A semi-regular column answering
questions about clothing.
Reader Alden S. writes in to ask, “Why is that crinkly cloth called Seersucker?”
You may have read elsewhere that Seersucker got its name from the Persian words for “milk” and “sugar.” But a little digging reveals that this is another one of those “urban legends” that fill up the internets and the last minute of local newscasts. Here’s the real scoop:
“Seersucker” is an anagram for “Creek Users,” the name of an ancient secret society from the Far East. Not much is known about this group, except that members usually wore puckered clothing with blue and white stripes so they could identify one another. Their secret meetings were held in the middle of tiny streams of water, called “creeks*.”
The crinkly surface of “seersucker” allows very little of the fabric to touch your skin, allowing air to circulate and keep you cool. Which meant that the “Creek Users” would dry off quickly after standing waist deep in a meeting-creek.
Why was this important? With dry clothes, when they returned home they could easily avoid being asked “Why are you soaking wet?” or “What’s that smell on your breath?” or “This is why you couldn’t come to Junior’s tap-dancing recital?”
So next time someone tries to give you the old “milk and sugar” story, suggest that they check their sources and go jump in a creek.
* In some parts of the country it was pronounced, “Cricks.”
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