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The Fashion Geek Podcast

78 | Seersucker and Grandma

In Episode 78 of The Fashion Geek Podcast, titled "Seersucker and Grandma," host Reginald Ferguson delves into the historical and cultural significance of seersucker fabric. He explains its origins, deriving from the Persian words for "milk and sugar," and describes its unique puckered and breathable nature, making it ideal for hot weather, particularly in suiting. Reginald shares his personal journey with seersucker, recounting how he resisted wearing it in his youth despite his grandmother's recommendations, associating it with old Southern gentlemen and characters like Matlock. However, he later came to appreciate the fabric after his grandmother's passing, recognizing its versatility and style. The episode also touches on seersucker's use in American workwear and military uniforms, as well as modern variations like wool and Japanese seersucker. Reg concludes by urging listeners to consider adding seersucker to their wardrobes and sharing his personal regrets and eventual love for the fabric.

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00:00 Introduction to Reg Ferguson
00:21 Welcome to the Fashion Geek Podcast
00:36 Summer in New York City
01:07 The Versatility of Seersucker
02:12 History and Origins of Seersucker
04:18 Seersucker in American Culture
08:29 Seersucker in Workwear and Railroads
11:42 Modern Seersucker and Personal Stories
15:19 A Tribute to Grandma and Seersucker
20:18 Final Thoughts on Seersucker

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Reginald Ferguson [00:00:00]: Yep. Yo! Welcome to the Fashion Geek podcast. How are you? It's been a minute. This is Reg Ferguson, owner of New York Fashion Geek and host of this podcast. How is summer treating you? Hot enough? Yeah, man. Hot summer in New York City. They've written songs about it. Reginald Ferguson [00:00:31]: I've been sweating my balls off. I'm sure you've been sweating those parts or other parts, depending who you are or whom you identify with. So this is very much an appropriate segue to the topic. I would like to break down a few minutes about a particular material that I think is extremely appropriate for this time. So, ladies and gentlemen, perk up, because if you don't have this in your closet, you should. Let's talk about Searsucker. Yes, this is the time for it, particularly if you are into suiting, because when it gets 90 degrees, I believe that Searsucker is a very appropriate fabric for the environment. So let's break it down. Reginald Ferguson [00:01:23]: What is Searsucker? It's thin, it's puckered, it's cotton, generally, and it's striped or it's solid. And I want to get back to the reason why generally it's cotton because I recently found out it doesn't have to be and I can't wait to share that. So if you don't know, now you do. Comes from the Persian word sheer shakar, which is milk and sugar, which represents the smoothness and the bumpiness of the fabric and how they live in harmony. How appropriate since I'm talking about that area of the world. So do you have it in your wardrobe? Why not? But if you do, are you enjoying it? I'd love for you to hit me up on the Insta or hit me up on my email. You know how to find me, particularly if you just check out New York Fashion Geek on Instagram or just go to the website, you easily can find me. So it's really viewed as an American fabric, though obvious its providence isn't. Reginald Ferguson [00:02:53]: But yeah, I mean, heck, it's like talking about cotton, right? So doesn't mean it's truly indigenous, but it has really become by time. Time has played that role. So I'm going to keep it real. From an adult standpoint, I didn't really get introduced via, meaning my own individual purchase, pardon me, of Searsucker until 2013. So we're talking almost a decade. Was I aware of it prior? Absolutely. Did I wear it as a toddler or a child? I don't know. And all my predecessors are gone, so I can't get a first person account. Reginald Ferguson [00:03:50]: But like I said, my first acquisition was 2013. I'm probably going to get back to that. So if we think about it from an American standpoint, for me, as a kid, I just always viewed it as a Southern item, really exclusively. I can vaguely remember probably as a young adult seeing an older gentleman rocket, and I just felt it was very specific to his time and his environment. If you're talking about from an american perspective. Really, haspel is who you look at as the alleged number one. And that started with them. What in the believe they're a New Orleans brand. Reginald Ferguson [00:04:50]: You think a Searsucker, you think a Haspel, and if you don't know now, you will. The reason that it became so prominent, I believe, is again, from an American Southern