A good seersucker defines the southern gentleman

A good seersucker defines the southern gentleman

Q. Unbelievable! Sunday’s article completely ignored the Southern gentlemen. There is nothing that says summer in the South more than a man’s seersucker suit. Ever since Joseph Haspel invented the seersucker suit in 1909, it has been a southern staple. It was good enough for Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Andy Griffin in “Matlock.” The seersucker suit looks great not only in the courtroom but in other work and formal settings. Lois, you have become a product of the “business casual” set. That means everything informal — no ties, etc. That does not define the Southern gentleman. I currently own 21 seersucker suits and 9 pincords that I wear almost every day of the summer. By rule, these suits can only be worn from Memorial Day through Labor Day — the 100 days of summer. I have every color in the rainbow and yes, much to your chagrin, I have a yellow, red, green, and purple seersucker and just for good measure a pink one. These suits with white bucks (red soles) have a distinct look that says southern comfort. Occasionally, I will mix in a summer poplin or linen suit and also a Madras sport coat. I was dismayed that your article ignored our tradition. How about some respect for the Southern gentleman and the clothes that enrich this culture? —  Sincerely, Seersucker Sad and Indian Madras Plaid Mad

A. Wow! Forgive me. How delightful to receive your response to my recent column. I had answered a reader’s request: In an effort to be liberated from some of the typical constrictions on men’s attire, he wanted advice on how to introduce a bit of summer dressing variety into his too-same year-round wardrobe. My answer brought about your strong response.

I have always been a big fan of seersucker suits and have written about them a few times in the past. But this time I was perhaps a little too accepting of the modern approach and not loyal enough to the more traditional summer looks that I, too, believe in. Well, maybe not a purple suit!

Last week, while having lunch in one of my city’s most upscale restaurants and, looking around at the not-so-well-dressed male guests, I was reminded of how few Southern gentleman still exist, and of the many men who in recent years have lost all sense of tradition and style. It was refreshing to be reminded by your email that there still are men who one, pay attention to their clothes, and two, are knowledgeable about the general rules of dressing well. I respect a man with a strong sense of his own look, who is willing to stay with a well-established style that some men might not even recognize.

In addition to being a fresh, seasonal look, seersucker suits have many advantages. They are:

  • Unique and distinctive; they can help a man make a fashion statement.
  • Available in various flattering, light-colored and white stripes (primarily blue-and-white, plus other more off-beat colors)
  • Cool and breathable, because the best of them are made of 100 percent cotton
  • A lot less expensive than comparable year-round and ten-month wool suits
  • Unlike every other complete suit, they can be broken up and worn as separates.

I recognize that a man, whose comfort zone allows him to wear colorful seersucker suits with Old-School white buck shoes (and probably a bowtie), does so without self-consciousness. There have always been men who enjoy being noticed for what they wear, but not all men do. My recommendation for the typical man who is just starting out wearing seersucker is to tone down the suit with less eye-catching accessories. He should ease into the style by choosing the most conservative color (blue), and wearing it with a white conventional button-down collar shirt, perhaps a solid dark blue cotton necktie, a brown belt, and a quiet pair of brown lace-up shoes. No doubt, he will enjoy the compliments he receives, and might end up making the style part of his summer signature look.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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