2019 Tailoring

The Olive Cotton Seersucker Suit

By Nick Carvell

Jul 13, 2022

The Olive Cotton Seersucker Suit

How does one wear seersucker in a modern way? We provide an answer.

Seersucker is one of those fabrics that’s suffered from catastrophically bad press over the past hundred years. Chances are that when you think of it, a hazy picture begins to form in your mind of a gentleman wearing a suit of turquoise and cream candy stripe material, leaning on a cane while sipping a mint julep, perhaps at the Kentucky Derby. The suit is likely a little baggy, and worn with correspondent shoes and a madras bow tie. This gentleman also has a moustache that onlookers might describe as “fun”. He’s the sort of man that would have worked as a minor character in a P.G. Wodehouse novel. It is because we tend to see seersucker worn in this way that it’s begun to feel costume-y, which is a real shame, because it’s a seriously practical – not to mention elegant – fabric that is a missing link in most modern men’s wardrobes.

The thing that sets seersucker apart from other suiting materials is that it’s a fabric that has been crafted historically to combat heat. Originally from Persia (the word seersucker is probably derived from the words sheer and shakar, meaning “milk” and “sugar” in reference to the smooth and rough stripes in the weave), the material first became popular with western wearers in the warmer British colonies such as India, before making its way to the sultry, humid southern United States in the nineteenth century.

The secret of the fabric is in its puckered texture - this is intentionally created through the weaving process to hold the fabric away from the body when it’s worn, creating little pockets of air that allow the warmth you generate to disperse. Adding to this, often a jacket will only be half or buggy-lined, for further breathability. Of course, a light, unlined cotton or linen will have a similar effect, but the genius of seersucker is that due to its intentionally textured appearance, you won’t look like a crumpled mess the first time you sit down at that summer wedding. It counters both creases and a warm climate.

The problem is that somewhere along the way, the zingier iterations of seersucker took precedence (such as that worn by our aforementioned mint julep-swilling friend) and became irrevocably associated with the fabric. Today, there has been a much-needed return to more classic colours – solid navy, or perhaps a rich green, as in the case of this lightly structured two-piece number from the Drake’s SS19 collection – that are far more useful in a range of situations, whether office, or out-of-office. The key is to make sure the fit is perfect, then keep the accessories subtle and as laid-back as possible: a t-shirt or polo and leather slip-ons if it’s baking hot, or a white shirt and a matte silk tie in a deep, muted colour (claret or mustard yellow, perhaps) with minimal patterns if you’re heading to a summer wedding. A black knitted tie and black loafers if you’re schlepping to work on the warmest day of the year. Much like the fabric itself, just keep it breezy.

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