The first time I slipped into a seerksucker suit it was as comfortable as wearing pajamas and I had the uneasy feeling I was somehow cheating by wearing something so damn comfortable at a semi-formal occasion. I was at a friend’s daytime wedding feeling cool and relaxed while all the other men sweated profusely. It was like I’d suffered for nothing all those years of wearing summer wool or even linen. Plus, unlike linen, seersucker is more forgiving when it comes to wrinkles.
That day, besides the pink seersucker suit, I was sporting a straw fedora (I’m admittedly hat obsessed and hardly leave the house without one), a light-grey dress shirt and a vintage late-1940s silk tie featuring a rather wild geometric pattern floating on a semi-luminous pink background. It was a bold look, but one of the advantages of seersucker is its ability to pair well with daring design elements and still maintain a sense of unity.
Seerksucker has a long history going back to India where the fabric, which is puckered and striped, is known in Hindi as śīrśakkar—from an earlier Persian word šīr-o-šakar—meaning milk and sugar, for the fabric’s smooth and rough stripes resembling the smoothness of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar. It’s the puckering of the fabric that helps keep the wearer cool by allowing for better airflow between the fabric and the skin, which was why it was adopted by the British colonials in the early 19th century. In the U.S., the material was used for work clothes until the New Orleans-based tailor Joseph Haspel created the first seersucker suit in 1909 that was soon adopted by Southern businessmen working in offices before air conditioning. By the 1920s, seersucker had made inroads in the Eastern college set always looking for a way to push the sartorial envelope and poke the eye of the establishment.
How can generations of colonial British officials and Southern gents be wrong when it comes to staying (and looking) cool in tropical heat? They did, after all, give us the gin and tonic and mint julep, respectively. The traditional color choice for the garment is blue and white stripes. Today, there are a variety of colors—from tan to grey to green to pink—and various stripe widths from which to choose to make the look your own.
While bow ties are a traditional pairing (and there’s nothing wrong with tradition), be careful not to get too matchy with your tie color. Choose a boldly-colored solid or even a lighter-colored paisley. You don’t want to come off looking like you’re in a barbershop quartet or just stepped from the pages of a Tennessee Williams' play. One way to avoid this is to forgo a tie (whether bow or not) and hat altogether and pair your suit with a crisp white dress shirt and a boldly patterned pocket square. It’s a fantastic look and another way to beat the heat while still looking classy.
But beyond the more formal ways in which to wear seerksucker suits, there’s a world of other looks to sport with this classic design. You can simply wear the jacket with jeans, or wear the pants with a button-up shirt, solid-colored vest, and tie or bow tie. The best advice we can give is to make it your own, play with the different elements and transcend expectations associated with this storied fabric. Have some fun (and stay cool) this summer.