“I think, with suits and clothes, if you keep them long enough, they all come back in fashion.”

— Rod Stewart

Gregory Peck wore one as Atticus Fitch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Peck wore one in private life as well. Spencer Tracy wore one. Bill Murray owns one, as do the eminences grises John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham. It’s not just a Republican garment — Joe Kennedy and all of his sons owned one. It was de rigueur at Hyannisport, you know.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mayor Richard Daley, William F. Buckley and every politician from the 1900s to the present day owned a seersucker suit.

All the white-shoed Southern lawyers wore one. My grandfather owned one. My father hated them because they made him look like a Republican. Out of uniform, he wore white linen in the summer.

I own the complete suit, plus two pair of seersucker slacks and a seersucker sport coat. I grew up on a myriad summer lawns when men of position, stature and class donned a seersucker suit right after Memorial Day, and especially on the Fourth of July.

I was inspired to write this today after I strolled into a local coffee shop and two young baristas asked me if I was wearing pajama pants. I explained that no well dressed man would wear seersucker slacks with a back pocket and change pocket to bed.

They were stunned. I told them about Atticus Finch and Gregory Peck. Not surprisingly, they didn’t know who Peck or Atticus was. I mentioned the above-mentioned politicians. The blank stares never went away. They had never heard of any of them. Or seersucker. Fashion and literature, like love, is wasted on the young.

I tested the name out at several different locations on teens, a couple of millennials and a few adults who should know better. All failed the test.

Now, just in case I’ve lost even you, who are of my generation, here’s a brief tutorial: Seersucker is a fabric made with a unique cotton weave that causes the thread to bunch together in some places, giving the fabric its trademark bumpy appearance.

After the test, I realized that despite being a fan, I didn’t know the origin, so I looked it up.

Seersucker comes from the British colonial era in India, when only the hoi polloi, laborers and servants, who wanted to keep cool, wore it to work. The term is derived from the Persian “shir o shakkar,” meaning “milk and sugar,” and soon caught on with the upper classes.

Old Joe Haspel,of Haspel suits, made the first suit in 1909. Brooks Brothers makes a nice one today in gray or blue stripes. I think they’re moderately priced at $500.

Seersucker is a gilded icon in my life. In my St. Louis, working men wore them, not as suits, but as leisure slacks. I can vividly remember seeing them on their front porches after supper in slippers, undershirts and their rumpled cool pants, as they listened to the Cardinals on the radio and fanned themselves with the sports sections of the Post Dispatch. I may cry now.

I grew up with the style. I wore it in college, and as an actor on the sweltering streets of Manhattan. If you’re my age, God help you, you probably remember that the material was worn mostly by working men in the ’20s and ’30s. Remember those railroad engineer caps? Seersucker.

And here’s an interesting bit of information I’ll bet none of you know. The heavy cotton slips worn under those uncomfortable black “burqas” of the Sisters of St. Joseph and other orders, were made of big heavy seersucker material. How do I know? As a boy, I helped the sisters hang out their laundry every Monday, handing them clothespins as they went about their chore. So there.

Butchers on the Lower East Side wore bloodied seersucker aprons, a fashion they picked up from watching old movies about the butchers at the famous Les Halles market in Paris. Williams Sonoma makes a nice one. I own two.

To be perfectly classed, it helps to wear them with a bow tie and spectator shoes in brown, black, or blue two-toned. Your choice. I wanted to wear that outfit as father of the bride, but the bride wanted the classic Ralph Lauren blue cotton. As I said, wasted on the youth.

I’m going out to dinner tonight with friend who doesn’t own seersucker. I must take him in hand. And as we are now into July, I will wear seersucker in honor of the long dead I did love, and here’s to you Atticus. You carried it off. Happy Fourth.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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