By Derek Blasberg
Nick Carraway finding Gatsby's body in the pool. Gregory Peck in To Kill Mockingbird, sweating away racial injustices in an Alabama courtroom. Eurotrash descending on the Hamptons. Ahh, the fond memories of seersucker. It should be shocking to learn then that the crimpled and striped fabric so often associated with warm summer months is actually a relic from Imperial Great Britain's colonial rule of India. That's where the word comes from: shIroshakar, Hindi for "milk and sugar," named for the fabric's candy striped pattern. The English stole that fabric like they did good Indian tea.
That was all but forgotten by World War I, when seersucker's next big role was as the fabric of army nurses' uniforms. Then came the era stretching from the '30s to today when those two layers of yarn—one taut and one slack, creating that distressed texture—were sewn into the summer suit made popular by folks like Humphrey Bogart and Harry Truman. Surely, seersucker's shining moment (totally wiping that whole stolen-from-India thing right out of memory). And with more mainstream companies like J. Crew and Brooks Brothers using this classic fabric to craft blazers, suits, and skirts being sold in every mall across America, seersucker is as appropriate today as it was when a seersuckered Cary Grant sauntered elegantly through the sun-dappled streets of Palm Beach.
by Derek Blasberg
Long before it was popularized in J.Crew catalogs, seersucker has been as much a staple of summertime as canonballs and the Ice Cream Man.