The history behind the infamous fashion rule


Lydia Shaw ’17 sports her ripped white jeans with pride on the beautiful spring day.

Signs that Spring has finally sprung; trees blooming and pollen flying. Time to roll down the windows, jog along the beach and break out those white jeans….. oh wait, it’s not Memorial Day yet!

“I have never really understood the rule behind not wearing white, Christine Taylor ’18 said, “I think it is outdated; people should be able to wear whatever makes them happy. That’s what clothing is all about, expressing yourself.”

The ancient, antiquated and mysterious unofficial law of only wearing white between Memorial Day and Labor Day remarkably still has its claws in today’s “wear whatever you want” society. But, some feel it’s time to break free of the No White Rule in favor of a really great outfit.

“I know it is an obvious violation of the rules of fashion, but I love to break the rules,” Colleen Bannon ’17 said, “especially if the end result is a killer outfit. ”

The No White Rule has mysterious roots as there was never a formal bill passed through Senate or a decree from a royal family. The theory is thought to be born from a more unspoken mandate dating back to the late 1800’s. The very wealthy would flee city life and pack their cool whites to vacation starting Memorial Day and ending Labor Day.

Wearing white signified you were wealthy enough to jet set off to a seaside cottage while the factory laborer or office manager had to stay and work in their dark clothes in the middle of the August heat. It was a sign of luxury, a summer social statement and a custom for those who could afford a fabulous and carefree three months.

“I have no idea where this rule came from to be honest,” Hannah Roseme ’18 said, “I guess it’s just something that everyone follows without actually knowing the history behind it.”

With the arrival of Labor Day came the end of “the season” and white pants were put away and replaced by dark, heavy and more formal city clothes. Fashion magazines and media outlets at the time fully supported, publicized and marketed the unwritten rule, making it envied at first then more mainstream.

The only exceptions that remain are brides, babies and the annual Staples White Out football game.

Staples’ students do not take the topic of white pants lightly. Many individuals walk down the halls acting as the fashion police, constantly judging and making remarks. No one wants to be caught breaking any law of the complicated fashion world.

“For the sake of fashion and the history behind it, I think the no white jean rule is a tradition that everyone should follow,” Sophie Epstein ’17 said, “it just makes you look out of touch with the rules and simply unfashionable if you choose to wear white.”

But, there is still a practical side of the No White Rule. A light, white flowy skirt may be very cold in a New England January and obviously it’s rare to see a lot of white down the Staples halls in the middle of winter. However, how great are some nice white denim jeans paired with dark boots and a chunky sweater – think of all the outfit options. Or in the few beautifully warm days that come around before Memorial Day.

“I don’t care about the rule, it’s pretty pointless if you ask me. I bought the pants so why not get my full money’s worth?” Shelby Lake ’17 said with a smile.