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Why are You Not Supposed To Wear White After Labor Day?

The white after labor day rule originally only applied to white dress shoes and pumps.
Floridians might not need to follow the "no white after Labor Day" custom.
"Winter white" clothing, like sweaters, are often considered to be an exception to the rule.
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In many parts of the United States, a rule about not wearing white after Labor Day, which takes place on the first Monday in September, is heavily ingrained. The roots of the idea that people should not wear white after Labor Day appear to be shrouded in mystery, and the rule has been greatly relaxed since the 1950s and 1960s, when it was more heavily enforced. People who choose to wear white into the fall are no longer heavily criticized for the choice, and are sometimes embraced as fashion forward trendsetters.

The most common confusion about the rule which forbids people to wear white after Labor Day is what garments, exactly, are involved. Originally, the restriction applied only to white dress shoes and pumps, which are typically unsuitable for winter weather anyway. At some point, the rule was extended to white clothing, but it was in fact always acceptable to wear “winter white” clothing in cream and other off-white colors. Winter brides have also always been allowed to wear whatever they please.

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There are several theories about the the rule that governs people who wear white after Labor Day. The first and most sensible is that it reminded people not to wear summer weight clothing during the winter. It may be tempting to don a pair of light pumps in the crisp weather of early fall, but changing weather can make it an unwise decision. By not wearing white shoes after Labor Day, people can ensure that they don't end up with soiled, cold shoes. It is also conceivable that the the rule was adopted as part of a larger movement to “educate” the nouveau riche. Older society families were concerned about the fashion etiquette of more recent additions, and established a complex code of fashion rules to guide them.

Whatever the origins of the idea, restrictions on people who wear white after Labor Day appear to be outmoded except in very traditional society. Many fashion designers offer white as part of their fall and winter lines, often in stunning pieces. In warmer areas of the United States, such as Hawaii and Florida, white is also a more acceptable color to wear year round, since unfavorable winter weather is not as much of an issue.

Like many other seemingly idiosyncratic fashion rules, the reasoning behind the ban on wearing white after Labor Day has probably faded from the public mind. For most people, it is safe to wear white at any time of year, although they may want to consider wearing the color in moderation in the fall and winter. In inclement weather, a more sensible color that does not show stains or water is advised.

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anon971036
Post 68

White absorbs heat more slowly but also radiates it more slowly, so you'd stay warmer longer wearing white in winter (once your clothes warmed to ambient-which would take a little longer for white garments).

Fashion-wise, you'd look silly wearing all white, though: think Sean Puffy Combs and other assorted rappers, nouveau riche, hollyweird types -- the ones who wear knit wool caps in the heat of downtown L.A., Don Johnson in Miami Vice, etc.

White shoes belong on a tennis court, a bride or worn on a boat deck, but you're perfectly free to dress like a fool if you wish no matter what time of year it is. That's your right "cause this is 'mericuh!". Why not wear your underwear on the outside like Madonna used to? Don't let anyone tell you that you can't dress stupidly. Besides, it lets the rest of us know who/what you really are without having the displeasure of having to speak to you at a party.

anon968763
Post 67

Nobody should dictate what colors to wear whenever we feel like wearing it. People should have common sense to know what is appropriate or not in terms of weather, for the day. If I feel like wearing a white top in 0 degree weather, you can bet that I'll wear it.

People should use time and energy to make rules for something more productive like how the food industry is killing us with their fake food processing, rather than what color we should freaking wear or not, and when. There are obviously people who have nothing to do in this life so they stress over things so insignificant like this.

anon968213
Post 66

I don't give a rat's hind-end what someone thinks or says if I wear white after labor day. It's an asinine rule. I get the whole "you might get dirty or muddy or wet.." reasoning, but anyone with good sense and two brain cells would check the weather to see what would be appropriate attire for the day. If you haven't got that sense, or brain cells, not wearing white after Labor Day is the least of your concerns.

