We bring Seersucker Fest 2014 to a close with these wonderful recollections from Christopher Sharp, who spearheaded our fest.
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Working on our seersucker fest reminded me of an old article in which the author finds himself staring out the window of a New England country inn on an autumn day. His only companions are a bottle of old sauterne and the ghosts of his past. He calls sauternes “memory in a glass.”
My epiphany is that seersucker has become my sauterne, with a memory in every wrinkle.
The gospel was that seersucker was to be somewhat disposable, yet my three cotton suits have been dogged companions over the years. The bill for the blue seersucker, gray seersucker and blue pincord suits, bought from Brooks Brother, is dated July, 1991. An extra pair of trousers included brought the cost up to $262.50 per outfit.
I can still picture myself at my first job wearing those suits on the sales floor of the Country Couple in Ithaca, NY, surrounded by mountains of Gitman shirts and Jacob Roberts regimental ties. It was a sartorially rich time, even if nationally independent clothing retailers were struggling.
Four years later, working for community newspaper, a swarm of media came to town for a high-profile trial. As the local reporter, I was in demand for providing background to the story. One day I met Maria Effirtimades of People magazine and offered to “show her the local color.” She took one look at me in my seersucker suit and bow tie and quipped, “You are the local color.”
I’m not sure if it is self-effacing or self-indulgent to admit that one’s dubious achievements are still one’s achievements, but I have come to the conclusion they are one and the same. For example, there’s the time I convinced French restaurateur and former manager of the Rainbow Room, Roger Bouillon, to take on the “Titanic” task of preparing the full 11-course menu from the night the pride of the White Star line went down. That has nothing to do with seersucker, but my two railroad smokers did.
Our community has a scenic railroad, and in 1995 they graciously allowed my cigar club to pollute their restored 1944 dinner car. It was on June 5th that the party made its way through the 19th-century depot en route to recreating a Lucius Beebe private-car experience. The staff newspaper photographer was shanghaied into providing photography services, and some memorable photos were the result. There is the portrait of myself at left, more hair then I knew what to do with, my face not yet wrinkled, appearing happy yet haunted in the blue seersucker suit, a white Brooks Brother’s shirt, and a dot tie from Randy Hanauer. Hidden are a pair of dandy-blowing-smoke-ring braces and WalkOver bucks. I am enjoying a La Gloria Cubana torpedo secured from a personal visit to the Little Havana factory of El Credito.
A less introspective photo (see below) was chosen by the editors of Cigar Aficionado for the autumn 1995 edition. A captured moment of ourselves standing on the railroad platform, the flag flapping in the breeze on a summer night. My friend Elliot Edwards stands next to me in a Panama hat. Summer is lived at the pitch of ice clinking in a glass. That night in the summer of ’95 — and all others since — seem to have evaporated into smoke, laughter and memory.
I tried on my seersucker suits this year and neither the pants nor jackets fit. This sad news corresponded with a recent call from Elliot. He told me in the charming and breezy way in which he announces big life changes, “that it was hell getting old” and that he was “moving south.” Upon hearing this my mind flashed back to when we first met, which was at a cigar dinner in an old bank building. The conversation had started to lag at my table, and over the din of the other diners you could hear a gregarious man holding court, his table enthralled by his story. At the appropriate time I went over and introduced myself to the man wearing the blue blazer and Weejuns without socks. He put me immediately at ease, saying that he was glad I had come over because he’d wanted to tell me he liked my suit. He then got a distant, wistful look, and what he said next has echoed from that cavernous bank to my present memory: “I had a seersucker suit like that, when I was a younger man… ”
It was Damon Runyon who suggested that seersucker reconciles the rich and the poor. For myself, I have come to believe that it reconciles the old and young. In my case, however, they are the same person, as now I too can say, “I had a seersucker suit like that, when I was a younger man.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP (Continue)
In 1996 Mississippi Senator Trent Lott began an annual tradition in Congress called Seersucker Thursday, a bit of bi-partisan frivolity that paid homage to the pre-air-conditioned days of Capitol Hill. It lasted until 2012, when the idea of politicians remaining cool for one day in the hot summer was deemed frivolous. It returns this year on Wednesday, June 11, under the name National Seersucker Day.
Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA) recently entered a proclamation in the Congressional Record stating, “Seersucker Day was established to honor this unique American fashion. I wish to restart this tradition by designating Wednesday, June 11th as National Seersucker Day. I encourage everyone to wear seersucker to commemorate this iconic American clothing.”
Haspel, not surprising, is all over this, issuing a press release that contains the following:
Seersucker has a long-standing place in the halls of the Capitol. In the days before air conditioning, seersucker was a stylish necessity to battle D.C.’s summer heat—and political hot air. That tradition waned, but in 1996, Mississippi Senator [R] Trent Lott initiated an annual tradition in Washington to honor a simpler time when there was more charm and playfulness in Washington attire. For the better part of two decades, members of the House and Senate dressed in their best and brightest seersucker and gathered for a photo to kick off the summer. That tradition was shelved during the economic downturn but it’s coming back next month when members of the House will once again show up to work in their summery, seersuckery best.
The return of National Seersucker Day couldn’t come at a better time for the iconic American men’s brand, Haspel, who invented the seersucker suit in 1909. The brand recently relaunched for Spring/Summer 2014 by Laurie Haspel Aronson, the founder’s great granddaughter, who is reigniting Haspel for a new generation. Poised for the comeback, she tapped the award-winning design team Shipley & Halmos to create American-made clothing that echoes the legacy of its founder while advancing the style of the Haspel man.
To celebrate National Seersucker Day, Haspel invites you to don your best and brightest seersucker. The brand will be hosting multiple seersucker giveaways via their social media channels in the days leading up to June 11, and they encourage everyone to participate in the summertime sophistication of wearing seersucker.
So get your seersucker cleaned and pressed for next Wednesday. Between now and then we’ll offer plenty of inspiration on how to to style your outfit as we plow through Seersucker Fest 2014. Below is the first suggestion, courtesy of Senator Lott: matching pink tie and socks. — CS & CC
Last weekend O’Connell’s was profiled in the Buffalo News under the heading “global purveyor of old time fashion.” The article charts the retailer’s embracing of e-commerce and can be read here. There’s also a slideshow that will probably have you reaching for your wallet. — CC
Fashion rolls through time in cycles — while also sliding up and down on a see-saw.
For the last several years the sockless trend has reached the point where it’s now quasi-normal for with-it guys to wear dress shoes, suits and ties without stockings on their feet.
Ivy Style is here to report on the long-overdue backlash, scheduled to take place in the summer of 2014.* Think about it: if a surfeit of guys are wearing suits with no socks, then the logical alternative (actually illogical, but that’s rather the point) is to wear socks with shorts.
Matthew Karl Gale (“Makaga” in the comments section) has depicted what will happen on street corners around the country as the socked and bare-ankled pass each other with each passing the same judgment.
The socks-and-shorts look can be seen in these two photos below, one dating from 1960, the other from the pages of “Take Ivy.” Now go forth, besocked gentlemen, and spread the word.
* Ivy-Style.com cannot guarantee an actual fashion trend will take place.
On Sunday I found myself hurriedly marching up Fifth Avenue in order to make a rendez-vous. Sure I stopped a moment to snap the new Polo store under construction, but mostly I was irritably weaving in and out of tourists for 16 blocks.
As I marched the clamor of the city rang in my ears with its usual din (pointless honking is one of my biggest pet peeves about New York), and I passed perhaps a thousand people on the street. The odds, then, of passing a young couple at precisely the moment when the lady asked her beau, “Has J. Press reopened?” and actually registering the words amid the noise are so slim as to be mind-boggling. Then again I’ve been watching a lot of astronomical documentaries lately, so my mind is already pretty boggled.
In fact J. Press has not found a new location, but, I’d just been told a few hours before, is still scouting the dearth of suitable locations in Midtown East. Earlier that day I’d attended a small trade show hosted by Esquire, where Onward Kashiyama was showing the York Street brand. The company’s COO was there and brought me up to speed on company news.
The biggest development is that all of the company’s product lines — J. Press and York Street, the US and Japanese markets — will be brought under one design studio. And no surprise, they’re opting for Tokyo over New York. It’s a Japanese company, after all.
Denizens of Tradsville have previously bantered about J. Press Japan’s offerings, with some saying many of the products look better than US products and why can’t we get them here. We’ll have to wait and see what changes are brought to the brand with Tokyo in charge of design and merchandising.
I’m planning to do a Q&A with the COO to cover all that’s going on with J. Press, so stay tuned. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD