Ah, Labor Day. Time when to fire up the grill, take advantage of Back to School sales, and FOR GOD SAKES STOP WEARING WHITE WHAT ARE YOU SOME SORT OF MAFIA DON
Who came up with this folderol about not wearing white after Labor Day? According to Time magazine:
So why aren’t we supposed to wear white after Labor Day?
One common explanation is practical. For centuries, wearing white in the summer was simply a way to stay cool — like changing your dinner menu or putting slipcovers on the furniture. “Not only was there no air-conditioning, but people did not go around in T shirts and halter tops. They wore what we would now consider fairly formal clothes,” says Judith Martin, better known as etiquette columnist Miss Manners. “And white is of a lighter weight.”
But beating the heat became fashionable in the early to mid-20th century, says Charlie Scheips, author of American Fashion. “All the magazines and tastemakers were centered in big cities, usually in northern climates that had seasons,” he notes. In the hot summer months, white clothing kept New York fashion editors cool. But facing, say, heavy fall rain, they might not have been inclined to risk sullying white ensembles with mud — and that sensibility was reflected in the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, which set the tone for the country.
That might be the rational reason. However, the article goes on to state that the real reason may be more of a statement… that playtime was OVER.
Instead, other historians speculate, the origin of the no-white-after–Labor Day rule may be symbolic. In the early 20th century, white was the uniform of choice for Americans well-to-do enough to decamp from their city digs to warmer climes for months at a time: light summer clothing provided a pleasing contrast to drabber urban life. “If you look at any photograph of any city in America in the 1930s, you’ll see people in dark clothes,” says Scheips, many scurrying to their jobs. By contrast, he adds, the white linen suits and Panama hats at snooty resorts were “a look of leisure.”
By the way, I’ve been looking up some old Impressionist paintings of people just hanging out at the beach, and that white beachwear is class.
So fashion mavens have been telling us for decades now that it’s cool to wear white after Labor Day. Like, the only rule is that THERE ARE NO RULES. Even way back in the 1920’s, Coco Chanel fought back against the “white after Labor Day” rule. That’s 100 years ago. Yet the echoes of the maxim still exist.
My position: do so at your own risk, you mud-splattered layabout.
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