08 June 2014

All in The Details: The Right Seersucker

I've wanted a seersucker suit for as long as I've know what one was, maybe for about 25 years now. Just this past week, patience and persistence were rewarded in the form of a classic old one by Brooks Brothers, had via ebay for $62. Given the limited time and occasion for wearing seersucker, I guess it's ironic that I paid more for this than I do for most of my other harder wearing, more useful clothes. But if we take an average, I'm still doing alright.

Seersucker is one of the most difficult things to buy vintage or used. Simply put, the cloth is just too lightweight to last. Finding one in this good shape, complete, is a real treat. But whether you're buying your seersucker new or vintage, it's important to know the details and be sure you're getting the good stuff. Not all seersucker is created equal. The first rule is of course to make sure you're getting all cotton. This is easier with new clothes as poly blend seersucker has pretty much fallen out of common use, but many old garments from the 60s and 70s were made of blended fabrics. Besides the fact that polyester is gross 90% of the time, using it in seersucker is downright antithetical to the point of the garment. Cotton wrinkles and breaths well, which is exactly what you want in a suit that you wear on a hot day.
Construction is important too. A seersucker suit should never be fully lined, again because that antithetical to the point. Reasonable suits will only have partial lining. The best kind, like the one I was lucky enough to grab, are partially "buggy" lined in their own fabric rather than a synthetic liner. Again, this adds to the breathability of the jacket and keeps it lightweight. This one has 1/8 lining at the shoulders and unlined sleeves. The shoulders are unpadded, and there is no canvas or other structural material in the coat, so it's like wearing a shirt. Yet for all that, it's well made enough that it still has the shape of a suit jacket. As you might guess, that's harder to do than just reproducing a stock jacket pattern and just using seersucker cloth, but it makes the suit what it is even more that the fabric itself.
Patch pockets are a must. Internal pockets will require additional structural material inside, and we already decided that's not what we want here.
Trousers can be either flat front or pleated depending on your own taste, but make sure they're a little roomy in the legs. This pair is relatively conservative but on the loose side. Remember, it's hot outside and you're already wearing a suit, probably by choice. Do yourself a favor and don't wear a tight one.
Accessories should be laid back here to. A surcingle or ribbon belt is a cardinal sin with any other suit, with the exception maybe of Summer poplin, but it's right at home with seersucker's laid back vibe.
Same goes for penny loafers: never with a suit, except seersucker. White bucks are of course a standard, but can be a bit much, even for me. Southerners pull it off with aplomb, but in all honesty on a Northerner and combined with a bow tie, I saw Pee Wee Herman looking back from the mirror. Brown shoes it is. And don't forget your socks. You do have suit on after all, and I don't care what magazines you've been reading, suits need socks. I thought these yellow ones did the job nicely, but argyle in bright colors, another general sin with a suit, work well too.

I can't say it enough, but dressing well is all in the details. Even if most people don't think they notice, they do. Others may not know what it is about your clothes that makes them look just a bit better than the average guy, but you'll know and they'll sense it. Pay attention to the small stuff.

p.s. Before one of you reminds me of that time I broke every rule and concept I just laid down here, allow me to beat you to it. We live and we learn, don't we.


FLW said...

Nice find, G! I couldn't see the BB label in the jacket. How old is it? Blue with gold block letters?

Joe said...

60s I think, white with yellow block letters

WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

Looks sharp! My father had and wore just such a suit by BB 40+ years ago during the warmer months.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Anonymous said...

A very nice find. And may I suggest yet another rule to consider breaking? At least once a year I wear my seersucker suit pants with a navy linen blazer. It can look really nice with the right accessories (and I have no worries you would be up to the task) and is cool.

I'm one of those people who regularly wears a tie to church (at least up until July 4) and the seersucker is a lifesaver.

Ian said...

Nice find G. I notice you're posting a few things found on ebay recently - I think you used to say you didn't have the patience for auctions, have you changed your mind?