Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Seersucker Season is Officially Upon Us—An Open Letter to Enthusiasts/Abusers

New, 2 comments

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for over two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.

Do wear seersucker but don't wear enough to fit right into this picture of Senators on their Southern Style day, via the Reliable Source.

Dear Seersucker Enthusiasts/Abusers,

We're just past Memorial Day—so, essentially, summer's here. Or is it?

I'm cautious when it comes to seasonal dressing. I favor an almost seasonless wardrobe—shorts not withstanding. And, to be honest, I only came around to shorts four or five years ago. So maybe it's just me.

But, it's barely June. And it's been raining all the time. And it's not hot. And it hasn't been very sunny. And it's chilly at night. High summer dressing just doesn't seem quite appropriate. Not yet.

Like I said, it may just be me. Because, if you tried you couldn't miss the daily parade of wishful thinkers in filmy tees and tiny shorts and flouncy little dresses. Arms out, shoulders out, legs out, toes out—I mean, it might as well be August.

And that's fine—shivering burns calories and congratulations for being so comfortable in your skin. What seems less fine is all of this polo match, prep club craziness that's just everywhere this year. I'm all for mixing in a seersucker separate here and there. Or a seersucker dress or suit at a Sunday afternoon garden party or twilit yacht wedding (I've never been anything like either such event but one day I'd really like to). But what some of you are going to work in? It's practically costume.

Yet, they can't be blamed for seersuckering up—the product is out there right now in spades. And it's expanded from Brooks Brothers and J.Press to Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to high fashion and the mall. It's everywhere. And it's really cute: But it's a little much, right? Especially a full suit; with a rep tie; a straw hat; a floppy bowtie ? Especially on a drizzly Tuesday.

So, I say: Use sparingly—like those sugary fried things at the top of the Food Pyramid. And, know what you're wearing!

Seersucker is so good at summer because it's cool. It's lightweight and employs a loose weave that breathes better than your gabardines or worsted wools. More importantly, those quintessential seersucker stripes? They're not just color. Feel 'em: They're texture. Essentially, the fabric is woven in such a way that one stripe (traditionally it's a Bengal, an eighth of an inch wide or so, and blue on white) is flat while it's neighbor on either side is bunched up and sort of puckers out. That puckering out keeps the fabric from clinging too closely—so, air circulates and you feel cooler.

Like many traditional fabrics—Madras, for instance, or those aforementioned Bengals—seersucker originated in India and its name is derived from a Hindi word meaning "milk and sugar." Which, of course, describes the fabric's alternating textures—milky smooth verses rough and rocky (think Sugar in the Raw rather than Domino).

Cool, easy to care for, and usually cotton—seersucker was and is a workhorse fabric. As such, the weave was—at least here in America—historically a working class staple and was even used in military uniforms. In the 1920s, however, rich kids at fancy colleges got into it in much the same way you got into Roseanne-era clothes while you were in college (not that anyone reading has ever worn track suits, low-rider jeans, or trucker hats (benefit of the doubt)).

Anyway, after spending college finding itself, seersucker graduated Yale and went on to become a staple amongst Southern elites from June through August at Sunday suppers after church. To Kill a Mockingbird happened. As did Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (not to mention Big Daddy in the Golden Girls and Matlock). Ultimately, the fabric came to epitomize southern gentility; classic Republican values; money and education and an appreciation for juleps and suspenders and porch swings and metaphors involving things like morning dew or honeysuckle.

Oh, and speaking of Republicans: Senators celebrate a bipartisan holiday called Southern Style on the third Thursday of each June—AKA Wear Your Seersucker to Work Day (see above). Gross ?

And now, well, now you can buy seersucker shorts at Club Monaco and wear them on the subway on a rainy Tuesday.

So that's my 2012/We Live in Reality suggestion to you: Drop the Eudora Welty schtick and just mix in one or two seersucker pieces (a tie or a blazer or a skirt or a pair of shorts) from Billy Reid or J.Crew into your seasonal rotation. It'll be fresh and charming but it won't be costume and it won' be cloying.

That said: I'm absolutely wearing a seersucker suit to my first twilit yacht wedding.

So, now you know. Seersucker carefully.

Gaps filled in with the help of Wikipedia, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

· Love, Frank [Racked]