Summer is drawing to a close, school has started, and the last of our Big 3 holiday weekends is fast approaching. Which brings a certain question to the fashion-minded around the United States: Can you wear white after Labor Day?

The concept of putting the white away after Labor Day is one of the most persistent axioms in American culture. We accept it without really knowing why, and most presumably do their best to follow this fashion guidance.

But is it still relevant? Here’s my attempt to answer the annual September question of: Can you wear white after Labor Day?


The History of This Labor Day Deadline

How did we get here, to a point at which most Americans accept that white is unacceptable after Labor Day? It all started in a different time. Drift back with me a couple of centuries to the 1800s. My colleague Fallon Page recently wrote about what people did before air conditioning, and her piece is relevant here.

As hot weather settled in after Memorial Day, many well-to-do Americans put aside their formal wear and flocked to summer homes to stay cool. One of the things they did to stay cool was to wear relatively light and breezy white clothing. As I’m sure you know, white reflects sunlight rather than absorbs it, which means you won’t get nearly as hot in a white outfit as in a black one.

As September rolled around and Labor Day arrived, these wealthy summer home dwellers would put away their white, retreat back to the city and resume wearing the more formal pieces in their wardrobes — mostly black.

It became accepted that white went away after Labor Day. And following this rule became a sign of status and wealth. To wear white after Labor Day meant that you weren’t a part of the formal wear crowd that owned and occupied different homes for different seasons.


Is This Rule Relevant Today?

Here’s a short answer: no. As Scott Christian from Esquire notes, only mourners wore black once upon a time, and wearing denim in the 1800s meant that you were most likely panning for gold. Things change, and this rule is no longer a must-follow.

What’s more important than the color of what you wear is the material. Labor marks the end of summer and the slow transition into winter. It’s time to start wearing cashmere, wool and down-filled outerwear. But you can wear these items in white — I have a white wool sweater that I adore.

And the rules go completely out the window if you live in a tropical climate where seasons seem to have no meaning. If you call Miami or Los Angeles home, you can certainly feel comfortable wearing white clothing of any material at any time.


How to Wear White After Labor Day

So, now that you know white after Labor is acceptable, how should you wear it? Know that white and cream tops are always a go — you can wear them at any time. Just be mindful of what you’re pairing them with.

A white blazer is a nice addition to a fall or winter wardrobe, too. Pair with a darker top, like a gray or black sweater. And stay away from loose tops or relaxed fit pants and jeans, as they can lend too much of a flowy, summery feel to your ensemble. Stick to skinny jeans instead.

White pants in a fall fabric can work as well. Think denim rather than silk.

I draw the line on shoes and accessories. You can find white boots that work with the right fall or winter outfit, but it’s risky. White jewelry should be minimized, and hide your white sunglasses until next summer. A white belt will work with fall-shaded bottoms and a colorful top.

That’s about it. Greenlight on white after Labor Day, if you know how to wear it. Do you have a go-to, post-Labor Day fashion statement that you make in white? Let us know in the comments section below, or reach out via our contact page.