This is a rule that old hens who enjoy telling others what they must and mustn't do, invented to lord over everyone. Just say something to me if you see me out wearing white after Labor Day. See if you don't have your hat handed to you when I'm done telling you what you can do with your antiquated rule.

anon966868
Post 65

Personally, I don't think that people should make up senseless rules about what colors we can and can not wear at certain times of the year. In Phoenix, it is generally very warm still in the winter and if I want to wear bright white shoes, pants, dresses, etc., then I will! I always thought this idea was antiquated and ridiculous and I am in my 50's!

anon345450
Post 63

I wear my sexy white little dress as the weather warrants. Summer weather here in New York starts in late April and lasts until about early-mid October. When the weather changes from summer to winter here, I put away all of my summer dresses, high heeled sandals, flip-flops, etc. away. Labor Day has no effect on when I change from summer clothes to winter clothes. This year, summer in New York came very late so I didn't even bother bringing out my summer clothes until the last weekend of May, which was after Memorial Day this year.

anon345213
Post 62

You want to know why this "rule" is stupid? Because it's always "after labor day" due to the fact that it's an annual holiday.

anon294158
Post 61

anon105721 has the right idea! The custom (that's what it is) started before clothes were dyed using the aniline dyes which give us so many color choices today.

Summer clothes were white or light colored and winter clothes were dark colored, according to the fabric of which they were made.

Fall and winter meant harvest and muddy roads so your light colored clothing was impractical. Also, in the past, most schools in the USA started after labor day, so that may have become the sensible cut-off point for putting away the summer clothing and getting out the fall clothing.

I think if a person enjoys the ritual of switching out the wardrobe twice a year, they should do it. When visiting in tropical climates, such as Miami, I notice this custom has not been adhered to (at least since 1965) so I don't worry about it either.

For those of the younger generation who don't care about the custom, or like to wear black year round, I think you should wear whatever you are comfortable with. Fashion is really just for people who don't know how to dress themselves. The "white" custom was once common sense and is now optional, for those who still enjoy it.

anon289698
Post 59

I think that everybody goes too far to extremes on trying to be in style. I don't care what day of week, month or season it is. I'm going to wear whatever I want, and any color I choose in whatever style I prefer. I hate the media saying that you have to look a certain way or hang out with a specific crowd to be somebody.

This is my life and I'll be who I want to be, and if somebody doesn't like it, there is the door.

anon233548
Post 58

I totally agree with anon128788. If someone lives in a wet or muddy area and they don't want to wear white, that's just fine. If I want to go out in white pants, white shoes, white shirt, white jacket, white hat, and white mittens after Labor Day, though, you can be good and sure that I'm going to.

anon228462
Post 57

I was not rich growing up. In fact, we were very poor, as was my mom who never went to church in pants and always wore gloves when she went out. She also followed the 'no white after labor day' rule as do I and my siblings, and now even my children call and ask what is appropriate, when. Just like a man shouldn't wear a light colored suit to an evening or fall wedding. I think it just looks nicer.

anon212041
Post 56

I can't believe nobody gets the reasoning behind the no white after Labor Day rule. It is because when the weather starts to change, your whites could be ruined by a splash from a passing car or pedestrian. I used to live on a dirt road, and the reasoning behind the rule was more than evident when the seasonal rain turned the road into mud. If the car broke down you might have to walk through that mess. I remember wearing a pair of white pants to school once, and looking down to see the mud that had splashed up on them just while I boarded the bus.

I live in California now, where there are only two seasons, and the rule isn't so hard and fast anymore, but if I were to live in a wetter area, I would not be caught in white during the rainy seasons.

anon175740
Post 54

Many people here have been saying that it's simply smarter to wear fabrics in white or near-white colors in summer and dark colored fabrics in winter. Some people have gone so far and say that you would look silly wearing white in winter. I can't help but wonder, what about wearing black or dark clothes in summer? Shouldn't the rule work both ways?

anon157188
Post 53

To answer a question posted here. I have lived (lived, not visited) in France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic. No such rule. You are judged by your general style, taste and a combination of colors, but never by wearing - or not wearing - a specific color.

anon128788
Post 51

I read somewhere that this was just one of the fashion rules to separate the wealthy from the poor and it gradually became a well known rule. Personally I will wear whether color I want whenever I want and anybody who has a problem with it can kick rocks.

anon126333
Post 50

(I'd love to flatten the dope who first called herself/himself a "fashionista".) I'm in my mid-60's and grew up with hat/gloves/pumps for any time you left the house. Also, one wore proper undergarments, i.e. girdle, hose with straight seams, very firm bra, full slip with no straps peeking out. Along with no red heels (Only tarts wear red heels, Dearie) and a lady never wore trousers. Jeans were for farm hands.

