If you live in New Orleans, you know one thing for sure: Summer here lasts a long time. It can start getting hot as early as Jazz Fest and some years it’s still hot at Thanksgiving. It’s even been hot occasionally over Mardi Gras. And that’s how we get to Seersucker Suit and a Dat Mambo shirt.
Did you know New Orleans is the home of the seersucker suit?
Seersucker was originally a lightweight fabric that was used in India to make clothing for laborers. In 1909, New Orleanian Joseph Haspel designed the first men’s suit made of seersucker. The seersucker suit went on to become a fashion staple. The label in the suit simply said, Haspel.
Today, the company is still called Haspel. They still make seersucker suits, and other menswear items. Haspel is still a family company, and Joseph Haspel’s great-grand-daughter, Laurie Haspel Aronson, is its President and CEO .
When it comes to the creation of local men’s summer weight clothing, the clock didn’t stop in 1909. In 2018 Claiborne Schmidt was inspired by the traditional Guayabera shirt and created a New Orleans version.
The traditional Guayabera shirt is sometimes called the Mexican wedding shirt, though it’s widely believed to have originated in Cuba. It’s a short sleeve shirt that’s worn untucked, and traditionally has two rows of closely sewn vertical pleats that run down the shirt, mimicking the look of a scarf if it was hung around your neck.
Claiborne has given his guayabera shirt a New Orleans twist. The pleats are replaced with an embroidered pattern. There are a bunch of different styles. One with crawfish and trumpets, one with a Saints theme, one with a festival theme, there’s a Mardi Gras one, and more. The label on the shirts say, Dat Mambo Shirt. In the short time they’ve been in existence, Dat Mambo Shirts have become a local fashion success story.
Photos by Jill Lafleur over lunch at Commander’s Palace.
You can also hear Laurie Haspel Aronson on Out to Lunch Baton Rouge. And meet other New Orleans shirt pioneers, T-shirt king Blake Haney, and queen, Lauren Haydel aka Fleurty Girl.