Thursday, August 6, 2015

When Is it Proper to Wear White Shoes?

Ever since you were a kid, your grandmother has told you, 'Don't wear white shoes after Labor Day!" If you are acquainted with the rules of fashion, this mandate is usually in the top 10. While this is a rule that most people know about, there is no agreed-upon reason about why it exists.

The General Rule

    Following Labor Day, the first Monday in September, fashion outlaws wearing white shoes, and in some cases, white clothing. Typically this guideline applies to dress shoes and sandals, but not to boots or tennis shoes. Mark Memorial Day on your fashion calendar, too; that's the day when you can dust off the white high heels and initiate spring and summer fashion. There are several theories about why this rule exists at all, but no one reason has stood out as the true explanation.

Reason 1: Practicality

    In general, summer clothes are thin and airy and are associated with light, bright colors. White reflects light and heat, making white clothes ideal for summer and inappropriate for winter. Because shoes are generally meant to match the outfit, the Labor Day rule may exist so people remember to wear clothing appropriate for the temperature outside. Thus, they would not be wearing bright white shoes with a gray, wool turtleneck, but rather dark shoes to match. Additionally, trudging through the snow and mud underneath would noticeably soil a white shoe, whereas a dark shoe can get a bit more dirty without being so noticeable.

Reason 2: Traditional Seasonal Colorings

    Fashion experts speculate that wearing white is taboo because it is a distinctly "summery" color, and many winter clothes are in dark jewel tones or blacks and grays. Wearing white, in this case, would make one stick out like a sore thumb, and in general, those who wish to be fashionable want to avoid standing out in a negative way.

Reason 3: The Nouveau Riche

    A third possibility has its roots in the Southern United States where families that came from "old money" felt the need to educate those who had recently acquired wealth regarding the rules of high society. This rule, along with others, was intended to keep the nouveau riche from making fashion errors that would bring ridicule upon the established wealthy families.


    Several exceptions to this rule exist, particularly involving winter weddings. Winter brides are allowed to wear whatever color shoe and dress they wish. Also, while at some point the white-wearing rule was extended to clothing as well as shoes, even the most austere fashion formalists agree that wearing "winter white" sweaters or coats (coats that are cream colored or off-white) is perfectly acceptable after Labor Day. A final exception is if you happen to live in an area with summery weather throughout the year. For instance, in Hawaii it is not unusual to see white caftans and sandals at the beach 365 days a year.

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