NATIONAL SEERSUCKER DAY: A BIPARTISAN FASHION STATEMENT
JUNE 8, WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today is National Seersucker Day, and I’m celebrating it in the United States Capitol with Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, and many other well-dressed Senators participating in “Seersucker Thursday.”
Seersucker is, of course, the iconic cotton-puckered fabric that New Orleans clothier and tailor Joseph Haspel used in 1909 to make the first seersucker suit. It was the perfect suit for southern “bidnessmen” and lawyers in the south in the days before the advent of air conditioning.
By the 1920s, its fame had spread to cooler climates in the north, as it was discovered by the Great Gatsby crowd. Undergraduate gentlemen at Princeton began to don it, and it soon spread to other Ivy League and prep schools across the northeastern United States.
By the decade of the 1940s, seersucker suits arrived in Washington, and were being worn by America’s leaders, including FDR and Harry Truman.
And then in 1962, Hollywood produced a seersucker icon in the persona of Gregory Peck in his memorable, Oscar-winning performance as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. In a hot Alabama courtroom, Peck, as Finch, wore a three-piece seersucker suit as he defended an innocent man, field hand Tom Robinson. Peck’s suit was personally fitted for him by Haspel of New Orleans.
On a warm spring Thursday in June of 1996, Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi strode onto the floor of the Senate wearing a seersucker suit, white bucks, and a beautiful pink silk tie and matching pink socks. There he was joined by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, also resplendent in a beautiful seersucker suit. It was the first “Seersucker Thursday,” a bipartisan fashion call in an effort to promote civility in our Nation’s Capital.
From 1996 to 2012, both Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate came together in a bipartisan celebration of the fabric of our Nation, seersucker.
It was one annual day marked by fashion and civility in the United States Senate.
Unfortunately, it was discontinued in 2012, because Senate leaders felt it made the Senate appear “frivolous.” Senator Trent Lott rebuffed that charge, saying, “Well, let me just say this. When Dianne Feinstein and I held Seersucker Thursdays in the U.S. Senate in the late 1990s, we balanced the federal budget! I do not believe that was a coincidence!”
But in 2014, Senator Bill Cassidy of (where else?) Louisiana brought it back, along with the declaration that Seersucker Thursday would also be “National Seersucker Day.”
Well, I am not a politician, much less a member of the United States Senate. I’m just a patriotic American who loves my country, pays his taxes, and wears seersucker.
Accordingly, I could not miss “Seersucker Thursday.” With the help of my friend Laurie Haspel Aronson, the CEO of the Haspel Company, I finagled an invitation to Seersucker Thursday from Senator Cassidy.
And today, I had the honor to meet with this fine senator and present him and his seersucker-clad Senate colleagues with a copy of Milk & Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker. It is the quintessential work on seersucker, and it is written by a very well-dressed attorney from Memphis.
Unfortunately, we live in very uncivil times when many of our leaders in Washington have forgotten the dress and demeanor of the late Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee. Senator Baker loved seersucker and wore it on summer days on the floor of the United States Senate long before the advent of “Seersucker Thursday.”
Senator Baker was not only a dapper dresser. He was a Southern gentleman who brought people together with his civility. He was fond of reminding his fellow senators to consider other points of view and be willing to compromise, recalling the advice of his late father to “always remember the other fellow may be right.”
And so on this National Seersucker Day, I say it’s time for all of us to practice seersucker and civility. It is a wonderful combination that could bring our nation together.