Reinventions are quite often incredible journeys, and they require mapping out, just as if you were going into battle facing the opposition. Hopefully, they are successful and fulfilling. In life, we have to be able to recognize the moments of good style and celebrate them. For me, seersucker is that style. The illusion that seersucker is a highly conservative menswear item persists thanks in part to distorted narratives that have conflated conservative fashion ideas. If you still think of this puckered fabric as a stodgy item, then you have yet to discover Haspel Menswear. Today, Haspel CEO Laurie Haspel (from the First Family of Seersucker suits) proudly wears the crown as the reigning queen of seersucker.
The word seersucker is derived from the Persian words “sheer” and “shakkar,” meaning milk and sugar. What makes the fabric so light and airey is the combination of smooth and bumpy (milk and sugar) texture that allows the fabric to lift away from the skin when worn. Today, seersucker has advanced forward to adapt to the changes in society by re-imagining new codes of fit, comfort and style! Haspel is a creative and cultural brand that interprets the changes in seersucker as they unfold into contemporary society, providing fresh new thoughts and ideas into timely suitable products of the moment.
Haspel is a family-owned American brand founded in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dating back to 1909, it quickly established its heritage when Joseph Haspel Sr. transformed the breathable seersucker pucker from a laborer’s uniform into an iconic gentlemen’s suit. Today, fourth-generation owner Laurie Haspel leads the business with a creative vision rooted in her great-grandfather’s methodology…clothing made for a good time!
Seersucker was imported to America from the British Colonial East Indies in the 19th century. At first, the fabric was used to make overalls worn by laborers in the hot and humid south. However, in the early 20th century, Joseph Haspel manufactured seersucker for workwear in New Orleans. At that time, it was known as a poor man’s fabric. Then one fine day, Mr. Haspel decided to take a chance by designing a suit out of the lightweight fabric for businessmen.
From that point on, the suit became a favorite in the south amongst businessmen. Before you knew it, Brooks Brothers caught on and developed a seersucker line for the store in NYC. The fresh fashion item appealed to the Great Gatsby gentlemen in the USA. Separately, Ivy League students were wearing the suit in a rebellion style of reverse disruption to tradition. Soon Thereafter, seersucker was being worn by FDR, Harry Truman and Duke of Windsor as well as actor Gregory Peck in the film To Kill A Mockingbird.
“Seersucker suits have always been a favorite of mine on a man especially in summer. It keeps you cool and looking polished when having to wear suits during the summer. It reads fashionable and successful. Seersucker has come a long way incorporating stretch and taking it into shirts and formal wear. Nothing is better than a sharp dressed man in a Seersucker st.”Sadia Seymour —Fashion Stylist and CEO of Behind The Rack
In 1977, the family sold Haspel as they watched it change hands numerous times and slowly lose its significance in the menswear business. Alas, slowly but surely Laurie Haspel began purchasing up the licensed labels and by 2012 the Haspel family was back in business. Even better, in 2014, the United States Congress declared National Seersucker Day, celebrating a nationwide day where people can wear their seersucker with an effortless attitude and a fun-loving put together American style.
The newly recharged Haspel brand not only held on to the brand’s rich heritage but rather began creating a new line of seersucker suits and sportswear to peak the interest of style driven millennials and Gen Z.
It is time for Americans to take into account that apparel being made in the USA lightens the carbon footprint significantly. In addition, Haspel is currently in the process of researching and developing new methods of sustainability. More to the point, Haspel is creating American jobs during a time of economic uncertainty.
I recently caught up with President and CEO Laurie Haspel to speak about how her great-grandfather was one of the first to pioneer fabric technology, why Seersucker is more colorful and versatile than ever before and how why Haspel kept tailored clothing manufacturing stateside – proudly, right here in the USA!
Joseph DeAcetis: Comfort seems to be a key aspect in your lines, is that a prime consideration for your designs?
Laurie Haspel: is always at the forefront of selecting fabrics and designs for Haspel. We gravitate towards lightweight fabrics that move, stretch and breathe as you do.
