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As a former New Yorker who moved to D.C. three years ago, I can say with full sincerity that I love my new town — the quiet tree-lined streets of Dupont Circle, the handsome brick townhouses and the wide-open sky that allows you to take in the horizon as far as Virginia. And yet, I often miss the open-air fashion show that is the streets of New York.
D.C. is many wonderful things, but a public runway? Probably not. Which is why I was overjoyed on the 42 bus last summer, when I noticed that the navy and beige color palate of our nation’s capital had been spiked with some bold new shades and tints. The culprit? That inimitable symbol of southern summer fashion (and humidity): the seersucker suit.
Yes, those sea breeze blue and white stripes have been popping up this summer like new construction on Connecticut Avenue. Dapper, gentlemanly and bright, the seersucker is being sported by men young and old, thin and portly, southern and northern-born alike. The likely explanation is the seersucker’s reputation as light and breathable — two redeeming qualities in the D.C. summer heat.
That promise of coolness is what brought Phil Klein to buy his first seersucker.
“I was kind of always skeptical about the seersucker,” says Klein. “I just always associated it with old southern men in straw hats and so forth or barber shop quartets. A friend of mine convinced me to try it on. The material you can’t really argue with. It’s just comfortable to have something that sort of envelopes you in a blanket of comfort.”
For other seersucker devotees, the opportunity to make a fashion statement is what lures them away from the regulation wool suit. Justin Gist Preuninger, whom I spotted on the Bethesda Metro, falls into this camp. On the day I met him, Preuninger cut a dashing figure in his ensemble, which included a tan and white seersucker suit with a red ascot paired with a blue belt and matching blue suede shoes. I should add that Preuninger made the ascot and belt himself.
Still for others, it’s not one thing that draws them to the seersucker suit, but a host of winning attributes — the coolness, the elegance and that certain charisma that only seersucker can provide.
Annapolis resident Ben Pagac, who owns no less than 50 pieces of seersucker, explains how seersucker has that special magic that can bring people together, even in our rushed and bustling city.
“D.C. is not a place necessarily where people will in public come out of the blue and say something about how you dress,” he says. “But for some reason, seersucker solicits comments from people who you don't even know. And it can be as simple as, ‘hey I like that seersucker.’ Or, ‘nice suit.’ Or, ‘hey I like what you are wearing.’ It's different. I think its something that makes people smile. Its a happy type of clothing.”
[Music: "Young & Beautiful" by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra from The Great Gatsby - The Jazz Recordings (A Selection of Yellow Cocktail Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film the Great Gatsby) / "You're the Inspiration" by The Nicky North Orchestra from Orchestral Pops, Vol. 4]
Photos: Seersucker in the Summer