The Origins of Southern Style: Part 2 - Seersucker

Posted by Perlis

Mar 5, 2015 2:07:00 PM

Although known as a Southern United States style, seersucker has a long history that starts in the Middle East. It makes sense, considering that these places have this fabric in common, since residents of both regions endure the effects of hot weather. Throughout history, seersucker was always important for its ability to keep the wearer cool. Here's the next installment of our Origins of Southern Style series, and it all about seersucker!

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What Is Seersucker All About?

While the original Middle Eastern version of seersucker was made of silk, America's seersucker is generally made of cotton, or sometimes rayon. The interesting name of the fabric comes from the Persian phrase for milk and sugar: sir-o-sakar, since the alternating flat and puckered textures of the fabric resemble the textures of these two foods, explains The American Heritage Dictionary. During America's seersucker history, the puckering was synonymous with the classic white and light blue vertical stripe design.

Why Seersucker?

Before seersucker was a favored choice for warm weather suits, laborers wore seersucker uniforms to stay cool on the job. The fabric became popular for both blue- and white -collar workers because both groups struggled with heat in the days before air conditioning.

The way the fabric bunches keeps it away from the skin to allow air to flow. Plus, seersucker has a much lighter composition than many alternatives, such as flannel or wool suits, helping it to breathe better. According to the United States Senate website, another benefit of seersucker for a hot climate is that you can wash it often without wearing it down.

Seersucker's Evolution

This interesting fabric became important in the South because of the hot and humid conditions of the region. In 1909, Joseph Haspel of New Orleans was the one who turned the fabric into fashionable suits for professionals to wear as a solution for them working in stifling heat while dressed in thick, heavy suits. After Haspel created the seersucker suit, the fabric turned into a major fashion trend, going beyond office workers to reach Ivy League students, actors, and politicians around the nation.

Today, seersucker is still alive and well as an icon of the American South, but is also popular in the rest of the nation and parts of the world. Fashionable New Yorkers wear the suits as separates, according to an article in The New York Times. Women wear seersucker along with men, and it shows up beyond suits in various forms, including:

  • casual pants
  • button-down shirts
  • dresses
  • bags
  • shoes
  • belts

Seersucker isn't just blue and white stripes anymore. Now it comes in designs that include:

  • white stripes mixed with just about any color, including light pink, green, or yellow
  • gingham and plaid
  • added embroidery of tiny designs such as anchors or crabs

Seersucker isn't relegated to certain groups anymore -- now major American and European designers use it. Anyone can wear it -- even you. Get your seersucker in time for warmer weather, and present yourself with a refined, classy new style.

Seersucker Styles

 

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