As always, I’m buying stuff out of season. Duffel coats in August and Seersucker in December. It’s not on purpose. It’s simply a fact of life that the things we love and search for are not easy to find in our size, good condition, good price etc. The thing is, you need to accept the fact that if you see it, and it’s right, you have to buy it when it’s available.
My first real introduction to seersucker was as a 15 year old, circa 1980, watching a late night showing of the Paul Newman produced movie WUSA on Southern TV (remember that channel?) and seeing Anthony Perkins wearing a wonderful ivy suit with white bucks and a white button down. A short time later and CBS issued Directions – a Miles Davis double LP of unreleased tracks. Inside the gatefold was this photo of Miles at Newport – again with the seersucker. The cutaway quarters epitomising the look I was after. This is a trend, thought the young Weejun. I can get into this.
In England back then, seersucker almost didn’t exist outside of granny’s cushions or the odd Airey & Wheeler of Piccadilly two button stiff shouldered ‘summer’ jacket, often in beige or some such hideous version. My best friend David and I were in competition to find a seersucker suit to match that worn by Perkins in the movie. Even FLIP had no such thing in those days. The odd jacket was possible, but a suit? Never.
David beat me to it. First to get a high paid (for then) job, in 1983 he went to John Simons and bought a US made suit (I need to check but I think it was Haspel). It was a contemporary one in that it had pleated trousers (flat fronts were hard to find and probably didn’t sell well then, even in JS) but it was the most amazing colour – navy blue and buttermilk background instead of the usual white. It was £225 and I remember it clearly being in the window at Russell St (along with many other goodies of course) with those unique hand written tags that can still be found in John’s store. David still owns that suit, albeit he hasn’t fitted into it for at least 15 years.
For my part I found the odd seersucker jacket second hand (at least one was from FLIP and wearing it in the 80s still inspired many a jeer of ‘Oi mate, givvus a 99’!), I bought a Ralph Lauren suit about ten years ago, 3 button but no flaps on the patch pockets, and more recently an RL flap and patch model (but darted). Trousers obtained from Brooks Brothers outlet store helped, but still that classic ivy model eluded me, save for a truly beaten up example in the 80s where moths had actually eaten away the fluffy part of the wash’n’wear fabric giving parts of it an almost gingham look.
So, yesterday I was doing my customary searches on eBay and was about to give up on anything interesting in my size, when I found a perfect example in my measurements, ending within a few hours and with one bid at $49.99.
Unfortunately, Fred in LA then pointed out that it had been listed at almost the same time on FNB’s Ebay Alert thread. Thankfully it was Sunday when many of those guys are asleep after their roast dinners (or shifts as Beefeaters at the Tower of London) and the poster didn’t say what the link was for.
I bid very high indeed, to guarantee I wouldn’t lose it, but in the end no one else bid, not even the original bidder, so a paltry one dollar more won the auction.
It’s winter in London and I’m sitting here typing this with a six foot long Laurence J Smith shetland stripe scarf (coincidentally, a gift from Pere Weejun from John Simons in the late 90s only used at home to avoid ‘Oi mate, where’s yer Tardis?’ jibes) and swedish Jutland sheep slippers – it’s that cold.
However, providing it fits of course, the seersucker will go into vaccum bag storage along with that Troy popover waiting for sunnier ivy climes.
The Hastings Clothing Company of California was a 20th Century institution in San Francisco menswear – see this extract from a court case regarding the store lease from 1941
“The property involved is a four story building located on the northwest corner of Post and Kearney Streets in San Francisco, which for twenty-two years preceding April 26, 1939, had been occupied by the defendant Hastings Clothing Company in carrying on a men’s clothing and furnishing business.”
Long gone, of course, but it’s tempting to imagine Eastwood and McQueen browsing there in the late 60s.