Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Did The " No White After Labor Day" Rule Come From, Anyway?

Via Free Stock Photo
The age old rule still lingers with us as we walk to our closets today: "Don't wear white after labor day". How did this unwritten rule come to exist? Don't get me wrong, I'll wear white year round (its a favorite). The number one rule of fashion today is to break the rules after all.. but where did this one even come from?

When researching the idea, I found three main theories for how it came to be. The first, being based mostly on the seasons. Years and years ago, it was a rule based mostly on practicality- not fashion. Because people from the early 20th century and earlier wore more clothing than us (a time when tank tops and shorter skirts didn't exist) white clothing was the best way to stay cool during a hot summer. In places where the seasons were more defined ( in the east.. the more populated areas of the country at the time) wearing white after labor day was not only unnecessary, but caused you to be at risk of being caught in the rain in white attire. Because Labor Day marked the beginning of fall, it became the mark of no more white.

The second idea, is based upon that of a social hierarchy. White was the uniform of wealthy individuals vacationing in a warmer climate. In the early 20th century, the color was an outstanding contrast to the mostly dark clothing you found on people that lived in the lower class. At the end of the summer (once September began) they would go back to the city, and back into life with their new fall wardrobe. It is also thought that the rule was developed by "polite society" to help keep those "below them" from belonging in their little group (think silly clique rules in high school).

The third idea explains that old society families weren't trying to keep "new money" out (well, not completely anyway) but guide them by developing a complex set of fashion rules so that they could conform, and not break, the set standard. I guess if you create structure for someone early on, they're less likely to challenge you later.

Although the rule is no longer socially enforced, its interesting to reflect on past trends and rules. 100 years from now, what fashion standards from our time will people find completely ridiculous?

As for me, I'm currently wearing a white Calvin Klein tank top, white shorts, and white vans. If Coco Chanel can wear white all year long, why can't I?

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