If you’re reading this in a part of the world where they serve sweet tea, you can pull out your white shoes, your white pants and your linen suit.
Up North, in places like New York, you have to wait until Memorial Day. On my trips to the Big Apple, I think the year-round color of choice is black. It doesn’t matter if it’s Lincoln’s Birthday, Arbor Day or the Fourth of July, folks up there wear black. There is a word for people in New York City who wear white: tourists. If you buy yourself a brand new pair of white sneakers for your trip to New York, they won’t be that way for long.
But this is not about sneakers. It’s about white buck shoes, white flats and seersucker and linen suits.
There is no definitive answer as to who proclaimed the edict of "Thou shalt not wear white before Easter and after Labor Day." In my mind, it was a high-falutin’ rich gal living in a fancy house on The Battery in Charleston, S.C. She was having tea on the settee in the parlor, when she looked out the window and saw some poor gal walking down the street in a white suit and shoes in mid-September.
By the way, for the purposes of this column, would you please drop the "r" in the names of cities? Say "Chalston" and "New Yawk."
This rich old gal rolled her eyes at this terrible fashion faux pas and wrote letters to her equally rich cousins in Atlanta, Savannah, Mobile and "Nawlins," who, in turn, wrote cousins in Natchez, Macon, Eufaula and Social Circle. She wrote about how trashy this poor old gal looked in her mid-September white and how she couldn’t imagine anyone wearing white outside of the Easter-to-Labor-Day time frame.
Next thing you know, it’s the law of the land. In Georgia, there is a law against cussing in front of a dead body. Surely, we must have a law against out-of-season white.
This thing has been passed down by generations.
Dee Dee, a fashionable young woman who always wears what’s in, told me she wouldn’t think about wearing white outside the preset timetable.
Katie, who is even younger but just as fashionable, said her daddy contemplated wearing a summertime linen suit to a recent engagement party. Her mama got so upset they almost had to check her in to a special fashion faux pas recovery ward at a hospital down below Atlanta.
But it’s not just a Southern thing. A couple of years ago, I spent several days in Newark, N.J., one of real jewels of The Garden State. Trying to save money, I took the bus. As we crept along, a young man on the street was vandalizing a fire hydrant with white spray pant — and it was Sept. 10. I saw another young man push him away and begin spraying with a more seasonal color of black.
Even vandals have a sense of style.
My seersucker pants and white shoes have been catching my eyes all winter.
I’m ready to show my real sense of fashion.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.