A color for all seasons

A color for all seasons

Q. Do people still not wear white in winter or is that now a thing of the past?

A. The truth is that the age-old adage of “not wearing white after Labor Day” no longer makes sense.

The rule began back in the days when winter coal fires created dust and smog that left white things dirty. Only the wealthy could afford the cost of cleaning or replacement. So people did not wear white.

Also, since people have known for years that white clothes seem to keep you cooler than other colors, white was considered “vacation attire.” Especially white linen and white cotton. Labor Day became known as the end of summer (even though it doesn’t really end for a few weeks afterwards),with school starting for the young, and those who could “leave the city” returning. With warmer months and summer vacations ending, Labor Day became a sign to pack away their cool white linen suits and Panama hats (“the look of leisure”), and bring out their working wardrobes.

These days, we are far less rigid about following the old clothing “rules.” Even so, there still are a few seasonal guidelines you should pay attention to when wearing white during the cooler months. Most are common sense. For example, avoid wearing white head-to-toe. Certainly, no white shorts. And do not at this season (or ever), wear a white silk necktie unless you are planning to rob a bank.

Of course, certain white items have always been appropriate 365 days a year. Some of the most obvious white pieces are year-round staples: white shirts (from dress shirts to polos and Tees), white sweaters (crewnecks and V-necks), and white sneakers. While not as basic to every man’s wardrobe, I would like to add white jeans to this list.

On cooler days, maybe reach for something white to layer over dark, season-appropriate shirts and under dark jackets. A white wool sweater, a white sweatshirt, or a white fleece top will look good. White items are great go-to choices to help you make a smooth transition from one season to the next.

“Transitional dressing” is the well-dressed man’s way to span the seasons. Begin to transition your wardrobe slowly from a summer look to fall by:

  • Mixing a garment or two of fall wear in with some of the summer clothes you may still be wearing.
  • As the weather calls for change, cut down on the items from the last season (perhaps those white items) and add to your rotation more darker-colored and heavier-weight items.
  • When dressing up, add ties in darker earth colors, including rusts, burgundies, and mustards instead of pastel shades.
  • Add changes of texture or weight. Choose white wool or leather instead of white cotton or linen.

A lot of people like to wear white in summer because it looks great with a tan, but if white is flattering on you at other times as well, why not work it into your fall/winter wardrobe? As an example, at Christmas, a white cashmere sweater, a short white denim jacket, or white bucks can look just as festive indoors as some more-expected red or green accessories.

Keep in mind that not every piece of white clothing needs to be a stark white color. Generally speaking, if the white you are wearing can be called ivory, cream, off-white, or winter white, you can definitely wear it at any time.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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