Why can't I wear white after Labor Day? It's a class thing

Tue. September 7, 2021 11:28 AM by Gerald Farinas

serial mom

photo credit // youtube

It was a way of drawing the line between the haves and have nots, the upper crust versus the hoi polloi

It has long been a fashion rule one might remember from the movie Serial Mom, "You can't wear white after Labor Day!"

And quite many queers have followed suit.

But where exactly did this fashion mandate come from?

The answer is quite simple: It was a rule invented by the upper class societies of 19th century England and America.

It was a way of drawing the line between the haves and have nots, the upper crust versus the hoi polloi.

White is a popular color in the summer months as it helps keep one's self cool in the Midwestern heat and humidity.

You might have seen me in my white tank top and shorts perusing the wine aisles of the Edgewater Whole Foods for a quick rose to go with my Popeye's fried chicken.

And I've certainly seen many of you in your whitish chambray and eggshell linen or seersucker shirt covering up ... not much, really ... on your way to Hollywood Beach.

But in the 1800s, before the magic of high temperature speed-agitating washing machines that tinkle a happy tune courtesy of Samsung and LG, keeping white clothing white was an immense effort. 

Working class folks dared not to wear white in the wetter, rainier, muddier, snowier months after Labor Day because cleaning those ensembles would be time consuming, and often costlier than cleaning up colors that could last a couple coats of dulling dirt and dust.

The high and mighty who lived on N. State Parkway and N. Astor St. could afford the employ of housekeepers with giant paddles and muddlers hovering over large vats of hot water to beat out the filth from the whites.

You and me, had we lived in those times, probably couldn't employ that kind of help.

So we wore blue collars. And black shirts. And brown corduroy. And denim trousers that technically didn't have to be washed.

The idea of coloration separating the haves from the have nots continued on into the 20th century. And here we are in the 21st century still talking about it.

My suggestion: you and I have nice washers and dryers. Damn the rules. Go wear a white ensemble!