Friday, September 9, 2011

Breaking The Rules

Menswear is rife with rules and regulations. Jacket sleeves are so long, pant waists come up so high, tuxedos come with facings, and you only wear suits with leather-soled shoes. With the passing of Labor Day, I've been thinking about the "no white pants after Labor Day" rule and questioning its validity. To bring an end to my questioning, it's important to remember that Labor Day marks more than the last unofficial weekend of the summer, filled to the brim with grilled hot dogs and 25% off sales at Macy's.

Celebrated first in Oregon in 1887, it became a federal holiday in 1894 after the Pullman Strike in which many workers were killed by U.S. Marshals and the U.S. military and President Grover Cleveland wanted to reconcile with the labor movement. Given that this holiday is one sympathetic to labor, the sartorial rule banning white pants and shoes (clothing generally relegated to white-collar types) serves to reinforce this sympathy, and breaking it would be in poor taste. The holiday also marks the unofficial end of summer and robs white pants of their utility, as pants of that color are generally made in lightweight cotton or linen.

Climate change has thrown a wrench into the system, however. While Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, it is now hot and muggy well into September. I even remember being on a date in early October 2007 and sitting outside because it was nearly eighty degrees at night. I mean no disrespect to laboring brothers, but if we're going to have Indian summer every year now, you can bet your ass I'll be wearing my white jeans much later into the season.

Glenn O'Brien, GQ's "Style Guy" and one of my sartorial heroes once wrote that the rule should be extended into October, at the end of the baseball postseason. I couldn't agree more; if the world isn't willing to do anything about climate change, the only thing we little people can do is dress for the weather.

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