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A Guide to Wearing White All Year Long

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If you follow the rules of fashion religiously, you probably have this coming Monday marked on your calendar as the day you take all the white items in your closet to a storage facility where they will wait until Memorial Day. After all, it’s one of the oldest rules in the book: “Thou shalt not wear white after Labor Day.”

The idea goes back to the old days of aristocrats fleeing the cities and escaping to their summer retreats for the warmer months. Upon returning in September, it was considered a faux pas to be seen still wearing your “man of leisure” clothes, like white shoes and white suits, when you were supposed to be back to the grindstone earning the cash to be able to afford the aforementioned summer retreat. The rule did not apply to things like white dress shirts. After all, something had to distinguish these men from “blue collar” guys.

At Black Lapel we ‘d like strike this one from the rule books. Not only is it okay to wear white well past Labor Day, we believe it’s your inalienable right to wear white whenever you damn well please. Here’s how to rock the whites throughout the year.

First, some general dos and don’ts when it comes to wearing white in the non-summer months:

Do wear whites with any color you please. Yes, it’s true white “goes with everything but…”

Don’t wear white with black if your face and hair are close in color. A harsh contrast below your face can be overpowering when there’s not much color contrast above your neck.

Do put white at the core of your outfit (on a shirt/sweater/jacket or on pants) but…

Don’t take it too far and wear white on top and bottom. That’s a look that screams “summer.”

Do be sure to keep your white clean but…

Don’t stress over it. Your whites aren’t going to stay pristine so don’t be prissy.

1. Go off (with off-white desert boots)

When the crisp air comes back and the leaves begin to change color it’s easy to head straight for the rich browns and deep grays that fit so well into this season’s looks. Yet whites can provide some relief for these heavier hues. Take the desert boots in the outfit below. Their sturdy soles and rugged texture blends nicely with the rougher fabrics of fall (denim, tweed and flannel) and lightens up your overall look. Combine this with a white shirt that’s crisper than an October breeze and you’ve got an instant autumn classic.

Clockwise from top left:

2. Layer it on thick (with a chunky cream sweater)

When the temps drop, reach for a warm and chunky sweater in a cream color. A cream colored sweater, which you would be too warm to wear in the summer, flies right in the face of the no white after Labor Day rule. That’s one of many reasons why we love them. Here’s another:

While others trudge through cooler weather in dark colors, you can stand out in a cream colored sweater. Wondering how to wear it? You really can’t go wrong. It goes with just about everything. Dress it down with jeans and sneakers. Or dress it up (as we did below) with a white twill shirt and knit tie underneath and it stands in nicely for a blazer.

Got colors in your closet? Bring ‘em on. More subdued? Then rock it the way we have below with neutral gray slacks and your favorite brown dress shoes and this getup will take you from Casual Friday to Happy Hour in style.

Clockwise from top left:

  • Charcoal Gray Pants by Ian Velardi x Gap
  • Cotton Shawl-Collar Sweater by Polo Ralph Lauren
  • Plaid Wool Tie by Armstrong & Wilson
  • Strand Cap-Toe Oxford by Allen Edmonds
  • White Solid Twill Weave Custom Dress Shirt by Black Lapel
  • Leather Roller Buckle Belt by J.Crew

3. Mix it up (with a summer outfit and a fall/spring scarf)

The scarf moves this outfit from an al fresco evening summer dinner getup to a casual daytime look in cooler weather. Still, the jeans steal the show. When we think of denim’s roots in gold panning and cattle rustling, this dirty work makes the concept of crisp white jeans seem like an oxymoron. But today’s denim isn’t for manual labor. Today it’s street wear. So why limit your palette to the hard-working blues.

Give your dark wash denim a rest and change things up by mixing in a pair of whites. Pair them with some Chuck Taylors (which never go out of season or out of style), an open-collared, button-front shirt in a not-so-dressy plaid for a classy-casual look that can take you anywhere.

Clockwise from top left:

Show us your pearly whites!

Snap a picture of yourself, rocking white in a cooler weather look (bonus points for smiling), post it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #BLWhiteOut and we’ll re-gram/re-tweet our favorite looks. And, of course, if you’ve got a question about wearing white for Black Lapel? Comment below.

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5 thoughts on “A Guide to Wearing White All Year Long”

  1. Lisa Loperfido says:

    Very practical advice. Can’t wait to try it.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      With a little tweaking these guidelines work for women as well, Lisa.

  2. Oh my goodness, that last watch is a work of art.

    1. We agree, Julio. It’s an aptly named classic.

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