Seeing the benefits of the seersucker suit

Seeing the benefits of the seersucker suit

Q. I like seersucker. I’m thinking about getting a seersucker jacket, but I’m not interested in a whole suit. Is that something that is appropriate on its own?

A. Yes, seersucker is fine in just a jacket. Now is certainly a great time to buy one, especially when it offers so many advantages for summer wearing. That said, why limit yourself to a jacket alone when it is not necessary to do so?

     A welcome addition to a man’s closet filled with dark year-round suits, a seersucker suit can be a refreshing alternative purchase for warm-weather wear. My usual advice is never to split up a matched suit (wearing the suit jacket as if it were a sports jacket and the bottom half as dress pants). Seersucker is an exception.

     If you always send both parts together to be dry cleaned (so the two pieces do not end up as two slightly different shades), the seersucker suit jacket can work well as a separate summer blazer/sports jacket.

     For the uninitiated, seersucker is an all-American style. The fabric is crinkly, light-weight, and cool, mostly all-cotton (but sometimes a cotton blend), and almost always less expensive than wool. It is light in color, in part because it is always striped with white: blue-and-white (looking from a distance like light blue), brown-and-white (appearing as tan), and less often red-and-white (adding up to a rosy pink).  It is certainly not your basic “safe” suit; a lot of men avoid anything slightly unusual, either because they are unfamiliar with it or–with seersucker–for fear of seeming affected, old school, or too much of a maverick. As most women will agree: A well-dressed maverick has a certain appeal. And, yes, a seersucker jacket is not an “everyman” style, not something to wear if your goal is to “blend in.” But to stand out!

Standing out has its place and also it’s time for avoidance. So where should seersucker fit in your vision of your clothing? Let’s review the subtle sliding scale of what is quite dressy men’s clothing, what is less so, and what is casual wear.

     The dressiest garment (short of black-tie wear) is the matched wool suit, progressing in color from dark to medium to light. The least dressy suit is made of seersucker. And more casual than matched suits are sports jackets, the dressiest being the navy blue blazer. Again, the most casual (and jaunty) sport jacket is the cotton seersucker. It has a nice air of different-from-the-usual, without being too quirky. Of course, a casual suit or jacket is still dressier than just a shirt and trousers.

     As a less formal suit/jacket, the standard seersucker cut is single-breasted, has a notched lapel, a two-button closure, and usually a center back vent. The jacket can be worn with light-weight pants (even white jeans), with or without a tie, and with either the expected Oxford cloth button-down shirt or a knit polo shirt.

     Stay with solid-color shirts so as not to clash with the stripes. If you do wear it with a tie, choose one that is less formal, such as a cotton madras plaid, a solid-color pastel linen, or perhaps a dark blue knit. Avoid double-breasted styling, French cuff shirts, cufflinks, and other dressy or dandified touches. Seersucker suggests a casual nonchalance; the accessories need to be in harmony.

     So, when should you wear a seersucker jacket? The seersucker season is a limited one, from Memorial Day to Labor Day – just as with most “whites.” When your friends might be wearing a single-breasted navy blazer or a good-looking summer sweater, you could opt for your seersucker jacket.

     If you like the style, you could wear it for social occasions. Then, once you own it, you might try wearing it to work on a terribly hot day and see how you feel in it. Summer dress-down days at work are perfect. Other times might include going to a mid-scale outdoor restaurant, a slightly-dressy weekend party, or perhaps a Zoom meeting.

     Because the fabric is cotton, even the finest seersucker suits are generally less expensive than wool suits. It’s definitely not too late to add a fresh new jacket or two to your wardrobe. And now that it is later in the season, you’re likely to find some great marked-down bargains. So, adding one is not a tremendous financial risk. Still, I should mention one small note of warning. Although it is informal and relatively inexpensive, a seersucker suit is a bit of an elitist, upper-class sort of garment. If yours is a blue-collar company, it might be a bit too Ivy League, too country club for your colleagues’ comfort level. Or, if your workplace is very traditional, it could be too casual and inappropriate.

     Something about summer has always prompted men to loosen up a bit with what they wear, and this summer more so than ever. In warm weather, men transition from heavy- to light-weight clothing to beat the heat. Even in the most traditional suit-shirt-and-tie circles, and under normal circumstances, when the weather is warm, men wear casual sport jackets more often than matched suits. In addition, the colors they wear are more varied. This is true in business and social settings. And seersucker is tastefully different, but not flauntingly so.

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