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.
Well done, looks like the real deal. I guess white (or dirty?) bucks are the only true complement to a seersucker suit. I’m liking Mark McNairy’s offerings, great toe shape and proportions. Even Dr. Martens are doing a “playful” take on saddle bucks complete with a red D.M. sole! Whatever, decidedly scuffed (think David Hockney) is probably the way to go….
The Weejun says
Thanks Peter. You can save a lot by buying direct from Sanders who make the McNairy bucks or John Rushton who also stocks them. They’re very well made, goodyear welted, but only four eyelets for some reason.
Cheers, Weejun, thanks for that. I had kept a Walkover pair of dirty bucks going for years thanks to a huge (Ronald McDonald size!) pair of red, Goodyear, soles and heels I got from John Simons. My shoe repairer would periodically cut them up to make replacement heels. Now, ofcourse, no doubt John Rushton could arrange any repairs. Roll on the Spring!
The Weejun says
That’s a brilliant idea Peter, I will do that myself I think. These days a lot of top end repairers have access to red soles. Back in the 80s my first pair of Walk-Over (plain drity bucks and from John Simons of course) were repaired by a guy who said it was no problem and then put the British version of microcellular sole on them – the then ubiquitous grey stuff. The repairers thought I being unreasonable when I went ballistic at the travesty. ‘What’s the difference?,’ they said. “They’re like new now.” Had a similar thing recently with a repairer who should know better (no names) putting grey crepe to replace beautiful natural crepe on my 21 year old John Spencer Montgomery desert chukkas. Boots that were made in England then and irreplaceable.
In the awesome store called Tokyu Hands in Tokyo they sell wedge shaped pieces of crepe, red brick and even white urethane for trainers, so you can glue them on and repair them back to a squared edge.
But the idea of clown sizes (cheap on Ebay right?) and cutting them up to repair worn heels is pure genius. Love it.
The Weejun says
Well, you’d never know from the photos or the seller’s description but this jacket arrived over the holidays and when I opened the shipping bag the stench was overwhelming. When I pulled it out it was flithy. I mean rank. Perhaps the nastiest smelling item I’ve ever received and that is saying something!
It was honestly too stinky to take to the dry cleaners and Mrs Weejun wouldn’t even have it in the house. Today I took a chance and soaked it in the miracle cleaner that is Vanish. It’s now shiny clean, but unfortunately no longer fits me! From a 39R to a 38S. Never mind. Back on ebay it will fit someone, and rest assured it will not arrived fetid like it did from my seller!
Have you had any experience of having seersucker cleaned? I picked up a very nice vintage jacket in a no-nothing vintage store at the weekend.It has couple of marks on it that I would like to get rid of.
The Weejun says
Hi Michael – it really depends on the jacket – I’ve had and still have various wash’n’wear varieties but I’ve also made the mistake of washing a 1960s jacket that wasn’t marked washable. It shrank a whole size. Damn clean, but no use to me. I would suggest dry clean unless otherwise marked – or you can try my latest trick. I’m sure it’s well known but I only found it recently – place or hang the item in strong sunlight for a several hours. The sun will bleach remove stains and marks and ‘disinfect’ the material. Most dye fast items can withstand it. I used this method last week to clean a white BD that had terrible sweat stains that even Vanish couldn’t remove. The sun did it in about four days…
Thanks. There was no need for the seersucker over the jubilee weekend in the Outer Hebrides, though the weather was better than in London.
I think it will have to be dry clean, though I’m nervous about that. There’s no makers label, only a Union Made tag in one of the pockets and “Dry Clean Only” on the hanger.I think it dates from mid to late 60s.