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A Summer Celebration of Seersucker Sartorial Splendor
My summer lawsuit has now been stayed. Once again this year, on the day after Labor Day, the Supreme Fashion Court issued a temporary restraining order, requiring me to put my seersucker suit in the back corner of my cedar closet. The white bucks and the straw boater too, and they can’t come out again until next Memorial Day.
But thanks to the Knoxville Bar Association, my seersucker ensemble went out in style this summer, and with a lot of company too.
On Aug. 27, the Knoxville Bar Association held what I believe was the greatest assembly of well-dressed lawyers ever held in the Volunteer State. It was the KBA Seersucker Flash Mob, and it was attended by some 50 lawyers from across the Volunteer State. Well, okay, 49 of the lawyers were from Knoxville, and one was from Memphis, but that is from across the Volunteer State.
These 50 lawyers were all splendidly dressed in seersucker suits, and in the words of Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas, they looked mah-velous!
The event looked like a cross between an Atticus Finch look-alike contest and the Miss America Pageant. And I was there to cover it for the Tennessee Bar Journal, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Women’s Wear Daily and Seersucker Illustrated.
The first annual KBA Seersucker Flash Mob was the idea of a genius named Nick McCall. Nick is not only an outstanding lawyer; he is a fine writer and a man who knows how to dress, particularly in the summer time. Nick also shares with me a deep concern about the sad, steady slide of the sartorial standards of Tennessee lawyers.
Once upon a time, a lawyer never went to work without wearing a business suit. This rule applied to both male and female attorneys. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the classic film Adam’s Rib. Both Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn are always wearing business suits, not only in court, but even when they are at home having dinner. They look like Ward and June Cleaver having dinner with Wally and the Beav.
But in recent years, “casual day” has swept through the American legal profession like a bad soup stain. These days when I go to a deposition, I’m generally the only lawyer in the conference room wearing a coat and tie.
Every other lawyer present is in, at best, polo shirts, khakis and loafers — and you should see the men.
And these are the well-dressed casual day lawyers. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next time I go to a deposition, my adversary will be wearing a tank top, speedos and thongs.
I’m also concerned that Tennessee lawyers will soon start appearing in court in casual attire. I’m counting on Tennessee judges to make sure this does not happen. My hero is Judge Chamberlain Haller (a.k.a Herman Munster) who told my cousin Vinny, “Mr. Gambini, the next time you appear in my courtroom, you will look lawyerly. And I mean comb your hair and wear a suit and a tie. And that suit had better be made of some sort of cloth.”
But Nick McCall is not only well-dressed. He is a man of action. Not content to wait on judicial dress code orders, he decided that it was time for the Knoxville Bar Association to make a fashion statement. He came up with a brilliant idea of a seersucker flash mob, to dramatically demonstrate what a Tennessee lawyer should look like in the summer time. And the KBA’s outstanding executive director, Marsha Wilson, made it happen.
The announcement of the seersucker flash mob was made approximately one month prior to the event. This meant that the event was actually not a flash mob, as such events generally occur within minutes after they are announced, literally in a flash. But at my age, I need all the advance warning I can get, and I gave up flashing many years ago.
Besides, if the event had truly been a flash mob, I could never have attended, since I live nearly 400 miles away from the Knoxville City-County building, the site of this wonderful event.
But once I got word of what was about to happen, I was determined not to miss it. I drove through three grand divisions, two time zones, and a thunderstorm to get there. But believe me, it was worth it.
The mob convened at the appointed time (11:45 a.m.) in the appointed place (the auditorium of the City-County building). As usual, I was running late. But when I dashed into the auditorium, I suddenly found myself in a sea of seersucker, surrounded by many of my friends from the Knoxville Bar, and even a few of my old classmates from UT Law. And I have to tell you that my law school classmates looked better than ever in their seersucker. This is partially explained by the fact that when we went to the law school back in the ’70s, the hot fashion item wasn’t seersucker, but polyester leisure suits.
Trust me, folks, I will never attend a polyester leisure suit flash mob.
Pam Reeves (whom I confess I’ve had a crush on since 1975) was wearing the best-looking seersucker suit I’ve ever seen. It was a tan and white seersucker jacket with a matching skirt. I was tempted to ask her if I could borrow it, but I really don’t have the legs for it.
I was particularly happy to see my old friend Jason Long. I had sent “J-Lo” an email earlier in the week telling him I was looking forward to seeing him at the flash mob. J-Lo responded that he would be in attendance, but would not be wearing seersucker, since he did not own such a suit, claiming “they don’t make seersucker suits in size 44.” He then added, “Since the rest of you will be dressed as Atticus Finch, I intend to show up dressed as Boo Radley.” I quickly sent him a reply email saying simply, “Thank you, Arthur. Thank you for my children.”
But when I arrived at the flash mob, there was my friend J-Lo, who was dressed not as Boo Radley, but as half an Atticus. That is to say, J-Lo was wearing seersucker trousers with a blue blazer. I don’t know if this made Jason a seer or a sucker, but the bottom half of him looked great.
I led the flash mob in a series of seersucker dance moves, and Nick McCall and J-Lo hoisted me so I could do some crowd surfing over the seersucker mosh pit.
It was a great day for the Knoxville Bar, the Tennessee Bar, the American people, and all of us who love and cherish Atticus Finch. My hope and prayer is that the fashion firestorm created by Nick McCall and the Knoxville Bar Association will sweep across the Great State of Tennessee, changing the face and wardrobe of the legal profession. In fact, here’s a note to TBA President Danny Van Horn. Mr. President, when the TBA convenes for its annual meeting in Memphis next June, there needs to be a seersucker flash mob event. And what better place to celebrate southern-style seersucker than the lobby of the Peabody Hotel?
BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.