KEEP YOUR COOL IN LINEN, SEERSUCKER AND MADRAS
Long before the days of air-conditioning, in-ground pools and pedestal fans, there were but a few ways to cool off. Those with means could escape to summer homes by the sea and in the mountains, but for the rest, who could only pray for such miraculous solutions, beating the heat meant dressing the part. It’s a tactic that has stood the test of time.
Long before the days of air-conditioning, in-ground pools and
pedestal fans, there were but a few ways to cool off. Those with means could
escape to summer homes by the sea and in the mountains, but for the rest, who
could only pray for such miraculous solutions, beating the heat meant dressing
the part. It’s a tactic that has stood the test of time. That’s where the
summery trinity of linen, seersucker and madras come in. You might think of
these lightweight fabrics as firmly rooted in the modern preppy ethos, but
their origins extend back generations, and in the case of linen, millennia—even
to Biblical times.
It’s not that outlandish to say
linen’s popularity reached Biblical proportions. In fact, this fabric predates
the Bible and was even woven in ancient Egypt (oh hey, Cleopatra). Linen itself
is actually created from the flax plant, which was abundant in the Middle East,
so archaeologists have found firm evidence of the cloth dating back 5000 B.C.E.
One could say it was a favorite among men of the cloth.
Flash forward a few thousand years and countless heat waves and
linen’s popularity endures. It, too, does not cling to the skin (take that,
East Coast humidity) and dries quicker than most textiles, which also helps it
cool down again. To wear it is to have a religious experience. Like seersucker,
it promotes not inhibits the circulation of air, so it has a breezy feel. Those
in the tropics will attest to this, but to the rest of us in a four-season climate,
the linen suit (or shirt or shorts) carries a summer nostalgia. Much like the
smell of a BBQ grill or fresh-cut grass, the very look and feel of linen evokes
In 1930, Brooks increased the collective cool factor of the
country when it introduced seersucker to an overheated American public. The
term seersucker is derived from the Persian words for “milk
and sugar” and refers to the alternating smooth and puckered texture of the
fabric. This crinkly weave promotes breathability and the circulation of
air—and prevents the fabric from sticking to you during the dog days of summer.
Capitalizing on the popularity of seersucker, Brooks Brothers introduced a suit
made from the cloth as part of its so-called Palm Beach Craze of 1935. More
than 80 years later, seersucker has expanded to include everything from shorts
to shirts and even a tuxedo (you heard that correctly). This fabric is a
perfect choice to wear to a wedding, to church or to a beach cookout seersucker’s
versatilty makes it downright heavenly.
You would be easily forgiven for thinking that madras arose from a New England outfitter. The vibrant naturally dyed cotton cloth has long been associated with East Coast preps, but its origins extend a bit further east than our Eastern Seaboard. In fact, it is named after the town of Madras, now Chennai, in Southern India, where it was first worn by British colonialists who discovered its breathability and lightweight feel. Made from overlapping weaves of alternating colors, madras is hand-loomed and heavily regulated to protect authenticity. It was first imported to the United States in 1920 by Brooks Brothers and quickly caught on, achieving venerable status among the well-heeled in the North and South. Its array of bright colors give it unlimited styling potential (good thing our polos come in so many shades).
Brooks Brothers Vietnam:
- HCM: L1 – 19 & 20, Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi, District
1 – ☎ (028) 3939 0477
31 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem Ward – ☎ (024)