Seersucker - The Summer Fabric

July 03 2024 – Matt Beddows

What is Seersucker?

At its most basic level, seersucker is a thin, puckered all-cotton fabric. It is commonly striped or checkered, most associated with summer wear and garments worn in warmer climates. Most often seen in white and blue stripes, it can be found in other colors like yellow, pink or green, alternating with white stripes. It’s often used for suits, shirts, shorts, dresses and robes, with its key benefit being its lightweight nature and breathability. If you have ever been up close and personal with seersucker, you’ll notice that it is woven in such a way that some of the threads bunch together to give the fabric a wrinkled appearance and texture. While wearing a wrinkled suit may not sound like the most suitable formal wear, it allows the fabric to be held mostly away from the skin when worn, allowing air to circulate. And an added benefit for many of us, it doesn’t require pressing or ironing.
The name seersucker is said to originate from the Persian words shîr and shakar, which translates to “milk and sugar”. This more than likely references the smooth and bumpy texture of the fabric, as well as evidencing the origin and popularity of the fabric in the Middle East. During the British Colonial era, seersucker was a popular choice of fabric in countries like India, whose climate was warm and muggy. However, it is also evidenced that seersucker was used as early as the US Civil War, to make haversacks and famously the baggy pants of the Confederate Zouaves like the Louisiana Tigers. In addition to clothing, the fabric was also used during the Victorian era for mattresses and pillowcases, becoming known as bed ticking. Again, seersucker proved to be a more breathable and aerated fabric in the hot summers of British colonies and the southern states of the US.


Traditionally made from cotton, linen, or synthetic fibers, seersucker is woven on twin-beam looms which weave at different speeds, which gives the fabric its trademark appearance and texture. Many fabrics are woven with the warp yarn held in uniform tension, but what distinguishes seersucker is the slack tension weaving process, which means two warps must be used. One is held at a regular tension, the other is held at a different (most likely higher) tension which produces the fabric’s distinct crinkled appearance.

Rise to Fame

While seersucker had been popular during the nineteenth century, it really gained its iconic status for its role in menswear during the twentieth century. Around 1909, New Orleans clothier Joseph Haspel Sr. began to make suits from seersucker which gained regional popularity due to their comfort and suitability for warmer weather. It is said that Haspel had been manufacturing workwear clothing for factory workers and felt that businessmen shouldn’t have to suffer in hot offices, so he started a production run of seersucker suits at his New Orleans factory. Legend has it that while promoting his suits at a convention in Boca Raton, Florida, Haspel walked into the ocean up to his neck in his seersucker suit. He came out, hung the suit to dry that afternoon and then proceeded to wear it to the convention dinner that evening, looking sharp and smart.

Seersucker Thursday

In 1996 the US Senate held ‘Seersucker Thursday’ in June, which encouraged participants to dress in traditionally southern clothing. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Loft declared the day and stated that “the Senate isn’t just a bunch of dour folks wearing dark suits”. National Seersucker Day stood until 2012 when the tradition was discontinued, although only a couple of years later it went through a revival, with mixed success.

Seersucker Today

Today, the seersucker suit continues to be a popular choice for warm-weather attire, celebrated for its versatility, comfort, and distinctive aesthetic. Whether worn to a summer wedding, a garden party, or a day at the races, the seersucker suit remains a symbol of timeless elegance and refined style.


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