‘Tis late in the legislative session and as pressures build and time gets short, the search for ways to alleviate tension begins. Senator Eric Schmitt of Kirkwood has decided again this year that one way to accomplish that is to pay homage to Urdu.
Urdu is the standard language of Hindustan, the national language of Pakistan, and the official language of five states in India. It is pretty much the same as Hindi and ranks behind Mandarin Chinese, English, and Spanish as the fourth largest language in the world.
Senator Schmitt has encouraged several other senators to attire themselves on Wednesdays with an Urdu fabric known in the Asian subcontinent language as “kheer aur shakkar.” That translates to “milk and sugar,” we are told. But if you squint real tight and English-ize “kheer aur shakkar,” you get “seersucker.”
Senator Schmitt, who professes to being the tallest person ever to serve in the Missouri Senate, has convinced several of his colleagues that it is really neat to wear kheer aur shakkar fabrics on Wednesdays.
Some people are so easily entertained.
Seersucker looks to me as if it had been pre-slept in, if not right away certainly after a short amount of time. Senate floor leader Ron Richard has indicated in his usual frank manner that he wouldn’t be caught dead in the stuff because he takes too much pride in his appearance.
Seersucker Senators accessorize their suits. Will Kraus, for instance, has black and white shoes that were really neat-o in 1940s and 1950s movies about cool high school and college kids. Saddle shoes they called them then (Elvis wore them in 1957;s “Jailhouse Rock”). Sometimes senators make it a point to show off their socks or their shoes. At this rate, the senate might want to change its rules for the center aisle that is normally off limits when the chamber is in session so it can become a runway down which seersucker Senators enter on Wednesdays. That’s not likely to happen, though, because we have yet to see a state senator who wants to learn to walk the way runway models walk.
Supposedly the “milk and sugar” description dates back to a time when somebody thought the white part of the fabric was smooth like milk and the crinkly stuff was like grains of sugar.
Anyway, this miracle fabric is supposed to cause the clothing to kind of be held away from the skin (wonder how seersucker undershirts work) as a way to dissipate heat and improve air circulation. One note we’ve seen says the structure of the fabric eliminates the need for ironing. We suspect it also could eliminate the need for hanging. Why hang up something that’s already wrinkled?
When seersucker came to our shores, it was generally thought to be a province of southern gentlemen, especially in the days before air conditioning. It also was, we have read, popular with poor folk. Well, of course it was. Have you ever seen a seersucker suit that looked expensive? The great American writer, Damon Runyon started wearing the things when a seersucker surge struck the United States in the 1920s and wrote that his attire was causing great consternation among his friends who “cannot decide whether I am broke or just setting a new vogue.”
Senator Schmitt’s Wednesday style show is not original. Believe it or not, the United States Senate used to have Seersucker THURSDAYS. The idea began in 1907 when a clothier in New Orleans designed a seersucker suit that became popular in the nation’s capital, which is notoriously hot and humid in the summer time. In fact, the Congress often took summers off because of the lack of air conditioning in the Capitol. About 1996, Senator Trent Lott, then a Senator from the hot and sticky state of Mississippi, decided to show that the Senate “isn’t just a bunch of dour folks wearing dark suits and–in the case of men–red or blue ties.” Thus was born Seersucker Thursdays in the U. S. Senate. Eight years later Senator Dianne Feinstein got tired of the men “preening” and she started a movement. In 2005, eleven of the Senate’s 14 women members showed up in seersucker. For some time the event was considered a tribute to those senators of an earlier day who did not have air conditioning and did not have year-around Senate sessions because their clothes were not made of a fabric that had a way to dissipate heat and improve air circulation
Think of this, then: If it wasn’t for seersucker we might not have a full-time Congress! How ironic that the leader of the seersucker Wednesday movement belongs to a party that harps repeatedly about the need for less government.
But the Senate in Washington decided the whole Thursday thing was unnecessary and quit doing it last year. It’s not really surprising, is it? It is unlikely that anybody will accuse the U. S. Senate of having a sense of humor anymore.
State Senator Ryan McKenna of Crystal City is such a critic of Seersucker Wednesday that he was driven to offer an amendment to a bill a few days ago banning the wearing of seersucker suits by anybody older than eight. His feelings about the matter were so severe that he was prompted to WRITE his amendment in longhand and send it to the reading clerk. Many other times, the Senate would stand “at ease” while a member consulted with a staff that sits at a table in the front of the chamber and has the expertise to string enough words together to make an amendment—a largely lost talent in today’s senate where members can only serve a maximum of eight years, apparently not long enough to learn how to write an amendment (or to do a lot of other things that are part of the senate’s traditions that encourage proper decorum and respect for one another).
We will give McKenna credit for having legible printing. His amendment read, “Any person living in this state aged 8 and under may wear seersucker suits at their leisure. Any person over the age of 8 living in this state may not wear seersucker suits because adults look ridiculous in seersucker suits with the exception of Koolaid.”
People not familiar with the Senate are puzzled by the reference to Koolaid. That’s Matt Michelson, the aide to Senator David Pearce of Warrensburg, who was a regular sartorial explosion last Wednesday in his orange sherbet seersucker outfit. Orange and white stripes, full orange sherbet vest, and even orange shoes. Staffers can get away with that. Senators must be more dignified, or as dignified as seersucker can make someone. One seersucker Senator does have a suit with dark purple stripes and was seen wearing purple socks. But we haven’t had sartorial explosions like Matt’s on the Senate floor since the days when St. Louis Senator J. B. (Jet) Banks brought several colorful suits to the Capitol for the last day of session and changed them about every hour. He even had shoes and pipes to match the colors on his suits.
So today is seersucker Wednesday in the Missouri Senate. There will be only two more this year and then the senators can throw the suits into the corner of their office until Spring of 2014 when they can pick them up and put them on and they’ll look as snazzy as they do today.
State Senator Schmitt’s Seersucker Suit Special Spree Wednesday is today. Except for people like Ron Richard who take pride in their appearance.