Millions of Americans spend their three days Labor Day Weekend packing their summer clothes including their white jeans, white shorts and white dresses. But although this kind of unspoken rule…”you can’t wear white after labor day“- has been around for what seems like forever, you might be wondering how it started.
If you’ve wondered, “Why can’t I wear white after Labor Day?” keep reading to learn more about the origins of this “white after Labor Day” rule — as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the seasonal fashion faux pas.
Why can’t you wear white after Labor Day?
On the face of it, the don’t wear white after Labor Day school of thought makes a bit of practical sense. Before the invention of air conditioning and heating, dressing for the season was relevant, and not just because of the fashion police.
During the summer months, people historically chose lighter fabrics in lighter colors simply because they kept them cooler in the heat. White was no exception.
Then, as the weather got noticeably cooler, people, of course, opted for darker colors and heavier fabrics. The same is still pretty much true today, isn’t it? We tend to wear darker, heavier fabrics – like wool, leather, cashmere, velvet – in the winter and lighter, brightly colored fabrics – linen, cotton, silk – in the summer.
Since Labor Day is often considered “the unofficial end of summer,” it goes without saying that people are naturally stripping down their summer clothes this weekend. To this day, it’s a tradition that’s mostly maintained out of necessity, not out of respect for an old fashion rule.
Where did the rule not to wear white after Labor Day come from?
The no-white rule after Labor Day has no known exact origin. However, some historians believe that while on the one hand it was simply a matter of dressing for the weather, it could also have been a symbol of wealth.
According Farmer’s Almanacthe wearing of white became a visible means of separating the wealthy from the working class in the early 1800s. Affluent people could afford to take vacations, and by dressing in white they visually affirmed that they didn’t need to work.
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After all, most workers turned to darker colors – yes, even in the summer – to hide the sweat, dirt and grime that appeared on their clothes from working all day. Being able to wear white (and wear it spotless, without the visual signs of hard work showing) was luxurious and a clear indicator that someone was well off and obviously on vacation.
But wearing white wasn’t just a way to identify the wealthy working class. People in society (especially women) have made it a point to also use the color white to draw lines between “old money” and “new money”.
“This [was] insiders trying to keep other people out,” said Valerie Steele, museum director at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Time. “And the strangers trying to ascend proving that they [knew] the rules.”
The fashion world kind of took over that bit of etiquette as a result of what naturally happened. Seasonal clothing has been designed, manufactured and sold accordingly.
Is not wearing white after Labor Day still a thing?
The whole “don’t wear white after Labor Day” rule isn’t really a thing anymore. As you can see, the idea comes from an outdated, elitist line of thinking and in today’s evolved times, it’s just no longer relevant.
While some staunch fashionistas consider the rule still worth sticking to, it’s really up to you what you choose to do with your wardrobe. It doesn’t matter the month and it doesn’t matter How? ‘Or’ What a lot of money you have!
How long after Labor Day can you wear white?
The original concept is that white should be worn between the short summer window between Memorial Day (which occurs in late May) and Labor Day (early September). According to this school of thought, you can start wearing white as early as Memorial Day and then, of course, throughout the summer.
However, these days most people, style icons or not, agree that you can wear white any time of the year. So don’t worry about an outdated, unspoken rule. Do what you want and wear what makes you feel good!
Then answer all your Labor Day questions.