Seersucker is a lightweight cotton fabric with Indian origins. In this guide, which is part of our fabric series, you will learn about its history and composition as well as how to wear it.
There are certain fabrics and patterns in the menswear canon that have extremely strong connotations. When we see a tuxedo, we think evening. When we see duck boots, we think snow.
When we see seersucker, we think brightness and sun. Getting dressed up for Easter, summer weddings, and other similar occasions all come to mind.
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This page will deal specifically with seersucker. In the following guide, you will learn about its history, how its made as well as when to wear it. You will also get tips regarding the occasion and what suits it best.
It has everything you need to know about this classic menswear fabric, and you can feel free to read it start to finish if you like.
A perfect choice for summer. Seersucker is a lightweight and pleasant fabric for the hot months!
What Is Seersucker?
Seersucker is a classic warm weather cotton fabric for men’s tailored clothing. It’s used for suits, trousers, odd jackets, ties, and even casual items such as shorts.
Typically offered in a striped pattern but sometimes seen in checks, it’s been a go-to for men’s warm weather wear since the days of the British colonial period.
In the United States, the fabric is particularly beloved in the South, where the heat and humidity were so oppressive before the invention of air conditioning that lightweight fabrics were absolutely necessary.
History Of The Fabric
Back when the sun never set on the British Empire, seersucker became a popular material in warm weather colonies, notably British India.
This is notable because the word “seersucker” is a cognate of the Persian phrase sheer shakar, which literally translates to “milk and sugar.”
This is likely because seersuckers alternating smooth and rough stripes resemble the smoothness of milk and the lumpy texture of sugar, but this is not confirmed by historians.
When it was first introduced to the United States, it was used for many different clothing items, but suits were the most popular, particularly with Southern gentlemen.
It was also known as bed ticking, as it was widely used in mattresses, pillowcases, and night shirts. All of these applications were God sends during the sweltering summers of the American South and Britain’s warm colonies.
Furthermore, a dark, heavy version of seersucker known as “hickory stripe” was widely used by train engineers during the days of the Old West in the United States.
Overalls, caps, and work jackets were all made of this thick seersucker, because it was cheap to produce and as durable as denim, but kept the engineers on steam locomotives cooler than denim could. This is where the term “railroad stripe” comes from.
In more modern times, seersucker clothing became increasingly popular. It started off as being worn by the poor until U.S. college students began wearing it ironically. In the 1950’s, the fabric became increasingly popular among professionals and was sold widely at big retailers such as Macy’s and Brooks Brothers.
How Is Seersucker Made?
Seersucker is made by slack-tension weave. The stripes are always in the warp direction, which produces the bumpy texture of the fabric.
Popular Seersucker Patterns
Stripes are far and away the most popular pattern for seersucker clothing. Typically, the stripes are narrow in width, at only about 1/8″ wide on average.
Though less popular than stripes, checks are the other common pattern for seersucker garments.
How To Wear Seersucker
Seersucker is a great fabric that can provide a ton of wardrobe versatility. From a full suit to an odd jacket and trousers, there are endless ways to wear garments made of this fabric.
However, it’s important to know some basic rules in order to pull off the seersucker look.
Seersucker should only be worn when it’s warm outside. This is for practical reasons of course; such a thin, lightweight garment would leave you freezing when
it’s cold outside. The practical reason begets an aesthetic one, though. Wearing a spring/summer fabric outside of its proscribed seasons simply looks just as foolish as it feels cold.
As such, seersucker is always appropriate in climates where the temperature is high year-round: the American South & Southwest, Caribbean islands, Bermuda, the Mediterranean, and other such locales. In temperate climates, it should only be worn in spring and summer.
Whenever you do wear seersucker, know that it’s actually a very versatile fabric within reason. It dresses up or down very well, but is best left in your closet if you’re attending a funeral or most job interviews.
How To Wear A Seersucker Suit
Suits are the most popular vehicle for seersucker to become clothing. The casual nature of the fabric and its weight lend itself to spring and summer suitings, and unless you work for a white shoe law firm in the American South, seersucker suits are best left to celebratory occasions as opposed to the workplace.
Bow Tie & Other Neckwear
You can absolutely wear ties with a seersucker suit. In fact, it’s encouraged. Bow ties in particular seem to go very well with seersucker, as it seems to add to the Southern gentility of the ensemble.
As for material, silk ties tend to be best with seersucker as this offers a “wet/dry” combination of textures that’s often quite pleasing. Cotton ties are perfectly good here too, but you should avoid wool.
If you need more information on ties, our guide to neckwear is one of the most extensive on the Internet.
