Thursday, September 16, 2010

Traditional Thursday: The White Why Behind Labor Day

Labour day has come and gone, summer is dwindling and fall is upon us. Many are clearing their closet of their summer clothes, making way for their chunky knits, coats and gorgeous cashmeres.

There is an infamous rule that you are not to wear white after Labour Day. Many cry out against the tradition of banning white from their wardrobe, stating they will not fall victim to silly fashion rules. The fact that these same individuals are found prowling the malls searching for the newest trend at the cheapest price never seems to dawn on anyone.

No matter, what is the elusive reasoning behind the "Wicked White" rule? Why must we ban our crisp white linen suits and lovely leather handbags? I believe it comes down to pure symbolism.

Many suggest logical reasons for the white wardrobe rule:

We all know that white is literally, a cool colour. Ask anyone wearing a black t-shirt in the middle of July if they feel the sun and they will almost always answer with a dogged and dried up, "Yes". Surrounded by our air conditioning, fans and exposed shoulders a simple colour choice may not seem important but to those without these luxuries I bet you buttons to dollars you would be wearing white too. Let's face it, when this rule was created there was no such thing as halter tops and spaghetti straps.

Also let's not forget the effect of the rainy season (directly pre and post summer) on that lovely crisp white shirt. Again, when this rule was created a nipplely wet "mistake" was not an option. There are modern rules for such a sight but those are for another day.

Like most rules of etiquette, I believe this is all about the symbolism:

Back in the day it was chic to "summer" in various neighbourhoods and at specific resorts. This was a luxury only affordable to the affluent, as they would flock from their places of work to their treasured summer locals. Work was certainly to be avoided and was replaced by parties, beaches and more socializing than you can imagine. One wore airy white clothing while sipping drinks at a luxury resort; dark coloured clothing was reserved for times of labour and hardship.

For example, black, grey and purple are colours of mourning. White is associated with weddings, celebration and purity. If you look back at pictures of the early twentieth century, the fun-loving summer clothing consisted of seersucker cottons, white linens and Panama hats. White clothing signified a time of light hearted fun.

At the the summer's end, the affluent would move back to their permanent address and their dark wardrobes. Similar pictures of people scuttling about in the city show dark suits and coats. Fall was and still is, considered a season of new beginnings (odd, seeing as everything is dying). It may not be vocalized but many, especially in the Western World, begin school and revamp wardrobes in the fall season. Throughout the summer the retail spending is painfully slow but things pick up again with the "Back to School Season".

To the upper crust, the group that made the rules, white clothing was packed away with the fancy drinks and summer parties. Seeing as everyone wanted to be viewed as "polite society" the easy way to fake having two wardrobes was simply to avoid wearing white. With Labour Day came a new round of work and a new beginning; an opportunity to straighten up.

I will point out that this topic is largely debated but I think there is some serious merit to this argument.

Will you be wearing white after Labor Day? Have you heard of any reasoning for banning white?

Whether you wear white after Labor Day or stick to cream, off white or beige enjoy your new beginning! There is no harm in breaking the rule if you are ready to own it. Personally, I avoid white after Labor Day; as I do the entire year, it washes me out.

Strictly suppressing white (for now),



  1. I have two boys. They're 2 and 4. There is nothing white in my wardrobe to worry about! White + boys = rainbow of colours. With a lot of brown :)

  2. Hehehe, I bet they keep you company!

    White wouldn't be too practical, I wonder how black works out!?!


  3. I am not upper crust, so I can only afford ONE wardrobe. Therefore, my white stays!

  4. Hehehehe! =]

    Do you own a lot of white?