MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Now, it's been said that when it comes to being sartorially inspired D.C. isn't exactly a fashion destination. But here's the thing, when the temperature rises more and more Washingtonians are donning something that's pretty darn hot or cool rather. Shira Klapper has the story.
MS. SHIRA KLAPPER
I was riding down Connecticut Avenue on the 42 bus last summer when I looked up and saw before me two men dressed in head to toe seersucker suits. And from that moment I escape seeing those blue and white stripes everywhere I went.
MR. JUSTIN GIST PREUNINGER
My name is Justin Gist Preuninger.
Can you describe what you're wearing today?
So today I'm wearing a light tan and white striped seersucker but I've paired it also with a sailboat Nantucket red ascot which I made myself actually and a blue belt which matches the shoes.
So if you can't already picture Justin let's just say that he stands out in the crowd and that's part of the point. You make a statement when you wear seersucker. Ben Pagac would know. He owns more than 50 items made out of seersucker.
MR. BEN PAGAC
D.C. is not a place necessarily where people will in public come out of the blue and say something about how you dress. But for some reason seersucker solicits comments from people who you don't even know. You don't see that with any other fabric.
But seersucker isn't just about style. For people like my friend Phil Klein the choice is one of utility and not fashion.
MR. PHIL KLEIN
I was kind of always skeptical about the seersucker. You know, I just always associated it with sort of old southern men in straw hats and so forth or barber shop quartets or something like that. But a friend of mine sort of convinced me to try it on and, you know, the material you can't really argue with. I mean, it much more comfortable for hot weather.
When seersucker first came to the U.S. it was popular with working class men in the South for a simple reason, cotton was a cheaper textile. Only later did seersucker become a symbol of high prep. That happened when Harvard and Yale students donned the suits as a way of dressing down. Local customer designer, Judy Hanson, explains why.
MS. JUDY HANSON
I think that in the '20s and '30s when there was this big colligate look, this style, the Ivy League style became popular one of the things that they also looked for was sort of this reverse snobbery, this sort of dressing down and I think it was sort of a patrician thing like I am so aristocratic that I can wear ordinary clothes.
Unlike those preppy from long ago people who wear seersucker today may be looking to capture the romance of a former era. That's one of Judy Hanson's theories.
I wonder if it's looking back more than it is looking patrician. If it's just not look, you know, if it isn't nostalgia driven that, you know, we want things to be the way they were.
It's this feeling of something missing in our modern lives that inspired D.C. residents Holly Dass (sp?) and Eric Channing to create the Seersucker Social, an annual event entirely devoted to the wearing of seersucker.
MR. ERIC CHANNING
What the Seersucker Social does is give people an environment to enjoy themselves in the way that our grandparents did and I think socially we've let go of so many formalities and institutions that did not necessarily need to be dismissed.
MR. ERIC CHANNING
Of course, we moved past beyond a lot of things that we wouldn't care to sort of reinstitute but I think in some cases we threw the baby away with the bathwater.
Attendees of the Seersucker Social revisit the more gentile ways of generations past. Sipping lemonade on the lawn, dancing to old swing tunes, treating each other to old fashioned etiquette. These are the traditions that Holly and Eric are trying to bring back even for just one day.
MS. HOLLY DASS
I would even say that the events kind of have this dream-like quality and then everyone does look really beautiful and they feel beautiful and everyone's smiling and the music's wonderful and, it's just, it's kind of magical.
So why stop at one day? What if the magic of the seersucker Social could last all summer?
Everybody trusted the seersucker all July and August long, that would be my dream for Washington D.C.
This story was produced by Shira Klapper and Ellen Rolfes. Want to check out a slideshow of Washingtonians in all their seersucker splendor? Head over to our website, metroconnection.org.
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jacob Fenston, Jonathan Wilson, Emily Berman and Kavitha Cardoza along with Heather Taylor, Shira Klapper and Ellen Rolfes. WAMU's managing editor of news is Meymo Lyons. "Metro Connection's" managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our interns are Eva Harder and Kayla Peoples. Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.
Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts" is from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. All the music we use is listed on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song.
And if you missed part of today's show you can hear the whole thing on our website by clicking the "This Week on Metro Connection" link. You can also subscribe to our podcast there or look us up on iTunes, Stitcher and the NPR news app.
We hope you can join us next week when we cook up our annual "Down the Hatch" show celebrating the latest in D.C. food. We'll get brewing at D.C.'s first kumbucha (sp?) company, we'll go vegan in Ocean City, we'll learn the supersized secrets of a local competitive eating champ and we'll check out a new urban farm on the grounds of a public housing complex.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ONE
Sometimes the assumption is that people don't know what's good for them etc, etc. I think that assumption is overrated, I think people know what's good for them.
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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