Thankfully, those days are gone the way of rubber girdles and attending scald. Nehemiah

anon124990
Post 49

I guess you guys would freak out at the Macy's and other 'high end' or at least decent fashion stores that feature white in their commercials down here in Florida. I never heard of this rule. If you have nothing better to do but judge someone because they wear a different color you really need to get laid.

At least judge on a basis of cartier, tag, dunhill or something of fashion importance. Not a color.

anon116391
Post 48

I live in Australia and personally, we don't care what colour clothing people wear!

No, not all of us are classless bogans who wear flannelette shirts, thongs (translation: flip-flops), and shorts all year round. Some of us actually dress appropriately taking into consideration weather, occasions and circumstances. We still, however, could not care less what colour someone wears in winter, just as long as they are warm!

anon113774
Post 47

Although "not wearing and white after labor day" may be a silly "rule", I still obey the rule. It just makes sense. Too many people just dress way too sloppy, and don't seem to give a darn about how they look.

I work in a courtroom and get told off by people who come to court in shorts and flip flops, after I tell them they're not allowed in (by the way, it's not my rules, but the judge's rule). Common sense, people! Let's follow some rules!

anon113703
Post 46

It quite amazes me how this rule/tradition can only be found in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and will. That so many people on here are openly admitting to judging a book by its cover when seeing a person dressed in white after labor day!

I like tradition, especially at Christmas time, but I would never look down on someone who did not follow my traditions. They are there for my own enjoyment, not to place judgement on others!

anon112028
Post 44

I live in Australia and September marks the beginning of spring, so what are we meant to do? It can get really hot in spring. I only recently heard of this bizarre "rule" and it seems it's only a rule for the elitist members of society in the US. Think I'll just wear what I want. Fortunately we don't have any similar "rules".

anon111056
Post 43

I'm sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that after the day of going into labor the average woman is conspicuously no longer virginal and therefore it could be considered inappropriate to wear white.

anon110646
Post 42

Are you serious with this answer? The reason why you don't wear white in the winter is because you are pale and it will make you look more pale than ever. I'm glad I have a natural tan. lol.

anon109684
Post 41

I'm from sweden, we don't have this strange rule in europe. Not even in sweden and that is a cold country with a lot of snow in winter, if you know a little geography.

I heard about this being a custom in USA, and I was curious why and stumbled upon this page. I still don't get a satisfying answer to why you practice this.

By the way, labor day is the first of may in most european countries in memory of the haymarket massacre.

anon109504
Post 40

I read somewhere else that is had to do with the US Navy changing the color of their uniforms - but maybe the navy was just keeping with the seasonal fashion color code.

anon109314
Post 39

This argument is moot! This is a tradition that's only followed in the US of A. In the rest of the world Labour Day falls at different times of the year. Apart from which this "rule of thumb" is more subjective than objective. Therefore, if one chooses to wear white after Labour Day by all means they can. If you choose to not go for it. Just be respectful of others' choices!

anon109196
Post 38

I majored in fashion design in college, and this is the history I was told by one of my professors. Before heaters were invented, people shoveled coal to heat buildings.

It was traditional for men to wear white or light colored suits. The soot from the coal would get all over them and stain their nice clothes. So they changed their wardrobe around Labor Day, when the weather typically starts to get cool. This practice turned into tradition, into rule, into the faux pas, into where we are now.

The rules are more relaxed today, but depending on where you live, you may get a gasp about your taboo outfit if you choose to wear white after Labor Day. My thoughts: it isn't relevant today, so wear what you like.

anon108873
Post 37

Shouldn't temperature dictate what type and color of clothing you wear not the calendar? It's a stupid rule made by small-minded people who obviously have nothing else to worry about other than what other folks are wearing. How sad.

