What is seersucker?

Effortlessly stylish - seersucker is the perfect summer jacket fabric

Effortlessly stylish – seersucker is the perfect summer jacket fabric
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Seersucker is cotton cloth with a dappled texture made through a process known as slack weaving. The name comes from the Persian, shīroshakar, meaning “milk and sugar”. This refers to the original way of making the cloth which involved weaving alternate threads of silk and cotton. When washed, the cotton would shrink and the silk would not, giving the cloth its crinkled look.

Seersucker is an elegant summer fabric. Perfect for regatta season, summer weddings, parties and graduations, seersucker keeps you seriously cool when the weather warms.

Where does seersucker come from?

Seersucker originated from India

Seersucker originated from India
Image source: Samuel Windsor

The original hot climate fabric, seersucker originated in Persian Mughal-ruled India. Muslim traders brought it to Europe during the 18th century where it was prized for its strength and durability as much as its cooling properties.

Once it crossed the pond to the United States at the turn of the last century, cheap cotton seersucker became a go-to fabric for making work men’s overalls. Around the beginning of the 20th century, it also became popular with the Southern gentry whose seersucker suits afforded some protection from the searing sun.

During the 1930s, American college students began wearing seersucker and the cloth became highly fashionable. Now it’s a fabric that’s used to make jackets, shirts, suits, trousers and shorts, and its preppy character remains part of its modern appeal.

How is seersucker made?

The distinctive ‘crinkle’ means that seersucker doesn’t need ironing

The distinctive ‘crinkle’ means that seersucker doesn’t need ironing
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Alternating silk and cotton threads was the original way of making seersucker, but that’s expensive and was soon superseded by all cotton cloth. Faced with the challenge of recreating the same look and feel of the original using only cotton, manufacturers created a technique called slack weaving.

In weaving, the long vertical threads are called the warp, the threads which run from side to side are called the weft. Seersucker is made by varying the tension of alternating bunches of warp threads. The threads under higher stress contract when the fabric is taken down from the loom, creating seersucker’s trademark crinkle.

Why is seersucker cool?

Rather than clinging to your body, seersucker allows air to circulate

Rather than clinging to your body, seersucker allows air to circulate
Image source: Coral seersucker jacket from Samuel Windsor

Seersucker is undoubtedly a snazzy fabric, but it also helps to keep your skin cool. Because the fabric has a naturally dappled texture it doesn’t contact your skin to anything like the same degree as other fabrics. The crinkles also encourage air to flow between the garment and your skin, helping to keep you from feeling hot and sticky in the hot sun.

When to wear seersucker

Short sleeve seersucker shirt from Samuel Windsor looks great with shorts or chinos

Seersucker shirts look great with shorts or chinos
Image source: Short sleeve seersucker shirt from Samuel Windsor

Seersucker menswear usually includes shirts, shorts and jackets. The palette is often pastel and the pattern striped or gingham. It’s an informal fabric that lends itself to formal occasions – particularly celebrations – hence its popularity at graduations, weddings, and summer parties.

But seersucker can take you to other places too; this fabric is made for cruising. A seersucker shirt in blue, pink or lemon is just the ticket for a friendly game of quoits on a sun-drenched deck. Fed up with your shorts clinging to your legs? Seersucker is the solution.

If you’re heading to a summer sporting occasion – from Wimbledon to your local cricket match – seersucker makes a great jacket choice. Twin with chinos, and round off your ensemble with penny loafers, panama and classic sunglasses.

How to care for seersucker

Ideal for crease-free travel, seersucker makes excellent holiday wear

Ideal for crease-free travel, seersucker makes excellent holiday wear
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Your seersucker shorts and shirts are easy care products that you can bung in the washing machine – simply follow the care instructions on the label. If your pick is a seersucker jacket, you do need to be more careful. Dry clean this garment or the canvas interlining can buckle, distorting the shape of your jacket.

Seersucker is a wonderful fabric which lends itself to a wide variety of warm weather events – if you haven’t tried it yet, you really are missing out on a stylish option that lends a little variety and panache to your summer wardrobe.

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