Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Celebrating 110 Years of Seersucker: Happy Birthday to the Perfect Summer Suit

On Tom Waits’ classic Nighthawks at The Diner, during the closing track Waits agrees that he needs to step up his style, saying, “Maybe a serious seersucker Saturday evening cranberry accouterment ensemble would be nice.” 

Wouldn’t it, though? The line kept snaking through my head when I was invited by Haspel, the champion of seersucker, to head South and experience the city of New Orleans — and the birthplace of the classic seersucker suit — to celebrate National Seersucker Day. Haspel was founded in New Orleans in 1909, so this was a not-to-be-passed-up opportunity to celebrate the brand’s 110th anniversary, while taking a deep drink of the culture that formed this sartorial icon. 

According to fashion historian Bill Haltom, author of Milk and Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker, the history of seersucker fabric gets muddled in time. The name itself is said to come from the Persian; a derivation of “sheer” and “shakkar,” meaning milk and sugar, describing the way the smooth and bumpy textures of the fabric come out in the weave. It was brought to the United States from the British Colonial East Indies in the 1800s. That puckered texture causes the already lightweight fabric to lift away from the skin, keeping the wearer cool. Joseph Haspel, a clothier and tailor, adopted the fabric to make work clothes for factory workers and farmers — even prisoners — who work in New Orleans’ near-tropical climate. He was inspired to tailor the fabric into a suit for professionals to battle Louisiana’s raging heat, and it became a sensation throughout the South.

Ever one to recognize a great story opportunity, Haspel, while attending a trade show in Boca Raton, Florida, took a dive into the Atlantic … while wearing his own seersucker suit! His point was that the suit would be dry in no time, ready to wear again, without cleaning or pressing. True to his word, it was; and he wore the suit to the trade show dinner that very evening. 

Haspel’s creativity, sense of innovation, and excellent taste all grew from the melting pot of cultures that make up New Orleans. His granddaughter, Laurie Haspel Aronson, keeps up the family tradition. Aronson is the company’s current President and CEO, but for a few days she also was our hostess, tour guide,ds and CFO (Chief Fun Officer). 

Now, I’d never been to the legendary city, but this was to be quite an introduction. We stayed at the International House, a delightful boutique hotel with a sparkling, slightly louche style, just outside the French Quarter. The cozy, Beaux Arts lodging features a painting by anonymous artist Banksy called The Looters that hotelier Sean Cummings rescued and restored — plaster and all — to hold court in the building’s lobby. Dinner followed at the elegant Justine, a modern brasserie in the French Quarter, specializing in the classics: Onion soup, steak tartare, oysters, duck confit, and moules frites. Later we headed to jazz bistro Snug Harbor, where we were treated to the stylings of the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, featuring classics by the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. 

The next morning we toured the groundbreaking Studio BE, the exhibition and work space of artist and activist Brandan Odums. Odums is a muralist more than he is a graffiti artist, although you could be forgiven for thinking that given that his preferred medium is spray paint. His work celebrates, honors, and reveals contemporary black culture, as well as its roots. His work grows from his desire to draw attention to the plight of the area’s African American community following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many of whom were driven from homes that were never replaced in the ongoing recovery. 

On a lighter note we headed to the New Orleans School of Cooking to be schooled in preparation of Cajun cuisine by making our own lunch of corn and crab bisque, shrimp and grits, and bread pudding by Chef Matt Guillory. Guillory carefully explained the history and differences between Cajun and Creole food all while keeping a group of eight people cooking like pros. 

Lunch was followed by a tour of a few local landmark drinking establishments where author, podcaster, and historian Elizabeth Pierce walked us through the complicated history of the city’s freewheeling cocktail culture (New Orleans is one of only a few U.S. cities where you are permitted to walk around the streets with a cocktail in hand). She also explained the complicated history behind the city’s official cocktail, the Sazerac, as well as that of the Ramos Gin Fizz. 

Let’s pause here to point out that this was so much more than a tour. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, I do hope that this piece tempts you to go to that wonderful place for a visit, but what I really want to show here is the constant mix of the old and the new, the high and the low, the fun and the serious that, like the seersucker fabric itself, informs the Haspel collection. That classic seersucker suit is practically the official uniform for good times, from summer weddings to the Kentucky Derby to a night out at a jazz club. 


