The History of the Seersucker Suit and How to Wear One Today

Seersucker-suit

You don’t have to be a Southern gentleman to stay cool in a seersucker suit this summer.  When the cold finally dissipates and the warm air creeps in, you’ll be looking for a suit that doesn’t stick to your every move.  We’re going to teach you the history behind, the advantages of, and the best ways to wear the seersucker suit.

From British Colonialists to Southern Swag

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Seersucker made its first big appearance during the British Colonial period where it was the goto fabric for the warm weather colonies like British India.  Made from 100% cotton and extremely thin, the (most commonly) striped material is excellent for letting your skin breathe and circulating air on the stale, humid days of summer.

Seersucker made its way to the US shortly thereafter and became the ubiquitous uniform of the Southern Gentleman.  However, before the Southern gents took note of the practicality of the seersucker, it was widely recognized as the fabric of the poor.  It is easy to wash with little care needed, making it ideal for those in strapped financial situations.  Of course, this didn’t last long.  By the 1920’s prepsters decided they too liked the summertime look and decided to make it their own.

From that day forward we’ve seen seersucker on a lot more preps and southerners than we have indigent populations.  While you may think of a classic seersucker suit and see flashes of Colonel Sanders in your mind, if you take the updated version you get everything but.  Seersucker suits these days are cut much slimmer and can be found in more patterns than the days of our forefathers.  Still a summer staple in the South, but quickly becoming more and more acceptable and recognized in the Northern regions, seersucker is here to stay.  It’s time to get on board.

How to Wear a Seersucker Suit

Seersucker-Suit-Gant-2012

As you know by now seersucker is best for the summer, which means you are going to want the rest of your outfit to be fit for the same season.  Bright colors and bold patterns are a great way to take your seersucker suit from looking boring and outdated to fresh and modern.  Not a fan of bold patterns?  Understandable.  Another great option with a seersucker suit is a light chambray shirt, they often have the same look, as both fabrics are a bit on the wrinkled side, so be sure not to match the colors too closely.  But they can also look extremely dapper when paired together.  Pair either of those options with a bold tie, or as I prefer, a knit tie and the right pocket square and your whole look comes together.

Try some pairings like the ones below.

Seersucker-Suit

Trim Fit Seersucker Suit by Michael Kors, available at Nordstrom, $395  
Lightweight Oversize Gingham Check Shirt from J. Crew, $59.50
Sullivan Solid Grey Cotton Textured Tie from The Tie Bar, $15

Seersucker-suit-collage

Ludlow Japanese Seersucker Suit by J. Crew, $298
The Americano Semi-Spread Shirt from Bonobos, $138
Polka Dot Tie from The Tie Bar, $15

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Seersucker-Suit-Ralph-Lauren-Collage

Lauren by Ralph Lauren Seersucker Suit, available at Macy’s, $249.99
Red Action Linen Shirt by Ledbury, $155
Geo-Print Dobby Tie from Banana Republic, $69.50

The Right Shoes

White-Bucks-Seersucker-Suit

Traditionally speaking, white bucks are the go-to kicks for a seersucker suit, but tradition can be so bland and uniform.  I say be bold and show off your innate sense of style.  Depending on the suit, I am a big fan of navy wingtip brogues, preferably in suede, with seersucker.  They incorporate the timeless elegance with a modern twist.

Of course not everyone likes to have their shoes stick out, so for the shyer folk in the audience, I recommend some simple brown wingtips.  Not too dark, this isn’t your office and it isn’t fall if you’re wearing seersucker.  But something that is more of a light caramel color will mesh perfectly.

Another favorite that is a slight mix of modern and tradition is the saddle oxford.  I’m not a wearer of them myself, but I see the appeal, especially with seersucker.  If you go this route, mix up the colors, find something that stands out but preserves the tradition of the suit.  Blues, grays, browns and whites will all work in a nice mixture here.  Have fun with it.

However if you are someone who does consider themselves a bit of a traditionalist, white bucks have been a go-to for a reason.  Lace ’em up and keep ’em clean and you’ll look right at home.

Look for something like these…

KG-Kurt-Geiger-Luton-Wingtip
Kurt Geiger Luton Wingtip, available at Nordstrom, $170

Cold-Haan-Air-Madison-Wingtip-Oxford
Cole Haan Air Madison Wingtip Oxford, $248

Cole-Haan-Great-Jones-Saddle-Shoe
Cole Haan ‘Great Jones’ Saddle Shoe, available at Nordstrom, $132.66

The Seersucker Wrap-Up

Now that you know the ins and outs of the seersucker suit feel free to stay cool this summer while you get your Southern charm on.  Whether you decide to wear stripes, gingham checks or a Colonel Sanders all white, know that you look good and you’re doing it correctly.  So sit back, kick up your white bucks and count the days until the real sun comes out.  Enjoy your dapper summer.

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