I hate to tell the lady "that almost died" because someone wore an all white dress at the Emmys: the show was before Labor Day.

anon108791
Post 36

Summer runs to September 22. I would think that one could wear white at least through the summer, don't you think?

anon108552
Post 35

I stumbled across this blog and find it very entertaining. I'm a European girl who hasn't heard of the rule until I came to the States and I find it very limiting. I have two pairs of white boots and fluffy white coats that remind me of snow. I guess many people in this blog wouldn't want to hang with me.

anon108291
Post 34

The thing is not about horses and carriages or about shoes. It's about fashion also changing with the season. White is a late winter, spring and summer color. Fall clothing is more neutral like tan or khaki. But there are alternatives to white. There is bone, eggshell, beige, cream -- and lots of other colors like that.

Shoes are the main concern. Ever notice how hard it is to find white shoes in the winter time? White shoes are rarely heavy enough to wear through winter time. It's not just unfashionable to wear white. It usually blends different seasons of clothing so it can be kind of silly to wear the white. Unless you live somewhere like LA or FLA.

anon106958
Post 33

so is it cool to wear white after the new year? Because the rule never said when we can wear white again! so it could be as early as the next day after, the day after labor day. Because if it's clean and there I'm going to wear it.

anon105721
Post 32

Answers to this rule and origin;

1) White deflects the heat making for a good colour for summer weight clothing.

2) The harvest starts around the end of August and the beginning of September in most of North America. Picture what it would have been like driving to church or into town if you were in an early car or horse carriage with no real roof, windows, or air tight seals.

Now picture the amount of dust, dirt, and smoke that gets kicked up when all the farmers for hundreds of miles are harvesting and burning the waste. Picture what that would do to your whites.

3) Earlier clothing was usually its natural colour. Cotton = white, wool = grey; Cotton = light weight clothes; wool = heavy warm clothes.

anon101905
Post 31

It makes no sense because you wouldn't be able to wear white all year.

anon88920
Post 30

That rule is just for the United States. As far as I know the rest of the world (I know for sure about Mediterranean countries and the Caribbean) do not follow that rule. So if you wear white after labor day you are not ill mannered, but wordly.

anon87577
Post 29

Really anon20104? It is good manners not to wear white after labor day? I didn't know the color of your clothing had anything to do with your manners. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. Wear whatever you want. The people who are going to have a problem with it are weirdo fashion, tradition crazies, who have nothing better to worry about then the color of your stinking shoes.

anon80427
Post 28

"...adopted as part of a larger movement to “educate” the nouveau riche."

It's a way of thinning the herd via class. If you break these you are either classless, nouveau riche which also implies you didn't have class or manners, or you break the rules. If you break the rules who wants to do business with someone like that?

Generally it's not a good thing. So don't mix your precious metals. We know they're probably the only ones you have.

Socks with sandals/white after Labor Day? Go buy some winter shoes or socialize with your own kind who can't afford them. We don't hang with you.

Mixing patterns and prints, like common people who don't have anything else to wear.

Handbag, shoes and belt should always match because we bought them from the same places. We can afford to buy the line, not bits and pieces of lines knocked off and sold on the street. Ours came from the same damn cow.

Go back to K-mart. Do not collect your fashionista card.

anon74676
Post 27

when people say "law" they mean rule. The whole concept of not wearing white after labor day is to guide people to make appropriate choices for the weather.

White pants and shoes are very spring and summer and typically white dresses and pants are made from lighter weight material, more appropriate for warmer whether, so it would be inappropriate and look foolish if it's 30 degrees outside and you're wearing summer clothing, which is how this "rule" got started.

Obviously if you live somewhere where it is very warm most of the year, wearing white in march isn't a big deal, but it still might look silly to wear white pants in december.

if you don't agree with it, don't follow it, but it just exists as a good rule of thumb when deciding if something is weather or seasonally appropriate.

anon74468
Post 26

I feel like I came in looking for the history, and I ended up gaining a whole new understanding of the ignorant people of the world who really got upset because they were caught slipping up and got called out.

It is just for fun - that is what fashion is all about. If you don't want to play, then you don't have to. There has always been a place for outcasts. You are the ones who make it more fun for the rest of us to joke about.

anon71636
Post 25

Does anyone know if other this 'rule' exists in other countries?

anon67827
Post 24

Now does this ridiculous rule apply to those who live in the warmer states like Florida, because if so then you need to get a life.

I'm sorry, but if it's 80 degrees in February then guess what? I'm wearing white shoes, pumps, sandals etc. Now i don't knock anyone who decides to follow this rule: more power to you! But why judge those who don't follow this rule? Get used to it.

