearing the puckered cotton classic. 

You can wear it when you play golf or tennis, attend ball games, and as seersucker’s inventor, Joseph Haspel, demonstrated, you can even wear it when you swim.             

You can wear your seersucker to every important event in your life – baptisms, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, proms, graduations, job interviews, rehearsal dinners, weddings, and honeymoons.  (Go seersucker casual for that important event.)

Atlanta designer and retailer Sid Mashburn says of seersucker, “I’d wear it anywhere except a funeral.” 

And some folks would disagree and say it’s perfect for a funeral, as seersucker is a celebration of a well-lived and full life.

It’s an incredible combination of style, comfort, and fun.

As Laurie Haspel Aronson has observed, “Seersucker is a whole feeling and attitude … being fun, being comfortable in your clothes, not being taken too seriously … always looking put-together … always looking effortless.  Just put it on and you will look good in that suit….  You are who you are, but wearing that suit makes your attitude come out.”

No, seersucker is not for everybody.  It’s just for the confident, well-dressed man or woman who enjoys life in every role she or he plays.

It is indeed milk and sugar, the perfect combination to wear whether you are sipping sweet tea while sitting in your front porch swing, a café au lait at Café Du Monde in New Orleans, or a mint julip at the Kentucky Derby.

So on this National Seersucker Day, wear seersucker with pride.  Wear it with confidence.  Wear it with comfort.  And wear it with an attitude … an attitude of fun.

To read more about the iconic fabric, get a copy of Bill's new book, Milk and Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker.  And hear Bill interviewed on Bloomberg Advantage on the Bloomberg Radio Network on Thursday, June 9th at 10:00 a.m. CDT, on XM Channel 119 or on www.bloomberg.com .

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