The Seersucker suit is treated like a joke. Outside of the sharkskin suit, or maybe parachute pants, there’s nothing in the world that will get you laughed out of the office faster. The seersucker looks like a costume. Something you’d wear at a state fair while enticing all the lads and lasses to “Try their luck at the ring toss for just a wooden nickel!” The only way to imagine it is paired with a straw boater hat as your barbershop quartet tunes up for a rousing rendition of “Lida Rose.”
Well, banish that BS from your mind. Those were the bad old days of seersucker suits. The new era has plenty of style to go around. If you’re smart and careful, you can be wearing these comfortable items to any number of semi-formal functions and look brilliant for doing it. They can also be had on the cheap, should you want to expand your wardrobe without spending a fortune. Here’s everything you need to know about wearing a seersucker suit.
What A Seersucker Suit Is
The name is derived from the Persian language. “Seersucker” is an English bastardization of the phrase “shir o shakkar“ or “shir o shekar,” depending on your dialect. It translates literally into “milk and sugar” but means “rough and smooth.” This is a description of the appearance of the seersucker.
Seersucker suits are constructed using a unique cotton blend of fabric that puckers in places, giving it a rough look in spots, while completely smooth in others. They’re traditionally considered the inverse of a pinstripe, because they’re base is white with darker colored vertical stripes, though more of them are being made in darker colors to appeal to the fashionistas.
What a Seersucker Suit Does
This is pretty simple: It keeps you cool. There isn’t a NASA-approved fabric of mystical or alien origin that will keep you cooler than the seersucker. All the merino wool or linen in the world still isn’t quite as breathable as a solid seersucker is. The name is Persian because it was favored by English officers stationed in India, and was adopted by workers as a way to look western professional without sweating themselves into dehydration and heat stroke.
When To Wear a Seersucker Suit
Seersuckers hit a sweet spot in the clothing world. They’re able to transcend certain types of formality, giving them a look that can move from the casual gathering all the way to red carpets and the halls of government. Short of a black tie event, where a tuxedo is mandatory, you should consider a seersucker whenever the weather is hot, or you know you’ll be in cramped quarters and need to keep your cool.
Since these suits are light and fun, they’re ideal for outdoor events during the summer. They work for weddings, regular work days, and parties of all kind. They look revelrous, so anytime fun is on the menu, they fit right in while a darker suit wouldn’t.
Funerals and formal galas are about the only time a seersucker isn’t an option. Everything else is fair game, so long as you follow the other rules.
Get It Fit
Because of the singular, puckered look of a seersucker, you need to have it cut and tailored to the absolute hilt. If it doesn’t fit your frame tightly, it can quickly look sloppy and unstructured. That’s when it clearly becomes more joke costume than serious attire.
Wait For Warmth
Seersuckers were most often worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but the easy rule here is that you need warm weather for this to work. Unless you’re naturally too hot under the collar, you can quickly find yourself overly cool should you don one in the dead of winter. Always keep in mind that these suits really breathe, making an air conditioned office into an arctic hell.
Accessorize For The Event
The light ‘n’ sassy look of these outfits can be greatly altered based on what accessories you use. When you’re trying to be professional, dapper, or taken seriously, you’ll want a lot of dark accessories. That means matching up your tie, your pocket square, shoes, socks, cufflinks, and even your shirt in a dour hue. Adding in a dark vest can further facilitate a buttoned-up appearance that shows while you might be easy, breezy, and beautiful, you’re also not to be trifled with.
Should you be headed to a more casual outing, or a day at the office where you don’t intend on being in bloody business meetings, you can relax into whatever colors you like. The key is to always be aware of the overall effect. Know you’re starting with a color palette that is cheeky, then build it up to frolicsome, or down to grim.
Make The Match
Believe it or not, white is easier to match than black, as any light colors are going to be instantly set off by the pale tones of the suit. That works to your advantage, but can quickly turn on you for two reasons:
- You can easily appear washed out or sickly with too many light colors. Remember that you’re first accessory is your skin. If that makes you look ashen, you need to find ways to highlight the darker parts of the suit.
- White isn’t the only color on a seersucker. They also have colored stripes that need to be addressed through the other items you’re wearing. Play only to the whiteness of the suit, and you’ll clash like checkerboard and polka-dots.
All of your accessories should work together with your suit and your skin color. There’s less margin for error in a seersucker than a flat black, navy, or even gray suit. You’d better know your color wheel or have someone who does to advise you.
Don’t Get Too Cute
Bolo ties, bow ties, suspenders, or sterling patent leather shoes will make you into a laughingstock, unless it’s a costume party. You can try for some wingtips, but the lesson to have in pocket here is that you’re already wearing something outdated. Adding in more retro or vintage clothing items only serves to turn you into a Southern dandy or a hipster.
Embrace The Rumple
Seersucker suits aren’t supposed to be pressed. They’re meant to pucker and look less intimidating. Don’t try to stop it, but rather make it part of your overall feel.
The light coloration and overall unkempt appearance of these mildly disheveled suits can actually help you. It makes you look friendly and approachable. That’s precisely what you want if you’re hoping to put people at ease – say, while making a sales pitch. It’s also effective at making your rivals underestimate you. Consider the films where a southern attorney was making an emotional appeal to a jury. Those gents looked harmless and grandfatherly, which works in their favor. You can seem like the underdog, or a beloved eccentric rather than a corporate shark. That relatable, comforting appearance is a quick way to win folks over to your side. Couple it with a whip-crack mind and you’ve lulled your enemies into a false sense of superiority.
Confidence is Key
The more sure you are of yourself, the more natural a seersucker suit is going to look. Making this choice requires the boldness of a top hat or handlebar mustache. You aren’t going to fade into the background anywhere but a child’s nursery, so be sure you’re proud of how far you stand out from the crowd.
Where To Buy
There’s two big names to know in the land of the seersucker. Brooks Brothers is the first, as that brand popularized the suit. Then there’s the true original, Haspel, which invented the suit in the first place. If you have the money, these are the heavy hitters in the industry.
For most of us, who live paycheck to paycheck, you can shop for one of these anywhere, but be sure you get 100% cotton construction. Anything else is a poor imitation that will leave you too hot and look too pressed to live up to the suit’s well-earned reputation.