Seersucker suits make a statement

Nobody doesn't notice when you're wearing a seersucker suit.

With their lightweight look and somewhat rumpled appearance, these pinstriped summer suits are a trademark of the Southern gentleman, a statement to the world that you're a little different and darned proud of it.

But as common as they are in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, I get those strange looks from people when I wear mine up North, where they're about as common as good manners.

From the moment you walk into a room, people nod in your direction. The suit itself is enough to turn heads.

When you say you're from Charleston, they get this magnolia and lemonade look in their eyes as if you just said you were from Mars.

"All males born in South Carolina," I explain, "are issued a seersucker suit at birth."

I think they believe me.

Mark Twain

I like to wear my gray, pinstriped seersucker suit with an open-collared shirt and a pair of cordovan Bass Weejuns with no socks.

But that's me. Some prefer the light blue pinstripe. There's even pink and tan models for the adventurous.

Andy Griffith wore seersucker suits with suspenders on his long-running TV show "Matlock." Even Barney Fife looked good in a seersucker suit with a straw hat and a bow tie when he was off-duty in Mayberry.

Lots of U.S. senators wore seersucker suits in Washington, D.C., back before air conditioning.

Seersucker also is the suit of choice among Broad Street lawyers during the long summers here in the Holy City.

The most famous attorney to wear a three-piece seersucker suit, of course, was Atticus Finch in the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird."

Quite honestly, there's just something about wearing seersucker that makes you feel like you're starring in a James Dickey novel and talking to Mark Twain while having a drink with William Faulkner.

That's not to say women don't enjoy the light and airy feel of a good seersucker suit.

Indeed, the Navy once issued seersucker uniforms to its nurses who served in the warmer climates around the globe.

Wearing newspaper

That's because the all-cotton suits are made in such a way that they facilitate air circulation, a necessity for the well-dressed man or woman on some of our steamiest days of summer.

Back when Britain had its far-flung colonial kingdom, seersucker was a quite popular look in places like India and Burma.

Its sometimes puckered appearance causes some to think it's cheap. My favorite line came from sports writer Damon Runyon, who said his seersucker suit was causing much confusion among his New York friends. "They cannot decide whether I'm broke or just setting a new vogue."

For me, wearing my seersucker suit is like wearing a newspaper. It's light and easy to read.

Even from a distance it says something about the wearer, something you can't say in a blue blazer or a black tuxedo.

To be sure, there is a time and place for everything when it comes to fashion. And there are those who contend that white bucks and seersucker suits should not be worn after Labor Day.

But here in the Palmetto State, we stretch the calendar out a little longer, allowing them until the first leaf falls in October.

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598.

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