Why You Shouldn’t Wear White After Labor Day
By Chad Upton | Editor
Labor Day is a popular holiday in the United States and Canada, observed on the first Monday of September.
According to the US Department of labor, it’s “a creation of the labor movement.” Therefore, it only seems fitting that we celebrate by not going to work — it is a Federal holiday in both the US and Canada.
Labor Day also marks the last day people should wear white (until Memorial Day in May). About 10 years ago, I was schooled on this manner of etiquette.
I was walking downtown by myself and it was pretty late. As I turned the corner onto another street I saw two tough guys walking toward me. I noticed that one guy got visibly angry when he saw me. I didn’t know the guy and I didn’t know what problem he could possibly have with me.
I held my ground and I kept walking toward them, trying not to look at them. But, just as we were passing I looked up, either to say “hey” in a friendly way or just to block a punch if that was the case. The one guy yelled at me, “Don’t wear white after labor day.”
I was really surprised. Based on the his outfit, I would not have guessed he was the fashion police, but maybe he was undercover.
That’s a completely true story and I laugh about it now, but at the time I was pretty scared when I saw his reaction to me.
In my defense, I was wearing khaki.
Historically, the rule only applied to white dress shoes and high heels. In the 50s and 60s, the middle class extrapolated this rule to include other clothing.
Some believe it was practical advise, since white clothing would be tough to keep clean in the winter. Others say that white clothing was typical dress for members of high society during summer holidays and was too casual for getting back to serious business when summer had finished. In the 1950s, the middle class was growing and they were given simplified rules of high society to help them fit in, including the rule about white after labor day.
In the latest edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, the ban was lifted on wearing white after labor day. In fact, some now consider it very fashion forward to do so.
If you’re old fashioned and are shy about trading in this tradition, you should know that cream colored wool has always been exempt. So, go ahead and wear cream (at your own risk).