If you’re wearing a suit, a pocket square is a must regardless of what fabric the suit is. If you’re wearing a tie, coordinate your square with your tie. If you’re going tie-less, coordinate the square with the shirt or the color of your seersucker jacket.
Curious to learn more about pocket squares? Take a look at our pocket square guide for all the information you could ever need!
A boutonniere with a seersucker suit is a particularly dapper look, particularly for a summer wedding. Alternatively, you can always just pick up a flower from a street florist and trow it right on your lapel.
Be aware that you’ll want a functional lapel buttonhole and a keeper loop on the backside of the lapel to make this work easily. Our guide to boutonnieres has more information if you need it.
As seersucker suits are more casual than their worsted counterparts, a belt is a smart pairing for them. This isn’t to say you can’t wear braces with seersucker, but rather to say that the casual nature of belts tends to sync well with seersucker.
You can always do a simple leather belt to match your shoes, but don’t be afraid to experiment with a more casual style like a surcingle belt, assuming the occasion allows you to do so.
Our belts guide has all manner of sizing and style information if you’re curious to learn more.
What Shoes Go With A Seersucker Suit?
First and foremost, you’ll want to wear a summer shoe with a seersucker suit. The best colors are going to be light browns: think tan, nutmeg, British tan, and other such shades. White is also a phenomenal pairing with seersucker suits. If you’re feeling frisky and the situation allows, a non-standard color dress shoe, such as blue or red, could also work nicely.
As for shoe styles, a classic white buck is perfect. Oxfords will certainly work, but a more casual shoe like a tassel loafer is perhaps more in line with the overall vibe of seersucker and should be considered just as strongly.
As An Odd Jacket Or Sports Coat
With a light colored shirt and contrasting, complementary trousers, an odd seersucker jacket is a fantastic option for a tailored summer look. If you want to dress it down even further, pair the seersucker jacket with denim and a light t-shirt.
Just The Pants…
Seersucker trousers are a great choice for casual summer wear. To dress them up a bit, pair with a dress shirt and a blue blazer. Alternatively, throw on a polo shirt and moccasins for a casual ensemble.
Though somewhat rare, seersucker shorts are, in fact, one of the most logical items available in menswear. Why wouldn’t you want to own shorts in a super lightweight fabric for the dog days of summer?
The natural inclination is to pair these with a polo or t-shirt for a classic shorts look. With that said, certain clothiers will, in fact, make suits with short trousers. It’s not an easy look to pull off, but there’s no more peacockish way to stroll down the street than in a seersucker shorts suit!
Popular Colors & When To Wear Them
When most men think of seersucker, they think of the classic blue/white alternating stripe color way. This makes sense, as blue and white is hands-down the most popular color scheme for seersucker. It’s not the only color scheme for it, however.
Other common seersucker colors include the following, all of which are typically paired with white or an off-white variant, such as bone or cream:
- Lime Green
- Baby Blue
When Should You Wear Seersucker?
As we mentioned above, seersucker is for warm weather only. Whether this is year-round or just certain seasons is dependent on where on the globe you reside. Below we outline some of the most common occasions for which seersucker is worn.
It is absolutely, 100% appropriate to wear a seersucker suit to a summer wedding, assuming it’s not beholden to a more formal dress code. This is the case for grooms, groomsmen, fathers of the bride and groom, and guests. Seersucker also works wonderfully for beach weddings, as it will keep you (relatively) cool while you’re outside in the sand.
For comprehensive information on what to wear to a summer wedding, see our summer wedding guide.
Kentucky Derby & Semi-Formal Sports Events
The Kentucky Derby is known, in part, for the clothing worn by its attendants. The Belmont Stakes indicates “elegant attire” as its dress code. Men are quite often seen in seersucker suits for these events, as well they should be! Just be sure to throw on a bow tie, and keep a mint julep in your hand at all times. As it happens, “casual attire” is the norm at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, so sadly not many men get the Triple Crown as it relates to seersucker.
Our guide to bow ties will help you decide which bow tie to wear, and also how to tie it if you need.
Other Warm Weather Occasions
Occasions taking place during warm weather -family reunions, engagement parties, work events, anniversaries, and the like- are all fair game for seersucker suits if there isn’t a dress code on the invitation indicating otherwise.
More Fabrics & Patterns
Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about seersucker, we’re sure you can wear this fabric confidently no matter what the occasion.
If you’d like to learn more about other fabrics, our fabric guide is a fantastic resource. You can also visit our fabric pattern guide to learn about various patterns such as houndstooth and gun checks.