The South has long been known for a refined, elevated sense of style. Walk into a grocery store down South, and it’s still totally normal to see women shopping in lipstick and tailored dresses. But many of the trends that are still huge elements of Southern style were shaped decades ago as a result of the strong culture the South has come to be known for. Learn more about where some of our favorite trends originated and test out these styles for yourself. With a modern and personalized twist, of course.
Monograms may be a huge part of Southern style—and not just on our clothes but bags, pillows, pretty much anything we can stick our initials on—but this trend actually dates back well before the American South even existed. The idea of monogramming can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman societies when it was used as a way to differentiate monetary coins. Later during the middle ages, artisans began using this method of identification to sign their work, signifying who created a piece of art.
Southerners adopted this practice into their clothing and home decor most likely because of the South’s love for family traditions. Plus, it’s a super cute way to personalize anything and make it your own.
Every Southerner knows the importance of seersucker when the summer heat creeps in. If you’ve spent a summer down South, you’ve experienced some seriously hot temperatures and high humidity. For hundreds of years, Southerners have been inventing new ways to combat the scorching temps and still enjoy the beauty of the landscape. From the specific design of outdoor porches, known as piazzas, to making clothes out of breathable seersucker material, Southerners have developed practical yet aesthetically pleasing ways to beat the heat.
The material first became popular in some of Britain’s warmest colonies like India and eventually made its way to the U.S., to which Southern men said, “Finally.” Southern gentlemen were totally obsessed with seersucker, probably because they were so darn tired of wearing thick suits in the 100-plus-degree weather. Now the fabric is prominent in both men and women’s summer clothing with everything from men’s seersucker shorts to flattering seersucker shift dresses.
Seersucker is known for its puckered look (and because it doesn’t ever wrinkle—hallelujah), which was originally created by intertwining threads of silk and cotton. The cotton would pull tighter than the silk, creating a kind of rippled effect. Now, seersucker is usually made with cotton threads that are woven tighter or looser to create that same look. (And provide extra room for that rare Southern summer breeze to pass through.)
We’re so glad that big, floppy hats are still a staple of Southern fashion. And for good reason. Much like the reason that seersucker dominates Southern summer fashion, hats have long been a way to combat the brutal Southern summers. Although we Southerners try not to venture out midday in the summer, it’s hard not to spend time outside when you live in such a beautiful region. For women in the 19th century, big hats were a way to look demure while also reducing their skin’s exposure to the sun. (But, we can’t imagine that all those layers of petticoats were helping the heat situation.) Now, you’ll see big, floppy hats everywhere down South from horse races to Sunday morning church service.
The Ever-Classy Bow Tie
Ah, the bow tie—a true element of men’s classic clothing in the South. Though you’ll see people wearing bow ties throughout the country, men in the South take any excuse to toss on this favorite formal accessory, even when the occasion itself may be pretty casual. You’ll spot men of all ages sporting their best preppy bow ties at dinner parties, restaurants and major events down South, but this trend didn’t originate here either.
Croatian merchants began wearing this neck piece as a variation of the cravat, a bow tie that looks more like a scarf tied at the neck. Southerners fell in love with the bow tie when the trend began to spread because it offered a new accessory that could be used during important occasions and provided an extra-sophisticated look.
Okay, this trend is definitely a Down South original, though no one knows exactly where in the South cowboy boots were created. The legend goes that some cowboys were riding across the country right after the end of the Civil War and one, in particular, realized that the boots they were wearing were not the best design for spending long hours on a horse.
To solve their problem, he took his OG cowboy boots to a cobbler and told him he needed a toe with a point to help slip the shoes into his stirrups better. And the good ideas just kept on coming. Tough leather was used to prevent cowboys’ ankles from rubbing against the stirrups and becoming irritated. The heel was designed to provide leverage and prevent the rider’s foot from sliding out of the stirrup.
At some point down the line, a few Southerners spotted these new kicks the cowboys were sporting and thought they were pretty sweet. The tough leather made these shoes useful for a range of different outdoor activities, but people were also attracted to the look of the boot and the toughness the cowboys seemed to radiate.
And now, cowboy boots enter the world of fashion. Over the years, this boot style has expanded past only appealing to men. Women across the South love their cowboy boots, too. In fact, they’re so beloved by the South, we don’t think this trend is ever going away. You can find cowboy boots in all different shades and types of leather with custom designs to add a touch of flair to both preppy dresses and distressed denim alike.
Southerners love tradition, and we show it in so many aspects of our lives. Many of our favorite fashion trends, from monograms to seersucker suits, have a historical origin. Our culture and our shared history is something we hold close to our hearts. So if you want to nail down a classic Southern look, try adding these elements to your wardrobe and show off your newfound knowledge of Southern fashion trends.