Friday, April 3, 2009

Fashion Backward: A Historical Note on Seersucker

“Although my public appearance comes dressed in a white pressed suit, my creativity flows from a certain Seersucker ensemble. For a true Southerner can’t live without it.”
- Mark Twain

During Reconstruction a small amount of Northern confidence men went south to pilfer money from rebuilding budgets that were being given to towns ravaged by the Civil War. Most of these men outfitted themselves as contractors, but one in particular found a roundabout way to a straight life. Landis Seer III was a small time confidence man by way of Hollowcreek, New Hampshire. His M.O. was that of a traveling salesman selling cure-alls to the elderly in and around New England. Seer made his way south to Jennings, Florida where he grandstanded in town squares to sell his Seer & Son’s Medicinal Cure-all. The potion was nothing more than seltzer water and fennel. Seer found his marks did not care to see a man with a Northern accent dressed in a pressed black suit and tried different accents and clothing to appeal to the genteel Southerners. Finding the summers unbearable, Seer weaved a suit himself made out of cotton from nearby Georgia. Seer was no weaver, so his slack-tension weave produced a wrinkled suit, but when worn lifted from the skin to provide certain coolness. Seer wore his suit and his newly minted down home charm led to increased sales of his tonic. His fellow confidence men christened his marks, “Seer’s Suckers,” who would constantly ask about his suit. Seer, seeing a profit on the horizon, started to mass produce his suit, which, out of jest, he marketed as Seersucker. Sales of his suit flourished in the South and have become a mainstay of Southern fashion between Easter and Labor Day.

1 comment:

  1. It's also a mainstay of preppy fashion (to the extent one can call it 'fashion') regardless of geography, along the lines of madras and popped collars--during the proper season, of course. Interesting to learn of its origins.