Mining the company’s archives in celebration of its anniversary, as well as the “holiday,” Will Swillie, EVP and Managing Director of Haspel, presented a vintage-styled, “tea-stained” collection at a cocktail reception that evening. The Archival Collection includes five new suit styles and five coordinating woven sport shirts. (This editor’s favorite, a double-breasted, side-vented jacket with a modern pleated pant and side tab waistband, looks like it stepped right out of a vintage Hollywood film.) Suits will retail for $695 and shirts for $125, exclusively online at Haspel. 

We finished our Haspel experience with a formal dinner at the classic New Orleans’ R’Evolution Restaurant (special thanks to the team at the celebrated store Rubenstein Bros., who fitted us all in Haspel suits so we could be suitably dressed for the occasion). We then hit the town for a few cocktails and a walk down historic Bourbon Street, with a frozen daiquiri in hand, of course.

Editors' Recommendations

John Jones
John Jones is a Jersey City, New Jersey-based writer who enjoys covering design in all its forms, from fashion to…
Doxa’s Sub 200T watch is a new, smaller version of the Classic 300 design
Doxa introduces smaller version of Sub 300
Doxa Sub 200T series

Doxa watches aren't exactly the word on the tip of anyone's tongue when they think of their favorite brands; however, they have developed their own community, and some might dub them a cult following. The brand recently unveiled its latest Doxa watch, the Sub 200T which has sent a lightning strike through the hearts of fans, as it's unmistakably more compact than the iconic 300T and 600T models. The lack of smaller options has always been a common complaint among fans of the brand, and with consumer behavior veering more and more in this direction, it's no surprise that the latest iteration is just 39mm. The iconic design of the Classic 300 has been shrunk down to something more compact, sleek, and contemporary.
The new Doxa Sub 200T has a color for every taste

On top of that, the kaleidoscope of color options available from Doxa watches will surely satisfy every taste, from those who like bright and sporty models to those who prefer something a little more classic and subdued. The dial features a sunray-finished design with a luminous sunburst effect, and it comes with two strap options: a stainless steel bracelet with a "beads of rice" design and an FKM rubber strap that comes with folding clasps and ratcheting wetsuit extensions.

Read more
Garmin, Seiko, G-SHOCK, and more: Our picks for best outdoor watches in 2024
Our picks for the best outdoor watches for men
Man on bike in Apple watch

If you're an outdoor enthusiast, you need the perfect wrist companion for all of your adventures. Whether you're biking and hiking on rugged terrain or simply tracking your fitness goals, you need a watch that keeps time, looks stylish, and can handle your activities. We've created a list of the best outdoor watches, including brands like Garmin, Seiko, G-SHOCK, and Suunto.

We've focused on features like GPS tracking, construction, and top-tier technology to bring you what we think are the top outdoor watches at the moment. Whether you're a seasoned explorer, a fan of going to the gym, or someone who appreciates these types of manly watches, there's a timepiece to suit every taste and lifestyle, including yours. Each of these watches brings its own bit of flair to the world of outdoor watches, from Seiko to the famously tough G-SHOCK brand.
The best outdoor watches for men

Read more
Hublot’s sapphire Big Bang gets an icy new color
Hublot reveals new Big Bang in Glacier Blue
Hublot Big Bang in Glacier Blue

The newest addition to the Hublot MP-11 collection is a formidable presence, measuring a whopping 45mm in diameter and 14.4mm in thickness, so you'll need some major confidence if you want to sport this beast on your wrist. The inaugural Sapphire Big Bang was introduced in 2016 and since then the brand has delighted fans with an array of color iterations, from other sapphire colors to purple and orange. Now, Glacier Blue has been introduced, just in time to keep you cool this summer (in attitude, not temperature, unfortunately.)
Hublot: The Big Bang MP-11 in Glacier Blue

This Big Bang MP-11 features a 14-day power reserve, which is achieved through seven series-coupled barrels arranged in a horizontal configuration, and all of that can be viewed by the wearer. The truly vibrant Glacier Blue (seriously, the blue is so bright you'll feel like you're about to start seeing your breath) is made with a fresh chemical composition but still shares the same properties as sapphire: luminous, and able to withstand scratches.
Technical specifications
This Hublot watch will leave you completely mesmerized for several hours before you even think about the technical specifications, though there are some exceptional details to go over. Inside this MP-11 is the HUB9011 Manufacture manual-winding skeleton power reserve movement. As we mentioned above, there are seven series-coupled barrels, but they've been arranged in a coaxial and vertical configuration so the watch is able to maintain a super slim profile of just 10.9mm. All tied together like a bow on top is the blue transparent structured rubber strap with a titanium deployant buckle clasp.

Read more