Dear Mr. Smith: I have some questions about seersucker. 1) Can one wear it in the evening? 2) Can one wear linen shirts with seersucker or is there a better pairing? 3) What shoes work best? I prefer spectators to bucks. Any preference between the two? 4) What kind of socks?
You have excellent timing, as seersucker, a striped textured cotton fabric, is appropriate only in the hot months. Its natural wrinkles or bumpiness prevent it from clinging tightly to the body, allowing better air circulation. The word comes from the Persian sir o sakar, meaning milk and sugar, probably because of the contrast of smooth and rough stripes. You see it mostly in suits and jackets; the most common colour combo is blue and white, although grey, brown, red and even yellow stripes are also traditional.
Seersucker suits are among those conventional garments that are paradoxically flamboyant and conservative - that is, they are flamboyant in a way that conservatives seem to like. Like the propeller beanies of comic-book cliché, they are both colourful and nerdy. And though they have a long association with Southern U.S. politicians and blue-blooded newspapermen, they still may cause a snicker in Canada. You have to be a confident guy to pull one off, which means, of course, that I love seersucker, in all colours, and want to see its proud return.
Your answers in order are: 1) No, I wouldn't wear one in the evening unless it's to an outdoor event like drinks in the garden.
2) Of course you may wear a linen shirt; the only rule here is to avoid a printed shirt. Although a white shirt is the classic match, pale pastel shirt colours are also possible. I would not, of course, wear a seersucker shirt with a seersucker suit.
3) The classic American seersucker outfit includes a white soft-leather lace-up shoe called a buck, but white shoes can look extra dandyish, particularly in this country, where it isn't very hot very often. Spectator or saddle shoes are even more dandyish and even more nerdy. They evoke the 1930s, as the Duke of Windsor was fond of them. I find them a little garish. The combination of a patterned shoe and a patterned suit would be a little much today, if you're not Don Cherry. Plain brown shoes are perfectly appropriate for light summer suits.
And 4) Re: socks, wear any colour you like, although you will get extra style points for wearing no socks at all.
Russell Smith's new novel, Girl Crazy, has just been published.