Happy Labor Day Week! In the US. For those companies and people who recognize it.
The topic for today’s #AskSisyphus is appropriately asked by Twitter’s @ActuallyItsAmy and @Office_Goddess “ Sisy, where did the old adage of not wearing white after labor day come from?”
Well I’m glad you asked Amy because I’ve been lazily wondering the same thing for as long as I can remember.
I’ve done some reading and here’s what I found: Nobody really knows. There are many thoughts on the matter though and here they are in no particular order.
Initially there’s been some debate over whether it was meant solely for shoes. Nobody knows when the whole “rule” started but wearing white shoes after Labor Day was a faux pas. Nobody knows when it went from shoes to pants and other clothing either. The shoes idea, and also the clothing, partly makes sense if you think that come Fall there might be rain and mud and leaves and all manner of dirty things you might encounter. If you put away your nice white canvas shoes on Labor Day you’ll probably spare yourself cleaning them or buying new ones every May. Another thing worth considering: how many of you would be pleased to be caught unawares by Fall’s first rainstorm while wearing a white shirt. Precisely.
One article (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1920684,00.html) argues that the mere fact that this first thought makes rational sense may mean that it’s false, merely by virtue of the sense it makes. Another thought is that in the summer you’re generally trying to avoid the heat and therefore should wear white or light colors. Now, another article (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/why-not-to-wear-white-after-labor-day.html) starts out well and says that the dark colors absorb the sun’s rays and should be avoided in the summer to stay cool, but then it falls off the science bandwagon when it claims that wearing white in Winter will absorb the cold. I’m sorry but you cannot absorb cold, that’s just not how it works. So maybe it’s heat related, but again this makes sense so it might be wrong.
The third prevailing idea involves the idea of class differences and the ability for upper classes to enjoy their leisure time. The following paragraph from the Time piece explains it far better than I could paraphrase:
Instead, other historians speculate, the origin of the no-white-after–Labor Day rule may be symbolic. In the early 20th century, white was the uniform of choice for Americans well-to-do enough to decamp from their city digs to warmer climes for months at a time: light summer clothing provided a pleasing contrast to drabber urban life. “If you look at any photograph of any city in America in the 1930s, you’ll see people in dark clothes,” says Scheips, many scurrying to their jobs. By contrast, he adds, the white linen suits and Panama hats at snooty resorts were “a look of leisure.”
Finally, there’s a little mention of the fact that sailors in the Navy swap out their whites for their Navy blues at the beginning of Fall. Why this is I don’t know, but hey … it’s as plausible as any other if not more so. If you consider how supportive of the armed forces America, and possibly the world, was in the early to mid 20th century when this rule became most prevalent it stands to reason that this was adopted to show solidarity with the Navy. Who knows?
So basically nobody has a clue why white shouldn’t be worn after Labor Day. Whether it’s because you don’t like cleaning things, you don’t want that nefarious cold to find you and soak into you, you want to appear like you’re a part of the upper crust, or you want Search and Rescue to be able to find you when you’re lost on a snowy mountain (not that that’s ever dictated what kinds of ski gear I get or anything) … you are welcome to put your whites away come Labor Day. If you don’t, nobody will hate you and those people who do are just notifying you that they’re not people you want to know.
That’s all for this week’s #AskSisyphus, be sure to submit or ask your questions right this instant! I don’t care what you’re curious about or why, I will do my best to address it and answer it for you. Have a great weekend.
Appendix: (mostly worthless except for the first two or three)