perspective, they were a major manufacturer and then they had this legendary story, which is true. Joseph SR. In 1946 was at a trade show, had his suit on, walked on the beach, went into the surf fully clothed, came out drenched, went back into his room, laid the suit out to dry or hung it up and then the evening rocked the same suit. It was the buz of the trade show. So that's pretty cool for the legend. But it is extremely clear if you do your research, that Sears sucker has been in this country since the 18 hundreds, no question about it. And it's interesting about its history. Reginald Ferguson [00:05:59]: And I'll drop the little gems of knowledge that I know what's great about Searsucker well, it's extremely breathable and it doesn't lay directly on your skin based on the pattern. I have a suit in Searsucker. What a surprise to maybe most of you, but maybe not all of you. And I usually view it as a suit that's going to be worn from 85 and above because I feel like if it's in the 70s, particularly because it's a butterfly lining in the jacket, very thin lining in the pants, you could feel that wind running through you. And I don't necessarily like that feeling when it's a lower temperature, but I welcome it when it's a high one. No question about it. So here's some interesting things you may or may not know about seer Sucker. It was used in our military in World War II, the Great War. Reginald Ferguson [00:07:18]: The US. Marine Corps Women's Reserve rocked it as their uniform. That was forward thinking, shout out to the ladies, what a surprise. So let's view it from a more contemporary standpoint. Really, I'm talking about it through men's suiting, through that lens. But really if we're keeping it real historically, again, I mentioned that it's really been around in our country since the 18 hundreds and obviously the following century. Haspel was really known for it, but they definitely had predecessors. That fabric was used for workwear. Reginald Ferguson [00:08:13]: That's right, american slavery in this country. Those individuals, my ancestors were a rocking seersucker laborers, particularly for the railroads. Shirts, chore jackets, overalls hats, it was a heavy duty Searsucker, but it was Searsucker nonetheless. And if you think about the blue and white of workwear for this material, that's really what you can effectually call the railroad stripe, which has a certain soft spot in my heart because I love trains as a child, I still do, but it's a hobby I can't pursue because I don't have enough space. I always said I wanted to have a house just so I could have a basement so I could run my trains. I got to recently reignite that love. Big shout out to David Siegel, who went to a train show at a train club out on the island. And I fell in love again. Reginald Ferguson [00:09:25]: But if I think about my conductor's hat, that blue and white, that is the railroad stripe. The coveralls, same color stripe. So it's more like a navy that blue with the white. But this started again as workwear and a heavy duty Searsucker heavy cotton gauge. That to me is just amazing. And I recently saw a Chore jacket online. J. Crew. Reginald Ferguson [00:09:59]: Big shout out to J. Crew effectually known as JACRU. Big shout out to my boy Jared Gooding. He knows that inside reference. Yeah, they had a Dope Chore jacket. I think it was from their Wallace Barnes line, which is their workwear line. And I almost copped it. But I have my priorities in order. Reginald Ferguson [00:10:25]: And I also have a Chore jacket and I also have a farm jacket, but I need more biz in the biz. And I just knew I love the stripe because it just had me reminisce. I just love trains and I love those colors. Man, I have some old electronic books from Combo Publishing. Anyone who's into trains. I'm an 27 Lino guy, and I remember this older gentleman on the COVID is a reprinted probably manual from Combo and Gadda's conductors hat. I remember when I got my first pair of Oshkosh Bagash coveralls in that stripe. So I'm really in love with it. Reginald Ferguson [00:11:16]: Or I was back then and I'll explain later. So what else do we know about Seersucker? I'll tell you what I know. Did you know there is a Wool Seersucker? I had no idea. And it looked and felt amazing. And how did I find this out? My boy Ten of Pentacles, which I've actually called X of Pentacles. Big shout out to Marcel Ames, who had a trunk show recently at no Man Walks Alone. And he showed me this Searsucker. It was whoa. Reginald Ferguson [00:12:03]: It was amazing. High twist 6oz. Marcel, you enlightened me, so thank you. I had no idea. I thought it was exclusive to cotton. Like, come on guys, I'm glad I'm in the loop. And then there is Japanese Searsucker, which is a wider stripe. And generally you see it more in solids. Reginald Ferguson [00:12:31]: You don't see what, again, now is considered the American stripe, the altar, the alternation. So in the words of my like grandfather, you learn something new every day. I think that's pretty cool. But I really want to stress how time is fluid and changes things. Because again, 1800 workwear, slavery, labor movement, the railroad. But then you could say probably from the 40s on, it becomes an item of rebellion through ivory, prep and trad. Amazing, right? And now that's all you think about if you're rocking seer, sucker. To me, you're either in that camp or the Old Southern Gentleman camp. Reginald Ferguson [00:13:31]: So what you don't know is that it took me a while to do this episode. This particular one, usually I get up, I'm ready to do an episode. You know, I've been doing a lot of solos, interviews will be back soon, come. But this one was a little difficult and I'm going to explain why. Though I have had great flow in talking about this subject, it may get a little staggered. Now, I bought my Sierra sucker suit, which I still have in 2013. As I mentioned, it is a cornflower blue and white. I was fortunate enough to rock it this summer at the Jazz Age lawn party. Reginald Ferguson [00:14:25]: Big shout out to Nina Urban for inviting me and it was complimented with a boater and I love boaters and she provided me the boater. It was a great act of largesse and I won't wear it until next year's jazz lawn party. But the suit I've had for nine years, but I should have had it a longer time ago. My late grandmother, who was one of my heroes, my late grandmother and I were a week apart in birthdate. I am May 2. My late grandmother is May 9, they used to say. Hence our affinity towards each other. Definitely had similarities and personality, had differences too. Reginald Ferguson [00:15:24]: But as I remember saying at her eulogy, she was my heart and I knew she always had my back. So you never wanted to piss her off because when you did, and I would usually accomplish this once a year, she would freeze me out. She would not talk with me for days and I would try to broke her the piece through my grandfather and he would just shake his head and go, there's nothing real I could do for you. You're on your own. Good luck. Apologize. It would take a long time for the frost to be removed and that is also a part of me, there's no question about that. I think around college age, I don't think high school, but maybe high school. Reginald Ferguson [00:16:31]: My grandma wanted me to wear seersucker and she told me how much she loved it and her memories of it, her recollections living in the south before she lived up north here in New York, her experiences, I believe in Georgia and probably South Carolina. And I would vigorously shake my head no, I was not interested because for me, when I thought about Searsucker, I thought about Matlock. That's right, andy Griffin, I'm keeping it real. NBC. The old Southern Attorney. Heck Atticus Finch of a book I love in a movie I also enjoy. And I hope you know the reference that I'm talking about. But still it was like the old Southern gentleman attorney. Reginald Ferguson [00:17:39]: I just felt like I should get poured a glass of lemonade from a pitcher. It wasn't really me. And I would just always say that no Grandma, I don't want that. Probably in that high pitched tone. I didn't have all the bass I have now. Thank you, Grandpa, for giving this to me. But she would bring it up, I don't know, every summer, every spring, once a year, twice a year. And I always ignored her, probably sometimes not so politely, because I was a child. Reginald Ferguson [00:18:20]: But I'm grown now. And I'm so sorry, Grandma, that I didn't understand that you only wanted me to wear it because you felt so much towards me and you loved it, and you loved me so. You wanted to see me in it because you knew I would look great in it. And it took years after your passing for me to understand that and for me to make this purchase. And I love Searsucker now, and I'd love to get more Searsucker if my closet would allow it, but it won't. I'd like to try solids and I'd like to try the Japanese. I like to try the wool, but I do have this one, and I wear it with great pride, Grandma, and I receive compliments for it. And I'm so sorry that I was so late in this purchase. Reginald Ferguson [00:19:27]: But I hope you're looking down and I hope you love me in it. I hope you're laughing, because, Grandma, you were one of my first teachers. My mom was the first teacher, but you were, too. And this is a lesson that it took me too late to understand, and I'm sorry. I love seersucker now. And, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you do, too. Make a purchase. Don't be like young Reginald Fergus soon always be fly.
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