Seersucker Chic

When I profiled Alan Flusser for The Rake back in 2011, he made a big impression on me with his remarks on the concept of “chic.” One of his points, no surprise, is that men who are into “gentlemanly” or “sartorial” dressing are very rarely into “chic.” For one thing, the term is almost always associated with women, at least in the English-speaking world.

But because of my lifelong interest in style theory, particularly dandyism, I found myself pondering the word and concept. Chic is even more difficult to define than dandyism, which the great theorists have said is based entirely on a “je ne sais quoi,” that mysterious certain something. It’s guided me ever since, and helped more firmly fuse the part of me that values tradition and the part that values a subtle and elegant audacity. Chic is also traditionally WASPy, though more so for the high society set rather than the New England upper middle class. You can even convey the sense of chic in Weejuns, though it helps to be a “swan.”

Still pondering chic in the back of my head, a couple of years later I was in a meeting with a book editor pitching some ideas. At the very end I blurted out a vague concept with just the right combination of words to pique his interest. I  went home to do some work on it, and it gradually morphed from an extended essay to a full-fledged novel. It’s been on hold for a while, but I do plan to get back to it in the next few years. There’s an Ivy angle you guys will enjoy.

Returning to Flusser, he released a summer lookbook last week, and it happens to contain some shots that make a nice follow-up to Seersucker Thursday. If you find yourself at a swank event this summer, consider pairing an ivory dinner jacket with seersucker trousers. From there you can make whatever adjustments suit your trad, preppy or Ivy tastes, from a rumpled pink buttondown to black penny loafers. And then the following morning wear the jacket and trousers by the pool with a navy polo shirt.

Check out the Flusser lookbook here. — CC

19 Comments on "Seersucker Chic"

  1. Old School Tie | June 14, 2019 at 12:13 pm |

    Chic is not WASPy, it’s Gallic. Smart is WASPy. One woman calling another chic is always loaded with subtext along the lines of “sure, men like how you look, but us women think you look like a tramp, a foreign tramp at that. A Parisian tramp. Well-dressed, but the certain je ne sais quoi is nothing good, honey”…..

  2. My takeaway. Great to see better fitting clothes! Hopefully Alan can lead the charge to dump all the short jackets, skintight pants, etc. Bravo!

  3. My apologies to Mr. Flusser (The Godfather of menswear), but wearing pink socks with black monogrammed velvet slippers is twee, contrived, and matchy-matchy. The pink shirt/black bow tie echoes the pink sock/black slippers combination and looks overdone, as if a stylist picked out the outfit. Too over-the-top. Summer is all about sprezzatura and casual.

    Mr. Flusser is right, however, about chic. In France, the translation of preppy is “BCBG,” or Bon Chic Bon Genre. It applies to young men as well as young women and is a compliment that conveys good manners, high social standing, and timeless, simple, elegant style. An example would be a young man wearing Bass weejuns, a Cartier tank watch, and a Barbour waxed cotton jacket with a collegiate scarf.

  4. Charlottesville | June 14, 2019 at 2:01 pm |

    Alan Flusser’s clothes are very nice to look at, although not the sort of thing I usually wear. His books also have great pictures. I have a few Ralph Lauren Polo suits that share some of these details (darted front, peak lapels, double vents, ticket pocket), and while I like them, I don’t often wear them for work or around town locally. Perhaps they seem more urban than my usual setting calls for. Chic may well be the word. Like Old School Tie across the sea, I think I prefer the word smart for Americans, especially for women, although I suppose chic is the mot juste for Capote’s swans, as Christian noted above.

    A new men’s shop called Alton Lane, offering mostly made-to-measure clothing, has opened locally. It was founded by a couple of UVA grads and is one of a dozen or so in various cities, including two in New York and one each in Chicago, Boston and Washington. The things I saw have the same sort of feel as the clothes above, although cut a bit too snugly for my taste. The salesman I spoke with was wearing a navy seersucker suit with peak lapels, double vents and an odd vest, which is pretty racy by local standards, but not a bad look. I wish them well. It would be great to have more local men in coat and tie on a regular basis, and we still have Eljo’s for traditionalists.

    I hadn’t realized that the new Four Seasons had already closed before I could stop in for so much as a drink. Looks a lot like the old place used to. I am sure that it was overpriced like the original, but I am still sad to see another elegant looking bar and dining room go under.

