The Seer­sucker Suit

Forbes - - Lux­ury Lin­eage -

prep for sum­mer with a brief his­tory of a preppy clas­sic. Seer­sucker may evoke im­ages of pa­tri­cian idyll, but its ori­gins are de­cid­edly ple­beian. In colo­nial In­dia, where the light­weight silk orig­i­nated, seer­sucker—from the Per­sian phrase shir o shekar, mean­ing “milk and sugar,” due to its smooth and coarse tex­tures—was a work­ing­man’s fab­ric. It was re­born in 20th-cen­tury Amer­ica as a durable dim­pled cot­ton for men who worked un­der hot con­di­tions, such as Stan­dard Oil gas at­ten­dants. By the 1930s seer­sucker had made its way to the Ivy League and was a sym­bol of re­verse snob­bery. “I have been wear­ing coats of the ma­te­rial known as seer­sucker around New York lately, thereby caus­ing much con­fu­sion among my friends,” dap­per news­pa­per­man Da­mon Run­yon wrote in 1945. “They can­not de­cide whether I am broke or just set­ting a new vogue.” But even Run­yon un­der­stood that a man wear­ing a seer­sucker suit with style would ul­ti­mately be con­sid­ered af­flu­ent and could “cash a check with no ques­tions asked.” To­day the look is still money.

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