It's hard enough for people to obey the law which is more important, don't you think? You really think people are going to follow a rule that was invented by some idiot who destroyed their white shoes/clothes in the winter? Because if so then you're just as dumb.

The only logical explanation i can come up with to why you shouldn't wear white in the winter is because white clothing gets dirty fast especially when you're living in a place like NY where the weather can get messy. But if the person wearing white doesn't care, then why should you? You didn't buy it! Get over it!

anon67696
Post 23

As a southern man (NW Florida), I actually find it fun (on one hand) and also an ingrained tradition of etiquette. I admit that if I do see people wearing white after labor day I can't help but feel a bit of "umm how unclassy". Not in a "long shoot them" way, but just in a small faux pas kind of way.

I personally don't see anything wrong with respecting harmless traditions like this. As stuck up as it may sound, I just think real Southern Belles (male and female) get a little "classy breeding" point boost when they respect this particular fun fashion tradition.

anon66355
Post 22

I find it very frustrating that society as a whole has thrown etiquette out the window. Too many people are into "doing their own thing". Well, maybe the society would be much better if people followed the old traditions and rules and stopped doing their own thing! Learn what etiquette is and respect it for those of us who still appreciate it!

anon65681
Post 21

Just lol at all the people who say that this is a "law." Guess what, it's a public tradition, and no one has to give a crap about what it is.

If you want to follow, go ahead, keep a tradition alive. But don't slam those that don't care. They have other traditions they follow, some probably more important than this one.

Honestly this is one of the most useless traditions, no story behind it, no reason, nothing. It's for fun, not a requirement.

anon60527
Post 20

I just want to know the actual story behind why you can't wear white after labor day! It seems no one knows! Was it an actual faux pas way back when? Like that thing about women who wear red shoes or something? There's got to be some kind of legend or something behind it - not just because pumps are bad for walking in snow or because you're colder in white.

anon50466
Post 19

I think some people care way too much what other people think about how they look and are manipulated by others.

rule no.1:

1. put on clothing; 2. look in mirror; 3. if you like how it looks, wear it, if you don't, put something else on.

rule no. 2:

if your friend doesn't like the way it looks, and you do, you can either be a follower and take it off. Or second, you can be a leader and decide for yourself.

anon48027
Post 18

Ok, if anyone can find it in the Bible, Constitution, Law books, or any other important government/religious document stating that wearing white after Labor Day is forbidden, then please share it with the rest of us. Just because people wear what they want, when they want doesn't make them ignorant. It's called "free will".

anon45624
Post 17

i wear what fits and is comfortable regardless of the season!

anon44755
Post 16

Every spring I enjoy the rituals of my upbringing, with four older sisters, of putting away our woolen plaids, flannels, long sleeved, dark colored clothes, dark purses and bringing out our summer wardrobes in time for Church on Easter. Equally, in the fall I enjoy pulling out my sweaters again and don't even miss my white pants. It is usually the biggest year round fashion offenders, in my opinion, who think it's ok to wear white pants all winter. These same people wear casual flip-flops, crocs, spaghetti straps, tank tops and sweatpants to work. I always consider the source of who is telling me to proceed with my white pants in winter and I have yet to be advised that by anyone remotely resembling a fashionista. In fact, it is usually the most fashion ignorant slobs who tell me it's ok. Forgive me if I don't heed your fashion advice. I think they would all be better off following mine.

anon44527
Post 15

anon30978: I couldn't have said it any better.

Furthermore, what makes this so funny is that some people think that this rule is outdated and antiquated. I think it is fun. They also presume that following this rule will lead to dresses below ankles and blah blah blah. Really? Do you really think that? Do you really think that this rule will lead us back into the turn of the century?