  5. There are many ways to look cool in the summer without purposefully ignoring the rules of formal attire. Ivory dinner jacket is for “black tie” dress code only and should only be worn with black tuxedo trousers and all the traditional black tie accessories.
    I don’t understand why so many guys here are so fond of Bass loafers. They’re made of corrected grain leather that is made to be permanently shiny (almost patent) and looks cheap and tacky. It’s becoming very difficult to find high quality classic penny loafers that are not made of this cheap shiny leather.

  6. @ I.T. – Try the Crockett & Jones Boston loafer. Ben Silver also carries an unlined version called the Harvard.

  7. I.T.
    It’s very easy to remove the shine from the Bass loafers with any solvent.

  8. Richard E. Press | June 15, 2019 at 2:28 pm |

    The unmitigated pleasure sporting Seersucker summer after summer among the cognoscenti at J. Squeeze was exactly how un-chic it was.

  9. As mentioned above, chic is an intangible je ne sais quoi that the wearer brings. In sartorial metaphysics (I think I’ll go register, it is transferred from the soul plane to the physical through a mysterious process requiring years of esoteric initiation.

    It is not to be found in the clothes themselves (see CZ Guest in Weejuns), though some items lend themselves to it more than others.

  10. Chic is an attitude: fearless, revolutionary and devil-may-care. Coco Channel is the textbook example of chic. She appropriated items from menswear (e.g. tweed and quilted nylon) that were comfortable, soft, and natural and fashioned feminine clothing items that were daring for the time. Chic requires chutzpah and a soupçon of iconoclasm.

  11. whiskeydent | June 15, 2019 at 5:10 pm |

    For me, chic is about elegance, sophistication and simplicity. It’s eye-catching without being showy and reeks of big bucks well spent. In my opinion, it’s also decidedly Euro, especially with men.

    Ivy’s reverence for relaxed comfort doesn’t fit with chic very well. Perhaps seersucker on the right guy could work — but only until the first lovely rumple appears.

  12. Henry Contestwinner | June 16, 2019 at 12:43 am |

    I think it was Will at A Suitable Wardrobe who suggested that if you were to get an ivory dinner jacket, you should get it with peak lapels, so it could be worn during the day (in the summer, of course) with other outfits.

    The outfits here are of a similar nature to those at fashion shows, or in more recent Ralph Lauren advertising: clever, made to inspire, but not meant to be worn by regular people.

    I agree most heartily with I.T.: the way to look good in black tie is to follow the rules. Those who don’t usually look… well, they don’t look as good as they might. The only exceptions are for men with extraordinary style (it helps if they’re incredibly handsome, too). Since that’s probably not any of us, we’re probably better off sticking to the rules.

  13. MacMcConnell | June 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm |

    Weejuns were never expensive loafers. Sequitur is correct about solvent. I might add a tin of ox blood polish, Weejuns aren’t cordovan.
    I bought a pair of Weejuns about three years ago for $80 from a local shoe discount store. I wear them damn near everyday. They’ve held up as well as the Weejuns I’ve been buying since 1960.

  14. MacMcConnell | June 16, 2019 at 1:00 pm |

    Thanks for the link to Phantom Thread.

  15. Vern Trottet | June 16, 2019 at 10:01 pm |

    I still have never worn a suit with loafers or without socks. I wear loafers and go without socks constantly. I wonder why the hang up?

    I think I saw the movie Phantom Thread six times. Wonderful!

  16. @MacMcConnell
    It’s all I can think about upon hearing “chic,” another way in which Daniel Day Lewis has broken me. That aside, the more Ivy/Traditional materials with slimmer silhouettes give the Lookbook a Lake Cuomo by way of Long Island appearance that I appreciate, like a contemporary Highsmith film adaptation.

  17. MacMcConnell | June 17, 2019 at 10:43 am |

    Vern Trottet
    The answer is two fold. First, a suit implies more formality and there are different degrees of formality in suits. Suits are not equivalent to sport coats and trousers. Secondly, you are not in junior high. 😉

    On your recommendation I will see Phantom Thread, DD Lewis movie how can it loose.

  18. Phantom Thread was in the top 10 of my DVD queue. I just moved it to the top.

    Day-Lewis is in two of my favorites of all time, “The Age of Innocence” and “A Room With A View.”

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