Books, signings, Sippin’ In Seersucker and celebrating the Southern summer staple
For years, Mark meant to buy a seersucker suit. True to his nature where sartorial matters are concerned, he just hadn’t yet gotten around to it. This is due in part to the fact that Mark was content with a trusty pair of tan seersucker trousers, which paired well with a crisp white shirt and got the job done for all of the essential seersucker wearing occasions, such as the Louisiana and Kentucky derbies, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s annual Sippin’ In Seersucker event or cocktails on the porch on a hot summer day. It didn’t seem right to me that more than two years into our residency in New Orleans, the home of Joseph Haspel — the guy credited with making seersucker a Southern (and Northern and International) summer staple — Mark still didn’t have a full suit. This was remedied on his birthday in January, when I got him what I called the “Southern Gentleman’s Kit.” For four days leading up to his birthday, I gave him a gift that was an element of the kit:
Day 1: A bottle of Kentucky bourbon
Day 2: A flask
Day 3: A bowtie
Day 4: A seersucker suit
The kit was a hit and Mark is ready for big race days, swanky museum parties and any other warm weather gathering.
Cut to last week when the book, “Milk and Sugar: The Complete Book of Seersucker,” by Bill Haltom landed on my desk. I’m a huge lover of seersucker and over the years have owned many beloved items made from the fabric, so that plus my recent gift to Mark bumped the volume to the top of my reading list. You can read my blurb on the book in the May issue of New Orleans Magazine, but I wanted to also get a mention on the blog today, because the author, Bill Haltom, is doing a book signing at the Ogden on April 14, 6 to 8 p.m., during the museum’s Ogden After Hours party.
In the book, Haltom — a Memphis author and humor columnist, who also happens to be a lawyer — covers the history of seersucker, including Haspel’s role in elevating the fabric from a material worn by factory laborers to an integral element of every wardrobe, especially a Southerner’s.
The fact that the author is a lawyer reminds me of an “Ask G&G” column by Guy Martin, which ran in the June/July 2015 issue of Garden & Gun Magazine. It’s a handy and humorous seersucker style guide for anyone looking to learn the do’s and don’ts of wearing the fabric. In it, a reader asks, “Is there a way to wear seersucker without looking like a lawyer in Mobile?” Among Martin’s advice is the following tidbit, “Instead of going with what we’ll call the full Mobile, meaning, wearing the suit with a pair of bucks and a bow tie, take some of the polish off with what we’ll call seersucker satire, teaming the jacket up with a pair of worn jeans, some old canvas tennis shoes — we highly recommend Jack Purcells or a beat-up pair of Chuck Taylors.” Mark and I laughed heartily at the “full Mobile” moniker, as did our friends in Mobile, Alabama, and we’ve used it many times since reading the column. For the record, Mark relishes opportunities to go “full Mobile.”
The beauty of seersucker, which Haltom addresses at the end of the book, is that it is both dapper and versatile, and its confident wearers don’t take themselves too seriously. So, whether you choose to go “full Mobile,” or you inject a bit of satire into your look, you simply can’t go wrong with clothing crafted with the “milk-and-sugar” weave made famous by a storied New Orleans clothier and master tailor.