JD: Part of your line’s success can be attributed to the current American preoccupation with style in recreation. Do you think this trend will continue?
LH: Style, even when on-the-go, has long been part of Haspel’s DNA and we don’t plan on changing that. My great-grandfather was also the innovator of adding technical properties to fabric; therefore, he pioneered a trend that is still ongoing.
JD: What other design direction would you like to take with seersucker?
LH: A women’s line has been on our minds for a very long time. It would make sense to explore our ideas into women’s in a few key categories. We also see a natural evolution into home products as well.
JD: Considering the fashion preferences of the traditional man, wasn’t it risky to introduce a line of seersucker in orange, red and green?
LH: Not at all! You’d be surprised how many men want to introduce color into their wardrobes. Because we sell our tailored clothing as separates, often we see men ordering just a jacket or pants in a fun color to coordinate with other items in their wardrobe.
JD: Talk to our readers about how, why and what makes seersucker cool again?
LH: Seersucker has always been cool – we’re just styling it differently than we have before – and so are our Haspel customers. Seersucker is more versatile than ever. We offer a large variety of seersucker in our sportswear line and it’s relevant 12 months a year. Repeat. 12 months a year.
JD: Given so many brands’ source and manufacturer overseas, talk to Forbes about how and why Haspel succeeds in product development right here in the good ol USA?
LH: The genesis of Haspel was in the USA. Our tailored clothing factory was right here in New Orleans for many years. Our roots are in the USA and we want to produce here whenever we can which is why we kept our tailored clothing manufacturing stateside.
JD: Briefly, can you lend some insight on the great history as well as your personal lineage to the Haspel brand?
LH: My great-grandfather, Joseph Haspel Sr, started Haspel in 1909. He saw a need for comfort and style in men’s tailored clothing and he pioneered a continuous wave of fabric innovation – not just seersucker, but also developed the first technical fabric to be used in tailored clothing with his wash-n-wear suits. I grew up with my grandfather, Joseph Haspel Jr, running the business and visited him in the factory growing up. I remember my grandparents taking me to NYC for the first time when I was 10. My grandfather would work in midtown during the day, and my grandmother and I would meet him at the 21 Club for dinner. 21 was their “Galatoire’s” of NYC.
JD: What is your best advice to millennials and Gen Z on how to flex while wearing a seersucker?
LH: Style seersucker YOUR way. There are no rules. Be confident.
JD: If a man shows up wearing seersucker and his guy friends poke fun at him for being too fancy, how should he respond?
LH: Well, it’s nice to be the best-dressed and the best-looking guy in the room.
JD: If the south has risen, then what are your thoughts on a man wearing seersucker on his first date to impress?
LH: It depends on his style and where he is going. You will never be comfortable in what you are wearing unless you have confidence. If wearing seersucker makes you feel good, then wear it.Often I tell people to get out of their comfort zone and experiment with different looks (women do the same thing). At the end of the day, you must be confident in your outfit or it just won’t work.
JD: In terms of breathable options for men to wear during the hotter months, why do you feel most men gravitate towards linens as opposed to seersucker? Why do you feel they should lean towards seersucker?
LH: We happen to love linen, but we love seersucker even more. Most people don’t fully understand seersucker. Most believe it’s only a stripe and only in blue and white; that is the traditional look. Seersucker is simply a process that you do to a fabric to help it lift off of your skin to breathe and be more comfortable. Our sportswear seersucker options clearly reflect seersucker in a different way that most are not used to seeing.
JD: As one of the leading seersucker companies in the world, who or what do you feel are your biggest competitors?
LH: Haspel is the original. Others are imitators. Many other brands associate seersucker with just being a stripe and that is where they go wrong (it’s obvious from their striped, flat fabrics). Haspel uses the highest quality seersucker (in fact, we just introduced a new stretch seersucker) that puckers as it should.
JD: Tell our readers some upcoming trends Haspel is looking forward to releasing in 2021?
LH: STRETCH is in! We’ve finally crafted a seersucker fabric that has 3% stretch woven into the high-quality seersucker that continues to pucker as you would expect it to.