Republicans and Democrats in Congress don’t agree on very much these days — but they will stand together when it comes to Seersucker suits.
Yesterday, Congress celebrated the annual Seersucker Thursday and flooded Twitter with congressional selfies.
Eager to show off his southern-inspired fashion sense, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was just one of the representatives to get in on the action, as seen in this photo with Rep. Patrick McHenry yesterday.
The tradition dates back to the days when the U.S. Capitol Building lacked air conditioning, and “senators from the South had much to teach their colleagues from other regions about proper attire,” according to the Senate historian.
When air conditioning was installed, seersucker suits became less popular among members of Congress. Lucky, the seersucker tradition was revived in the 1990s by Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. Hoping to show that the “the Senate isn’t just a bunch of dour folks wearing dark suits and in the case of men — red or blue ties,” Lott encouraged his colleagues to wear seersucker suits on a designated Thursday in June.
In 2004, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California worked to boost female participation in the tradition. In 2005, 11 of the 14 female senators wore seersucker suits that Feinstein had given them as a gift.
This year, many women participated by wearing seersucker attire.
Seersucker suits became popular after a New Orleans clothier designed the fabric in 1907.
The tradition almost died in 2012. On the night before the designated Thursday, the staff of the Senate cloakroom notified members of Congress that the tradition was coming to an end. Many in the Senate felt that “it would be politically unwise to be seen doing something frivolous when there’s so much conflict over major issues,” reported the Washington Post.
Although Lott was no longer a Senator (he became a lobbyist in 2008), he fought to keep the tradition alive.
“Some say you don’t want to make it look like the Senate’s being jovial with all these serious things going on,” Lott told the Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. “My view is you can’t get serious things done because you don’t have events where you can enjoy each other’s company.”
Lott returned to the Capitol Building yesterday to celebrate the tradition.
Lousiana Congressman Bill Cassidy worked to keep the tradition alive in 2014, noting, “seersucker is more than fabric — it’s a symbol of American made products that create manufacturing, shipping and sales jobs across the country. It is also the melding of fashion with comfort,” according to KLCC, a public radio station in Oregon.
Not everyone participates in Seersucker Thursday. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid donned dark attire yesterday, and he reportedly told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “look in the mirror” to see what hypocrisy looks like, according to Politico.
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