Seersucker is a lightweight and breathable fabric, with a distinctive crimped or puckered finish. Its history dates to the British colonial period in India and has since become associated with classic American summer fashion. We have seen a resurgence in its popularity, especially for menswear, in the last few years so now is a good time to learn about Seersucker.
The word "seersucker" is derived from the Persian words "shir o shekar," which mean "milk and sugar." This name likely refers to the fabric's bumpy texture and colour, resembling the ripples of milk and sugar. Seersucker was originally woven in the Indian subcontinent, primarily in the region that is now Bangladesh and is made from cotton, linen or silk.
Seersucker gained popularity during the British colonial era in India and was traded through the East India British company in the 1600’s. The puckered texture of seersucker was found to be practical in hot and humid climates, as the tiny air pockets created by the puckering helped with ventilation and cooling. British officials and expatriates in India began wearing clothing made from seersucker to stay comfortable in the sweltering heat.
Seersucker fabric made its way to the West during the 19th century and gained popularity in the American South for its practicality, not just dealing with the heat. Seersucker proved to be hard wearing and affordable. The introduction to this textile by the British to the American South was embraced and soon gained popularity especially as workwear.
In the late 1800’s Seersucker was utilised for leisure suits, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that wearing seersucker became mainstream. Students at Princeton University took note of what was happening in the South, particularly in New Orleans, were the textile was used for men’s suits with numerous tailors promoting the wearable fabric and affordable luxury.
Seersucker has transcended its practical origins and has become a summer fashion mainstay. A true testament to its unique qualities and distinctive characteristics.