Formal Seersucker

JCrew_A0526_WO3880_m_header2

The Brooks Brothers spring catalogue arrived last week, a refreshing reminder that this long, brutal winter has to end at some point.  Once the balmy weather arrives, the venerable haberdashers are suggesting we stay cool on formal evenings with a novel seersucker tuxedo.

This tropical take on evening wear actually originated in the early 1960s when the fashion industry pretty much threw out the rulebook on formal tradition.  At that time manufacturers retained seersucker’s distinctive striped pattern but limited the fabric to summer dinner jackets.

Lord West ad, 1963.

Lord West ad, 1963.

After Six seersucker dinner jacket, 1964.

After Six jacket, 1964.

(Twentieth Century Fox)

Still from Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte, released in 1964. (Twentieth Century Fox)

etsy

Vintage After Six jacket with black ‘cloverleaf’ lapels. The seller describes the colour as “black or very dark navy depending on the light.”

After that period there doesn’t appear to be any reference to seersucker formal attire until 2009 when Brooks Brothers introduced a black grosgrain edged jacket styled more like a business suit than a dinner suit.  Its $1,200 price tag was a far cry from the $45 models of the 1960s.  Matching Bermuda shorts were extra.

2009_March_BrooksBrothers

Leap forward another six years and the company is now offering a much more traditional interpretation in the aforementioned Spring 2015 catalogue.  The jacket is classically styled with peaked lapels and a single button and comes with matching trousers all for an extremely modest $498.  Interestingly, the suits have been produced in a limited run of 250 which is why they are advertised exclusively in the catalogue and not online.

2015_spring_BB_catalogue_p4,5_edit_WM

2015_spring_BB_catalogue_p6,7_edit_WM

The Brooks Brothers Spring 2015 catalogue includes guidelines for proper black-tie attire that reflect the time-honoured rules championed by classic sartorialists.

However, the Brooks Brothers web site does offer another formal seersucker option that harkens back to the original 1960s models.  It retails for $795.

Stripe Seersucker Formal Jacket from Brooks Brothers' Black Fleece line.

Stripe Seersucker Formal Jacket from Brooks Brothers’ Black Fleece line.

Finally, competitor J. Crew is currently offering their own take on the black seersucker tuxedo (ironically described as a “formal look that we’re sure nobody else will have this summer”).  The jacket is $358 and the ridiculously slim-fitting matching trousers are an extra $190.

J Crew Ludlow tuxedo jacket in Japanese seersucker.

J Crew Ludlow tuxedo jacket in Japanese seersucker.  Click for a super high-res look at the texture of the fabric.

16 Comments

  1. Nik Ismail almurtadza

    Nice,will be calling BB in Singapore.

    Nik

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall (Post author)

      I’d love to hear about your experience. I still can’t get over the unbelievably low price.

      Reply
  2. Hal

    Whilst the Brooks Brothers suit doesn’t look bad, even in the promotional photo the J Crew suit looks poor. It doesn’t seem to fit properly.

    I know that complaining about skinny fit suits is a pointless exercise (and quite like slimmer fitting suits) but even by the standards of the shrunken suit that’s been popular recently this is pretty dire.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I always find the long sleeve jacket and shorts/bermuda combo, kind of idiotic.

    Reply
  4. Chris

    Hey Peter,

    I recently picked up a tuxedo on sale from brooks brothers including jacket and pants for approx. $400. It fits well and has been tailored. Shown here: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/The-Great-Gatsby-Collection-Peak-Lapel-Tuxedo-Jacket/MZ00016,default,pd.html

    It is a black tuxedo (I had preferred a midnight blue one, but I needed black for a performing group, and at the price point I would be hard pressed to find something better)

    We bought the bow tie and cummerbund from brooks as well; the combined total was about $130. I was wondering if you know of a better quality product at that price?

    Additionally, I was wondering if it acceptable to mix a midnight navy bow tie or cummerbund with a black tuxedo, eg. (http://www.ebay.com/itm/380823622201)

    Thank you for your time and great website!

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall (Post author)

      Hi Chris,
      You’re not going to get much better quality than Brooks Brothers in general and certainly not for that price point. As for coloured bow ties and cummerbunds, the rules are laid out in the Black Tie Guide (no for the former, okay for the latter). However, I noticed that the cummerbund you’re considering attaches with velcro which is something no respectable gentleman would allow anywhere near his formal wardrobe.

      Reply
      1. Chris

        Hi Peter,

        I would like to thank you for your prompt reply.

        I believe you mean it is acceptable for the bowtie/cummerbund be a midnight navy while the suit is still black. I understand you are busy, so I will treat a lack of reply as a confirmation.

        Best,
        Chris

        Reply
        1. Peter Marshall (Post author)

          No coloured bow tie is acceptable with a black tuxedo.

          Reply
  5. Thomas

    Peter many men in the law firm I work at wear a very sheer nylon formal dress sock. They look great. I know it’s not silk cause I get the BB silk socks and these nylon socks look much more sheer and certainly more elegant. I have noticed them at plenty of weddings, etc… I don’t want to ask the guys at the office where they get their socks, so I can ask you… where can you get them?

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall (Post author)

      Hi Thomas,
      The Brooks Brothers socks are actually a blend of silk and nylon (80/20) which is why they aren’t as sheer as some other formal socks. I have other pairs that are more sheer but unfortunately I didn’t keep a record of where I purchased them. Typically I buy them from upscale menswear shops in Toronto and they are often the Pantherella brand.
      Peter

      Reply
  6. James

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the great guide. I was wondering how you felt about a midnight blue jacket with black trousers (as in here).

    Thanks,
    James

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall (Post author)

      I think that’s a nice combination in the right context. Interesting fabric.

      Reply
  7. Margaret

    Is a light blue seersucker jacket appropriate for a 5PM June wedding ceremony at a historical inn on the shores of Lake Champlain? If so what would be the best color for the trousers?

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall (Post author)

      Sorry, that’s a bit outside the area of my expertise.

      Reply
  8. little1966


    The Brooks Brothers spring catalogue arrived last week, a refreshing reminder that this long, brutal winter has to end at some point”
    I don’t agree: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2015/04/30/how-to-wear-a-seersucker-suit/
    – Dimple

    Reply
  9. Andrew Poupart

    I only just found this site. I purchased one of the limited edition seersucker tuxedos from Brooks when it was offered. Overall, I like it very much. It is a decent, classically styled dinner jacket that looks completely conventional from a shirt distance away, only revealing its unusual material when quite close. It is the only black dinner jacket and the only RTW dinner jacket that I wear fairly regularly.

    I do not use the trousers.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *