Here's Why People Say You Can't Wear White After Labor Day

We love to prohibit things, don't we? We prohibit people from swimming when there's a horny dolphin in the water, we prohibit people from feeding sharks by hand, and we even prohibit security guards from filming themselves farting at work for six months. On top of all that, you're not allowed to wear white after Labor Day. 

Even among the list above, that wearing white thing seems heinous, doesn't it? Wearing all white is a time-honored tradition of both brides and cult leaders. Why are we turning up our snooty snouts at it? Well, we'll tell you. They may not be good reasons, but there are reasons.

The good news, though, is that you're an adult, and you can wear whatever you want. 

Here's why you shouldn't wear white after Labor Day

There are a few theories here, but they pretty much range from "it's kind of rich people's fault" to "it's all rich people's fault." Like most things in life, to be honest.

First, think about the wearing white thing practically and historically. Before it was socially acceptable to wear a tank top and shorts even in a corporate office, folks wore formal clothing pretty much all the time -- and a whole lot of formal clothing. In the summer, wearing white was more practical since you had all those layers and frills on. Plus, if you were in a city (likely New York) and writing the magazines read all throughout America, wearing white in fall and risking mud and rain ruining your pure, pale ensemble was not a practical bet. Hence, you stopped wearing white once the warm weather left. 

This is just one theory, though, and some see it as too reasonable an explanation. Fashion, after all, is an insane parade based on the elitism and whims of tyrants with inexplicable authority. Anyway, according to this line of thought, the well-off Americans of the early 20th Century would flee Eastern cities (again, like New York) for warmer climes, and to really lean into that vacation vibe they work white, often linen.

Since Labor Day marked the de facto end of summer in the United States, this was an opportunity for those wealthy enough to vacation to mark their return to heavier, darker, city-oriented fall clothing. 

"There used to be a much clearer sense of re-entry," Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, explained to Time. "You're back in the city, back at school, back doing whatever you're doing in the fall -- and so you have a new wardrobe."

As the century progressed and the middle class grew, these rules were a way to mark the difference, at least in custom, between old money and new. The upwardly bound were more than willing to adhere to rules like this a way to assert their own belonging in the realm of forks of many sizes. 

Whichever of these accounts feels more convincing to you, it basically comes down to a blend of elitism and pragmatism based in an era that's long gone.

So, I can wear white after Labor Day, right?

For sure. If anyone gives you crap, tell them Coco Chanel did it.


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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.