- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 22, 2006

The District’s high humidity and savvy dressers make conditions ripe for seersucker, the lightweight, breathable fabric with vertical stripes and a wrinkled texture.

It even has the backing of the U.S. Senate.

To mark the beginning of the summer season, about 15 senators celebrated “Seersucker Thursday” on June 15, a tradition started by Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who donned a seersucker suit and white bucks for the occasion.

“I wear it to loosen up the Senate a little bit and be comfortable in the process. It makes no sense to wear a black suit with a red tie on a steamy July afternoon,” says Mr. Lott, who wears his suit three or four times during the warm season.

From the Senate on down, men, women and children are donning seersucker in all forms and showing their ice-cream-parlor love of all things striped. Unlike many fashion revolutions, the summer seersucker trend seems to have captivated even the District’s male population.

Todd Snyder, head of men’s design at J. Crew, where seersucker has been a staple for years, says seersucker is a “juxtaposition of old and new, vintage and sophisticated.” (Men’s suit pants are on sale for $39.99 at jcrew.com, and the jacket is selling for $89.99.)

Mr. Snyder says seersucker is one of J. Crew’s “iconic pieces — an American classic.”

Traditionally, blue and white stripes have been the most popular colors for seersucker, but Mr. Snyder says the mix of off-white and olive green has sold best this summer at J. Crew.

“We try to reinvent it [every year],” he says. “We’ll wash it, overdye it; we’ll tint it as well to give it more of an antique feel. It’s all about the details; we make it different.”

With roots in the 1920s, seersucker is a “‘Great Gatsby’ inspiration piece,” Mr. Snyder says. Certainly, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional socialites mingling on the Long Island shore were dressed to the nines — some undoubtedly sporting seersucker suits.

The District hops with real-life characters, though, and this summer, seersucker has created a fashion revolution — clinging to the past, but not the wearer’s skin.

Jeff Cavanaugh, a 23-year-old District resident, says the appeal of seersucker suits is twofold.

“It’s a light and cool fabric that’s comfortable for the hot, humid weather in D.C.,” he says. “I also like it because it’s a throwback to an older, more traditional style of dress that has a Southern-gentleman image.”

Mr. Lott says the donning of seersucker suits among senators “is a way to show humanity and camaraderie across partisan lines,” proving that comfort, style and distinction can be as tightly connected as the fabric itself.

Woven in such a way that the cotton threads bunch together, seersucker creates a rumpled yet clean-cut look for hot summer afternoons in the office or at a party.

For a look that conjures bold stereotypes, seersucker is remarkably versatile. Mr. Snyder says he wears a seersucker jacket with jeans, cargo pants or a polo to loosen it up for a more casual look.

From slip-on sneakers and driving caps to jacket trim and belts, seersucker is showing up all over the fashion runway.

“Seersucker fabric is so desirable this time of year,” Mr. Snyder says. “It’s very airy and breathable, almost like wearing a shirt. It hides a lot of the wrinkles.”

“Part of the fabric’s appeal is that it wears its rumpled look on its sleeve,” says Mr. Cavanaugh, who bought his seersucker suit three years ago when it was more unusual to see a young man wearing seersucker.

While more traditional wearers add the flair of bow ties, white shoes and straw boater hats to accompany their seersucker, young guys opt for the more casual choice of jeans, leather sandals and a crisp, white polo shirt with their suit jackets.

Seersucker designs aren’t limited to clothing, though — Kmart is selling Martha Stewart seersucker bedding. The complete set for a full-size bed sells for $79.99 (kmart.com).

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