BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was 1909 when a man by the name of Joseph Haspel Sr. invented the seersucker suit at his New Orleans factory at the corner of St. Bernard and Broad avenues.
“It was a factory for uniforms at the time, including overalls and a lot of Army uniforms at the time. The overalls were actually made out of a seersucker fabric,” said Laurie Aronson, president and CEO of Haspel.
What Haspel discovered is the workers wore the seersucker fabric overalls because it kept them cool in the scorching Louisiana heat.
“So he took this uniform fabric and turned it into a gentleman’s suit and that’s what put Haspel and seersucker on the map,” said Aronson.
Haspel was the originator of the seersucker suit.
The word seersucker comes from an Indian word "shir o shakka," which translates to milk and sugar. The "milk" is for the smooth and straight in the fabric. The "sugar" is for the rough strip or the pucker. It's usually a cotton fabric that is not lined.
“Days before air conditioning, men always wore suits. They always wore hats and instead of wearing wool and flannel fabrics, he wanted them cool,” said Aronson.
To prove his creation was literally a wash and wear suit, Haspel decided to jump in the Atlantic Ocean while attending a trade show. A few hours later though, he wore what you would think was a soaking, wet suit.
“He hung up his suit to dry and then he put it on in the evening and he wore it to the function the dinner that evening,” said Aronson.
It wasn’t until World War I in the 1920s when the Haspel seersuckers started gaining popularity. It took the ivy leaguers at Princeton to adopt the idea, with many wanting to look like them. From Joseph Haspel Sr., the Haspel company went to his son, Joseph Haspel Jr., in the 1970s. Haspel could have disappeared after it was sold and that company filed for bankruptcy, but in the 1990s, it made its way back into the Haspel family. Aronson is Joseph Haspel Sr.’s great granddaughter. In 2002, she became Haspel’s president and CEO.
"I am the fourth generation to run the business and it's so exciting for me and it makes me so proud," said Aronson.
2019 marks Haspel’s 110th year in business. For a company that started in Louisiana, Aronson says it was important to her to make sure the headquarters for Haspel remains in the Bayou State. So now, Baton Rouge is home to the company that reaches coast to coast, offering more than just the original seersucker suit.
The seersucker suit from Haspel is now offered in nine colors.
The seersucker processed fabric has now branched out into long and short sleeved shirts, shorts, and even a navy blue and black suit that can be worn all year round, even though many see seersuckers as a summer only suit. In fact, Haspel seersuckers have become so popular that every second Thursday in June is now dedicated to them.
The trend began in 2014.
“National Seersucker Day is June 13 and what other brand can actually say that they own a holiday?” said Aronson.
In the past 110 years, there’s been no shortage of legendary figures wearing the suits, from Hollywood stars and political icons, to presidents of the United States. It’s a style that’s gone national and started in Louisiana.
“Louisiana is our home and we are very, very proud of that,” said Aronson. “Haspel clothing are clothes meant for a good time.”
At one point, Haspel clothing was only sold in high-end retailers. The suits are now completely online with all products available at Haspel.com.