June 9 is National Seersucker Day! Celebrate with Us!
It’s unusual for a fabric to have a national holiday, but seersucker certainly deserves it. It is the fabric of politicians, actors, events, the elite, and the working man. It has an iconic place in the U.S. even though its origins are in the far east. It is so popular because of its utility and versatility.
The seersucker advantage
Seersucker is such a popular summer fabric because it’s cool. The multi-texture keeps the fabric a bit away from the body so it doesn’t cling and trap heat in and allows for further air circulation. It is also a fairly loose weave so it’s breathable. Finally, seersucker is one of the best fabrics for travel. Because it already has a built-in crinkle, when you unpack it from luggage it won’t look creased. You won’t be walking around wrinkly even after sitting in hot weather like you would in plain cotton or linen.
Seersucker is so versatile and durable that it’s used for everything from ties and suits to jackets, shirts, pants, shorts, and even hats. A heavier version was used for overalls and engineers’ hats on railroads in the old West and other blue-collar workers, i.e., Standard Oil gas station attendants. Standard weight seersucker was used for uniforms for female Marine officers in WWII and other work uniforms because it is so durable and inexpensive. Hospital volunteers got the name “candy-striper” because of the red and white striped seersucker uniforms they wore. It was also adopted by college Ivy Leaguers as a summer go-to style. Like madras plaid, seersucker is a fabric that has been embraced by both the poorer working classes as well as the elite.
What exactly is seersucker?
Seersucker is created through a weaving process called slack tension. Even if you don’t know seersucker’s name, you’ll recognize its look and feel. It’s that narrowly striped fabric, usually seen in a pastel like blue, pink, or yellow and white with a crinkly texture. The colored stripe will lay flat while the white stripe will be crinkled. This occurs because the vertical, or warp, threads are kept at different tensions for the different colors throughout the weaving process.
You might wonder (or not) who created the term seersucker and what it has to do with this fabric. The name evolved from the Hindi word “sirsakar” which evolved from the Persian compound “Shir o shakar” which means cream or milk and sugar. There are two variations on why the fabric was so named. The most common is that the two textures resemble sugar (crinkly or coarse) and cream (smooth). The other version goes that the original fabric was made from cotton and silk and was beige and white. When the fabric was washed, the cotton shrunk at a different rate than the silk with the white becoming crinkled. Between the color and the two textures, the name seemed appropriate. Today, most seersucker is made from all cotton, or at the very least, predominantly cotton blended with polyester or nylon.
Traditionally, one of the dominant users of seersucker was the Haspel clothing company in New Orleans. There are varying stories about Haspel making the original seersucker suit in 1909, but there is also evidence that this was actually done at a later date or that Brooks Brothers offered the first seersucker suits. Regardless, Haspel has been synonymous with summer weight suits for over a hundred years. However, if you want to wear a seersucker jacket that truly fits correctly, try our Unstructured Jacket in Blue Stripe Seersucker. You’ll find that it is made to properly fit the shorter man. You can read more about unstructured jackets in our style guide here.
Classic seersucker for every occasion
If you’re not convinced that seersucker is as relevant and stylish today as it was in the 1930’s when Atticus Finch wore a 3-piece version in “To Kill a Mockingbird” ….
…or the 1960’s version of Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”…
…then you simply have to take a look at all the celebrities wearing their seersucker at every Kentucky Derby.
The amazing thing about seersucker is that you can look, and feel, comfortable in the hottest weather. You stay cool because of the fabric’s breathability. You’ll never actually look rumpled even though the fabric itself is wrinkly. Pretty amazing!
In fact, seersucker is such a favorite hot weather fabric that the U.S. Senate has Seersucker Thursday in June. The tradition was initiated in 1996 by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Loft. He declared that “the Senate isn’t just a bunch of dour folks wearing dark suits”. The tradition continues today on the second or third Thursday in June (There was a brief break from 2012-2014.)
If you still think that seersucker is old fashioned and not for you, Miles Davis chose to wear it on his album cover for “At Newport 1958”.
Wearing seersucker casually
You might be thinking that you don’t wear suits or even sports coats. You also may be thinking that you don’t want to wear the traditional pin striped, pastel seersucker. Well, you’re in luck because you can get the comfort and ease of seersucker in more modern patterns, or even solids. Peter Manning is offering several proportionally sized seersucker short sleeved button-up shirts just for you! We offer our Seersucker Short Sleever in bolder stripes, tattersall check, and solids.
These shirts offer the breathability of lightweight seersucker with a more modern and casual sensibility. You still get the benefits of proportionally designed shirts that Peter Manning is known for. Untucked, these shirts will hit you at the right spot, yet can still be tucked in for a more refined look. Your sleeves won’t hang down to your elbow, and even the collar is designed in proportion to the body. Our shirts will have a slimmer cut than shirts not designed for the shorter man which is especially important with fabrics that may appear slightly bulkier than non-textured fabrics. With Peter Manning shirts you know you are getting a quality product designed specifically to fit your body.
If you are looking for a lightweight fabric that’s perfect for summer, your best choices are linen or seersucker. If you hate being creased and want a fabric that is wash and wear, your go-to should be seersucker! This fabric is a classic for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that you have to look dated, or out-of-date. Seersucker is versatile and Peter Manning offers it in fashionable styles and patterns that are a great addition to every wardrobe.
P.S. If you are fascinated by seersucker, there is a book dedicated to the fabric. “Milk & Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker” by Bill Haltom can be found at Amazon. If you’re interested in the history of seersucker and politics there are a couple articles dedicated to it: #TBT A Brief History Of (Political) Seersucker : It's All Politics : NPR and Seersucker Day is back on Capitol Hill - The Washington Post.