Fresh iterations of the classic seersucker suit were a theme of this summer’s men’s collections, and they’re cropping up in next year’s offerings too, with designers such as Thom Browne and Brioni revisiting the style that sprung up in New Orleans 110 years ago. Joseph Haspel Sr adapted the colonial Indian fabric in 1909 to create clothes for farmers, factory workers and prisoners that were light and breathable in the intense heat of the Deep South. His simultaneously smooth and bumpy cotton garments kept the wearer cool by lifting away from the skin, and Haspel went on to use the fabric to cut dapper summer suits that became the style protocol for men living in the South.
By the 1920s the seersucker suit had made its way to the northern US states, where it was carried by Brooks Brothers and embraced not only by Ivy League dandies but figures such as president Harry Truman and actor Gregory Peck. The material’s popularity waned in the second half of the 20th century with the advent of synthetic fabrics, and in 1977 Haspel sold the company. But in 2012, Laurie Haspel Aronson took the helm to reinvigorate her great-grandfather’s brand. At its core are the smart single-breasted sports jackets ($395) and accompanying trousers ($200) – in classic Midnight Blue, as well as the Oyster Gray and Cayenne Red candy stripe that conjures up New Orleans music halls – that have been worn by the likes of actor Jon Hamm.
This year Haspel introduced a limited edition capsule collection with the help of Will Swillie, a former buyer for Ralph Lauren who also played a central role in elevating Michael Kors’ menswear line. Swillie’s Archival Collection features five different suit styles (each $695) in an updated silhouette, with side vents on jackets and side-tab waistbands on modern pleated trousers. Stripes abound, as do shades of cream, grey and peach, adding a certain swagger to summer dressing.