The invention of the seersucker suit in 1909 was a sartorial innovation stemming from the need to make smarter clothing for the suffocating New Orleans summers. Who wants to wear a heavy wool suit in July? At least that's what its inventor, Joseph Haspel was thinking, who, as a clothier and tailor at the turn of the 20th century, was already using seersucker fabrics to make sturdy work clothes for farmers, factory workers---the working class. Because seersucker fabric is puckered and light, it lifts away from the skin slightly, which Haspel realized. He designed the suit in pinstripes and tailoring them in a way that made this smooth and bumpy fabric into a good quality, breathable - and dapper - suit.
That was 110 years ago. Since then, the seersucker suit has become synonymous with everything from southern gentile fashion to Ivy League college students in the north. Anyone from any walk of life could wear seersucker and look stylish. By the 1920s, companies like Brooks Brothers was carrying a line of seersucker suits, and even politicians like Harry Truman and celebrities like Gregory Peck gave the seersucker suit the kind of free publicity that all of today's influencers compounded could never achieve. By the 1960s, if you didn’t own, or had at least heard of, your own seersucker suit, you were probably living far off the grid.
All that changed in the second half of the 20th century. Synthetic fabrics were all the rage and the polyester leisure suit rose to prominence. Seersucker historian and author, Bill Haltom wrote that the prevailing wisdom of the closing years of the 20th century was there was no need to dress up anymore for either work or play. Washington Post writer, David Ignatius referred to these decades as "a permanent sartorial winter." Seersucker largely fell out of fashion.
Haspel sold the company in 1977. It changed hands several times until 2012 when Laurie Haspel Aronson, the great-granddaughter of Joseph Haspel, fully acquired the brand, of which she is now the President & CEO.
“When our family had the opportunity to buy our Haspel brand back many years ago, we couldn't say no," said Haspel Aronson. "We really did stand the big test of time, yet the essential items that made Haspel famous are still a part of our brand and still wildly popular today."
On the heels of their milestone birthday, Haspel released a new capsule collection that is certainly a vintage tribute to the company's long history. The collection is also a testament to the idea that seersucker is still relevant today, and not just for southern dandies. It’s true that something can be improved upon, should the will be there. Haspel clearly has the will.
Will Swillie, the EVP Managing Director of Haspel, said that the main challenge for the company in improving their clothing was updating to more modern silhouettes and making the suits sellable in today’s marketplace. Some slight tweaks here and there allowed the company to stay true to their original styles while bringing the suit into the modern-day. A highlight of the new limited edition collection is a double-breasted, side vented jacket with a modern pleated pant and side tab waistband. For this capsule collection, Haspel created five different suit styles and five coordinating woven shirts, with suits retailing for $695 and shirts for $125.
“The vintage Haspel signature fabrics and years of creative advertisements inspired us most—particularly those from the Sixties and Seventies when Haspel was the ‘go-to’ suit for summer,” explains Swillie. “These classic styles are still relevant today and updating them seemed like a fitting way to celebrate the brand’s tremendous legacy.”
For more information about Haspel, visit https://www.haspel.com/