Birth of the Cool: Suckers for Seersucker


Miles Davis knew the secret of staying on track when things got hot, dressing in both linen and the coolest of cotton cloth, seersucker. Whilst jazz musicians and the general public are aware that pure linen fabric is perfect for sticky situations, the benefits of seersucker aren’t as widely recognised.


Seersucker: pretty in pink

Some are reluctant to introduce linen to their summer wardrobe due to its propensity to crease when worn, whereas every inch of a seersucker garment is wrinkled before it is even tried on. The extraordinary rumpled texture of the fabric is created by what is known as a slack-tension weaving process, and the cloth is traditionally designed in light coloured stripes or checks.


David Hockney in classic Bengal stripe seersucker

The pattern of regular wrinkling in seersucker actually disguises the creasing that is usually formed from wear – typically through the sleeves of jackets and behind the knees on trousers. Seersucker suits therefore tend to have a less dishevelled look than those made from linen, but the real benefit of the cloth is its ability to stand off the body, allowing air to circulate and heat to dissipate.


King Edward VII, Emperor of India, and early adopter of seersucker

The cooling qualities of seersucker were recognised by the British in colonial India, who adopted the use of the fabric in an attempt to cope in the heat of the local climate. The name for the cloth came into English from Hindi and is derived from the Persian words shir and shaker, literally “milk and sugar”, denoting the contrast between the stripes in the weave that are either as smooth as milk or sugar-like lumpy.


The Duke of Windsor following his grandfather's footsteps

Seersucker suits became popular in the West during the 20th Century, particularly in the United States where they were often seen during the summer months. It is a look that was adopted by the leading men of the day, from princes and presidents to Hollywood icons and rock stars.  


The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts in micro-stripe seersucker

By the turn of the century, the popularity of seersucker had waned, with linen, cotton poplin and super-light worsteds becoming more prevalent. However, its wonderful qualities have recently been rediscovered, and it is now available in a wide range of solid colours, checks and (of course) stripes.


David and Elliot Mason are suckers for seersucker

Click here to view the Pope & Bradley Seersucker Suit Collection.

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