Sheesh! I just think it is just part of the fun in fashion. All these quirky little rules to follow!

anon44468
Post 14

Show me where refrainng from white after labor day serves humanity and then I'll follow the rule. It continues to be warm after labor and white is a cooler fabric. That serves a better purpose, don't you think. Not to mention unless one of those fashion snobs wants to buy my clothes then I'll wear what I want and can afford and what I'm comfortable in. Think about it really, take the time to really think about how outdated and insulting the rule is. Think for yourself people. Don't be the sheep that follows without really thinking about what or why you're following. The world is changing, because we tend to shed the useless and ridiculous.

anon37205
Post 13

omg really? get over the whole white after labor day routine! Why is it bad manners? oh, its not! by the way if you want to keep tradition then maybe you should throw away all your pants and only wear dresses and skirts below the knee. -what kind of dumb people have to be reminded not to wear white just so they would remember not to wear summer clothes during winter anyway? LOL okay women, lets go home and bake an apple pie for our hubby! the old fashioned way is the *best* way (bow down to the men!)

anon30978
Post 12

anon17926, well insulation is white, but notice how it would go inside the seams of a coat that might not be white? And as the article said, if the wear should get muddy, it's not exactly smart to wear white unless one would like to be constantly cleaning it. Is it any real wonder why most of the winter clothing ends up black or equally dark?

Although anon3808 might be extreme in saying that she "almost died" but there are people that do still follow this rule, and if you're a person saying that this rule should be broken for the sake of something like freedom of speech, this person has the choice to do the opposite when she's not harming anyone beyond voicing her displeasure.

anon27841
Post 11

Isn't it funny how we invent and keep such silly little rules to make ourselves look more Important for knowing what is Right and Proper?

Wearing white at certain times of the year shouldn't be considered bad manners - it's not like belching in public or blowing your nose on someone's sleeve. It doesn't hurt anyone, nor should it annoy anyone. There's absolutely no rational reason for it.

What should be considered bad manners is holding onto such silly and outdated pretensions.

anon20104
Post 10

White jeans, shoes, pants, shorts, dresses, hats, should never be worn between Labor Day and Easter. It is called good manners. Only the ignorant of decorum would say...oh, it doesn't matter. It shows how much education and attention to propriety a person has. Only break the rule if you want people to think you do not know any better.

anon18215
Post 9

To add to this discussion - it has long been said that white outerwear (coats etc) and denim (jeans) are more than acceptable year round.

anon18009
Post 8

I believe everyone has their own opinions on whats should and what shouldn't and thus everyone does what they want especially since as women we were given the right to vote. "Making my own decisions"

anon17926
Post 7

Trust me, as a life-long Michigan resident, when it's the dead of winter it doesn't matter what color your clothes are. White or black, the light reflectivity or whatever isn't going to make a whole lot of difference when the wind chill is -30 F. The best fashion tip you can give to protect against the winter weather is to invest in a nice heat-retaining coat with good insulation (and guess what? Most insulated underwear is *gasp* white, and will also keep you nice and toasty warm when it's freezing).

Oh, and when it's below 30 outside, no one needs to be reminded not to wear summer clothes. Actually, now that I think about it, after a cold snap of below zero temperatures 32 and above starts to feel pretty darn warm. ^_^

As for the "etiquette", I'll agree to it when I hear a logical reason behind it. Call me when someone finds it again.

anon16599
Post 5

Who cares if people wear white after Labor Day? The world has bigger problems than this!

anon9166
Post 4

Omg yeah, to the lady that lives in manhattan, what's the big deal?? it's a new century, stop living like you're stuck in the 50s. Katherine Heigl just proved that it's as old of a rule as girls not showing their ankles.

anon7718
Post 3

To the person that posted above me that says she wanted to die when she saw someone on tv wear all white..plz lady get a life!

I don\'t see what the big deal is, why do you care about what others choose to wear! I bet if all you had was a white pair of jeans and white blouse you'd put that on real quick.

anon3808
Post 2

I live in Manhattan and every year I see more and more people wearing white after labor day. I was brought up to NEVER even think about it. I think it's sad how this rule is slowly dying. At this years Emmy awards, Katherine Heigl was named as one of the best dressed at the show, dressed in an ALL white gown...I almost died.

anon3720
Post 1

Why is this so hard for people? White deflects heat. Thus, white clothing helps you keep slightly cooler in the summer. Ditto for lighter weight fabrics. Heavy fabrics or dark colors hold in heat, making you hotter in summer and warmer in winter. So, it's simply smarter to wear light-weight fabrics in white or near-white colors in summer and heavy and/or dark colored fabrics in winter. As for shoes, everyone knows that sandals are cold in winter, whatever color they are. Pretty much everyone I know already knew this without a huge debate about it.

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