White Shoes After Labor Day: Can You Do It?

I can’t do it. Even though I wore a linen tunic and white leggings today, I could NOT bring myself to wear white shoes. This was going to be the year when I broke one of the biggest fashion rules out there: wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

Why would I even conceive of such an idea? I don’t know. It’s the rebel in me, I guess. Yet there’s nothing safer than rebelling against rules that most people stopped following back in 1985.

It’s nice to have a few fashion rules. Rules separate us from our four- and eight-legged friends. Society needs a few rules to keep us from grabbing each other’s stuff all the time, and stealing one another’s spouses/partners. Okay. So those particular rules are often broken. Though it occurs to me that I know women who would steal someone’s partner before they would think for a moment of wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Or before Memorial Day.

Back in Louisville, when I was growing up, Derby Day was the day when you could start wearing white shoes. I suppose this is because Derby hats and dresses traditionally looked very spring-like, and no sane person would want to wear brown or black shoes with pastels. (Though I’ve been contemplating a mint green/black combo for an October event. Hmmmm.) Of course, I sound like an old Grinch, I know. Now that the Derby is a bona-fide celebrity event, you see everything there, and there often isn’t much to the dresses in the first place. No one is looking at the shoes…Only the hats, and, well, you know.

I have even heard of places where one is allowed white shoes after Easter!

It’s not like I even own more than one pair of white shoes. I don’t even particularly like white shoes. As someone who sports size nine feet, I don’t need my feet to look any bigger than they actually are. Every three years or so I’ll buy a pair of white sandals thinking, “Oh, these will look cute with shorts, or whatever.” And then they get dirty after three or four wearings and they sit in my closet for two years. Then I get tired of looking at them, and send them to the thrift store. The next summer I’ll buy another pair, and so on.


Forbidden fruit.

This adorable pair of driving mocs (loafers with a strip of rubber up the back of the heel so you don’t get your shoes dirty/worn on the floor mat) came from Boden a few years back. I probably got them on sale because I rarely buy things that aren’t on sale. I haven’t worn them since last summer. Because loafers. Because I live in a place that has a climate that alternates between rainforest and Sahara from June to September. No one wants to wear loafers in the hot summer, unless you’re in air conditioning all day. Shoot, I hate wearing shoes at all, unless I have to go outside or, heaven forbid, somewhere that I’ll see other humans. What was I thinking buying white loafers? Actually, I was thinking that they’re darned cute shoes. And if I were summering in Vermont, or on Mackinac Island, I would probably pack them. Sadly, that is not my life.

Plus, all that white leather makes me feel like I’m wearing nurses’ shoes from another era. But I’ll keep them another year or two because they’re classic, and I never know when I might be called to do a summer appearance in the U.P.

The No White Shoes After Labor Day rule is a diminution of the ultimate fashion rule: No White Clothes At All After Labor Day or Before Memorial Day. Here is the origin of that nonsense. To save you a click: the East Coast doyens of the 1890s or so created a number of fashion rules to immediately distinguish themselves from the hoi-polloi. Isn’t it interesting that those women still have real power over so many people? It actually gives me a kind of shiver. (Read: Edith Wharton)

Still, I can’t make myself put on my cute white loafers and leave the house–even though we’re having a bit of a cool spell this early September, and they would be quite comfortable.

Am I the only one who feels like she’s been driven slightly mad by white shoes?

4 thoughts on “White Shoes After Labor Day: Can You Do It?”

  1. Priscilla says:

    I was so tempted by my white shoes that I got rid of them years ago along with my white slacks. How cheated I feel to learn the snobbery of the origin of this rule! Sigh. Well, my closet is full enough, so it’s not like I’m going to run out and buy white shoes so I can wear them mid-winter in defiance of the old money elitists of the 1800s. But gosh, the rebellious part of me WANTS to!
    I love Edith Wharton, by the way. Sometimes I see a luxurious fabric, and it reminds me of Lily Bart, and I feel all over again my brain’s frustration with her and my heart’s sadness for her.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      It took me a long time to appreciate Edith Wharton. I never read her in school and didn’t understand until I was older how sophisticated her critique of that society was. Now I see that it’s delicious and poignant.

      Just think! If you run across a pair of white shoes on sale, you can be tempted in a whole new way.

  2. Teresa says:

    Thankfully, I’ve never been too much into fashion and I solved this problem for myself years ago…I don’t own any white shoes (aside from sneakers) 😉

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Great solution, sis! I think this pair will definitely be my last. 😊

Join the conversation!