The Antiquated History of the Phrase “No White After Labor Day”

The Antiquated History of the Phrase “No White After Labor Day”

Whether you follow fashion trends or not, I’m sure you have all heard the phrase “You can’t wear white after Labor Day” at one point in your lives. As a fashion-follower for the early majority of my life, I complied with this phrase and conformed with the masses. My mother was an avid evader of this fashion faux pas, and I was often scolded if I slipped into white shoes, white jeans, or white dresses after Labor Day Weekend. It was not until I was older, when I undertook a more rebellious and creative approach to fashion, that I began to question this trivial little statement. I quickly learned the history behind the phrase was snobbier, more elitist, and more antiquated than I could have imagined!

White after Labor Day
PHOTO: @taliaaa.rose

Once upon a time in the city that never sleeps, white attire was used during summer months to distinguish the difference between the working classes and the pretentiously wealthy. If you had the ability to escape New York City’s hot summers to go to a vacation home (say, South Hampton perhaps?), you were gifted the luxury of wearing white linen looks. If you were stuck back home in the concrete jungle, you were confined to dark, dirty fabrics. To put it frankly, it was the elite class’s way of keeping the outsiders out.

White after Labor Day
PHOTO: @taliaaa.rose

While these fashion semantics were semi-arbitrary at times, it was a way for the elite to ensure their social strata remained differentiated from New York’s common working classes. According to Marie Claire, “white linens were a look of leisure.” After Labor Day, when the annual great migration back inland occurred, the nouveau riche tucked away their whites, not to be seen until next season. Some also speculate the reason for this color palette cleanse is as simple as the fact that Labor Day weekend could be used to mark a calendar end to one’s seasonal wardrobe.  

White after Labor Day
PHOTO: @gabscherer

If you want my take, I think that white is a chic and timeless color that should be sported year-round! Take note from College Fashionista community members above, who are not afraid to parade the color white at any time of year. It’s about time to toss this classist phrase to the wind and let there be white!

Featured photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on Pexels