As a Southerner by origin, I’ve always counted on seersucker as a reliable summer staple. However, now that I live in New York, I’ve seen some people attempt to wear seersucker without completely pulling it off. That isn’t to say that I think all people who live north of the Mason-Dixon line should be banned from sporting the fabric – just that they might need a couple of pointers in order to rock it like someone who’s been draped in the stuff from birth. I polled some of the belles and dandies in my Rolodex and came up with a couple of helpful suggestions.
1. Wear light-colored underwear.
True story: I once had a college professor who wore a seersucker suit every day from about April to August. However, one day he wore purple polka-dotted boxer shorts underneath them. How do I know that? Because I could see them plain as day through his slacks. If you’re not sure which pairs of skivvies might be visible, you should try them on under your pants while standing under a very bright light that imitates the sweltering Southern sun.
2. Don’t attempt the head-to-toe.
If you’re not trying to look costumey or you aren’t actually my drunk-on-Arnold-Palmers-and-gin Uncle Rufus, you might want to attempt mixing and matching.My friend Kitsey Burns, who lives in East Bend, North Carolina, points out that full-on seersucker only works on the very old or very young. A seersucker blazer is lovely with a white shirt and khakis, or try a seersucker sundress with a denim jacket or white blouse over it. My friend Bradford Pilcher, an Atlanta native, notes that the three-piece look should not be attempted under any circumstances: “No vests. I’ve seen people with seersucker 3-piece suits. That’s just fuckin’ ridiculous. It’s seersucker. It’s the south. It’s fuckin’ hot.”
3. Go light on accessories.
The point of seersucker is that it’s light and breezy – that’s why people wear it in August instead of December. So stay light on the accessory side as well – a nice summer scarf, a straw hat (boaters preferred, mais oui), and white shoes are all great for pairing. Avoid any accessories with too bold a color or too busy a pattern. Pilcher weighs in on this one: “if you’re going to do a contrast with a dark, in addition to keeping it up top, best to keep it to one of three areas: the tie, the handkerchief in the breast pocket, or the belt. And you have to be really fucking careful with the belt. Pinks and purples in light shades do well as contrasting shirts too. But that’s it… I stick to my reasoning. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t go out on a limb by trying to experiment with seersucker.”
4. Choose the seersucker color that looks best on you.
Just because the blue stripe seersucker is the most iconic doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Seersucker also looks great in pink, aqua, peach, yellow, mint green, and multicolor. Just remember that the same basic rules apply for all colors of seersucker.
5. Pay attention to fit.
Yes, seersucker should be a little loose on you, and it’s natural for the fabric to appear a little crinkly. However, some people take this ethos a little bit too far and end up walking around in what appears to be seersucker pajamas. Here’s a hint: if you can fit an entire extra person in the legs of your seersucker trousers, they are probably too big for you.
6. If it’s not summer, you shouldn’t be wearing it.
My friend Benyamin Cohen, an Atlantan, believes that seersucker should be worn like white shoes – from Memorial Day to Labor Day only. However, he will make one exception: “Unless you’re an Orthodox Jew who has to walk in the heat to synagogue on Saturdays. Then you can start wearing it after Passover.”