News / Arts & Entertainment

Seersucker Suits Make a Comeback

Cooling fabric once favored by US lawmakers is back in fashion

Seersucker, the popular lightweight cotton suit once favored by American senators and congressman, is enjoying a comeback.
Seersucker, the popular lightweight cotton suit once favored by American senators and congressman, is enjoying a comeback.

Multimedia

Mana Rabiee

Irfan Baytok has been making custom suits for some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Washington since 1970.

Today, Baytok is making a summer suit for a young law student from the southern state of Georgia, where it stays warm for much of the year.  He's using a cool cotton fabric called seersucker, which the British adopted from India nearly 300 years ago.

"It's very light and it doesn't wrinkle and just very convenient fabric," says Irfan Baytok of Baytok Bespoke Tailoring.

Seersucker was originally known by its ancient Hindi and Persian name "Shiroshekar" or "milk and sugar."

Supposedly, the smooth white fabric resembled the surface of milk and the rough stripes had the bumpy texture of sugar.  While the British may have perfected the "Shiroshekar" fabric, Baytok says it was the Americans who made the Seersucker suit famous.

"During the summer, a seersucker suit is very preppy and comfortable," says Baytok. "Because of the heat and humidity in this town, makes the seersucker fabric is favorite for the people".

For these modern-day members of Congress, "Seersucker Day"  is merely a bit of nostalgia.  But it harks back to the early 1900's, when the lightweight fabric was popular among Washington lawmakers who wanted to stay cool and dry during the city's hot and humid summers.

Eventually, the seersucker suit became mandatory summer attire for Southern gentlemen. Seersucker lost its popularity when air conditioning made Washington's climate more tolerable, but it's still considered a mark of elegance today.  

Dr. Omidvar - who prefers not to use his full name -  is mostly retired now but he was a Republican lobbyist for many years. His office was next to the Willard Hotel in Washington where he met with high-powered lawmakers, often while dressed in one of his many seersucker suits.

"It can get you noticed. And it's actually to fit into the culture of the house, the senate, the politician's circles," says Omidvar. "You become like one of them, a part of the crowd".

Omidvar bought his first seersucker to attend an event for President Ronald Reagan in the 1980's. It cost $900, an enormous sum back then. But today, even young people without much money can afford their own seersuckers. The fabric is making a comeback and a jacket can be bought online for as little as $60. A Seersucker Social held in Washington earlier this summer is an example of its newfound popularity.

Washington tailor Irfan Baytok will charge a young law student from Georgia more than $2,800 for this seersucker suit he is making.
Washington tailor Irfan Baytok will charge a young law student from Georgia more than $2,800 for this seersucker suit he is making.

The custom suit Baytok is making will cost the young gentleman from Georgia more than $2,800. But Baytok does not mind that this once-exclusive fashion statement from the American South is now available to everyone.

"So someone can buy it for $49.50 suit and wear it. That's great, why not?" says Baytok. "It's not going to be exactly the one I'm making (it'll) be different, but as long as it makes them happy. That's important".

Baytok says few people custom order seersucker suits these days. The fabric is just too cheap now to justify the labor costs of a tailor. But its low cost may be part of the reason why it's enjoying a renaissance in Washington social circles.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."