Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday September 9, 2020
Where did the ‘no white after Labor Day’ rule come from?
The day itself first became a national holiday back in 1894 – but with it comes the odd tradition of not wearing white shoes or clothing after the day has passed. Just where did that rule come from – and what is Labor Day all about anyway?
It’s not quite clear where the rule about not wearing white clothes or shoes after Labor Day came from – with a number of explanations given.
Time Magazine previously suggested that wearing white in the summer was a way of keeping cool in warmer temperatures, and that it wasn’t necessary to do so once the autumn months arrived.
In the early part of the 20th Century white clothing was regarded as a status symbol for Americans who were wealthy enough to spend time away from the city in the warmer summer months.
Their return from vacation to city life around Labor Day was seen as a time to pack away those clothes and get out their darker-coloured autumn clothing.
Although it’s not an official rule, fashion magazines started pointing to the ‘no white after Labor Day’ trend in the 1950s – although style icons such as Coco Chanel continued to wear white all year round.
It’s also been suggested fashion editors led the trend by featuring white clothing in magazines during the summer months and darker clothing once autumn rolled around.
These days people are less fussy about the so-called rule and wear white all year round – although it still pops up from time to time, notably in John Waters’ 1994 movie Serial Mom, in which Kathleen Turner launches a murderous assault on a woman (Patty Hearst) for wearing white shoes after Labor Day is over.
Labor Day, which is always on the first Monday in September, commemorates the social and economic achievements of workers in the US, and the contribution they have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the country.
It was first celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882, in accordance with the plans of the city’s Central Labor Union, while Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday five years later.
The day became a national holiday in 1894, after Congress passed a bill recognising it as a holiday and then president Grover Cleveland signed it into law.
Labor Day is seen as the ‘unofficial end of summer’ with many people taking two-week vacations around it, while a lot of autumn activities such as school and sports seasons also begin around this time. (Metro UK)