The fashionable Charleston man has always struggled with the summer heat and humidity. How do you look businesslike without wilting?
Our first jacket is a blue & white striped starched cotton, probably 1920s and worn by Albert Simons of Charleston. It allowed for a dapper look while staying cotton cool. Simons, born in 1890, was a noted architect and architectural historian. He studied at the College of Charleston and in Paris, was an instructor at Clemson from 1915-1916 and finally a partner in the Charleston architect firm of Simons, Lapham & Mitchell.
The other two jackets were worn in the 1960s by Thomas W. Bennett, Jr. of Charleston. The fabulous plaid seersucker jacket might be the coolest solution. This lightweight fabric was immensely popular throughout the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. In the early 20th century, Joseph Haspel and his brothers in New Orleans began using Indian seersucker (sirsaker) for men’s suits. At first they were only accepted by the working class, but by the mid 1920s, seersucker gained wide appeal, even in Ivy League circles.
The third jacket (part of a suit) bears a Haspel label. It is not seersucker, but a WashnWear dacron nylon stripe. It was sold by Berlin’s, at King & Broad Streets, Charleston’s Oldest and Greatest Men’s Store.
Berlin’s was founded in 1883 by Henry Berlin, an immigrant to Charleston from Eastern Europe. The business was turned over to his sons, Sam & Ben in 1912; this partnership dissolved when Ben left for New York. The store continued to be operated by descendants and is still a Charleston fashion landmark today.
Seersucker Thursday was an annual tradition (until this very year) in the United States Congress in which Senators donned the lightweight, striped, summer-friendly fabric seersucker, in the spirit of traditional Southern clothes, on usually the second or third Thursday of June. The tradition was started by Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi in 1996 who wanted to “bring a little Southern charm to the Capitol” to remind the Senate of how Senators dressed before the advent of air conditioning in the 1950s.
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday @chasmuseum