Is it OK to wear white after labour day? Hell yeah.
Yes, it's totally OK to wear white after Labour Day
Words— Marc Richardson
When it comes to clothes, few colour palettes are as bedevilled as white-on-white. Haters argue that it’s too easy to get dirty, or that it’s presumptuous because you only wear all-white in a situation where you couldn’t possibly get dirty — why do you think posh country clubs have “whites only” dress codes? Worse yet, they’ll argue that “you’re not supposed to wear white after Labour Day!” Of course, that must exclude white T-shirts and sneakers, right? But even at that, are white pants or a white jacket really off-limits outside of the summer months?
Despite being reviled by some the white-on-white aesthetic has become something of a statement-making look. Part of that owes to the eye-catching nature of pristine white garments when worn as an ensemble, sure. But, the white-on-white look has an important cultural history among tastemakers and stylish — but rebellious — heroes that offers a roadmap of sorts on how to pull off the look. Plus, with global warming making the notion of summer ending on Labour Day weekend somewhat obsolete, you’ll need to get comfortable with the idea of breaking the whites out after the first weekend in September.
The legendary Rod Laver in all white everything, meanwhile Angelique Kerber won Wimbledon this year decked out in Palace.
The All-England Club in Wimbledon, England, plays host to the third Grand Slam of the annual tennis calendar and is synonymous with interminable matches, strawberries and cream and white clothing.
Historically, Wimbledon has been fertile ground for fashion that blurs the lines between sportswear chic and Ivy League prep. More recently, Roger Federer and Serena Williams — the former previously of Nike and the latter still sponsored by the brand — have showcased some more experimental white-on-white looks. Federer has flirted with the rules, breaking out cream-coloured cardigans (OK per the rules!) and orange-soled sneakers (not OK per the rules!). He’s also rocked a white three-piece military-inspired suit on court, which was both alarming and awesome, sartorially. The preppier look, with the cardigan, was a huge hit and consistently ranks among the greatest tennis outfits; proof that white-on-white can work! Williams, for her part, sported a white blazer for the 2013 edition, reminiscent of the men’s tennis apparel of yore—we’re talking Fred Perry and René Lacoste days — that showcased the power of the white blazer.
But, Wimbledon isn’t just about preppy monochromatic outfits, either. This year, Palace, the London based skate brand, took Wimbledon by storm in the form of a collaboration with adidas that was worn by the Three Stripes’ tennis ambassadors. Despite being designed for on-court wear, the message was clear: Palace and adidas believed that there was some off-court lifestyle appeal to the gear, which, of course, was exclusively white.
Is there a style icon who more epitomizes effortless cool than Steve McQueen? Hashtag menswear acolytes will have you know that there isn’t and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. McQueen meticulously curated his on-screen style in a bid to become the world’s most famous actor at the time and his portrayal of Thomas Crown may be the most stylish role of all time.
McQueen’s style was founded on some key tenets: suede chukkas, khakis, timeless timepieces and a willingness to wear — and an ability to absolutely crush — white-on-white outfits. Looking back on pictures of McQueen in white, or off-white, T-shirts, sweaters, chinos and tennis shoes one thing is clear: the key to McQueen’s blanched wardrobe was its simplicity.
See, McQueen used style to build his brand, not to overpower it and there was nothing that furthered that aim more than simple, but well-cut, white T-shirts and white pants. Find a shade of white that looks good with your skin tone (creamy shades for paler skin!) and make sure that the cut fits your frame well — fit and tone were at the core of McQueen’s timeless white T-shirt and white jeans aesthetic. And, if it’s good enough for Steve McQueen’s wardrobe, it’s probably good enough for yours.
Diametrically opposed to Steve McQueen’s toned down take on the white-on-white look we find Aubrey Graham’s ostentatious approach to achromatic outfits. You may best remember Drake in his whitey-whites from the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, when he may have had more white pieces than he did awards — just kidding, he won a whopping 13 awards compared to his white jacket (1), white pants (2), white sneakers (3) and, presumably, white undershirt and white underwear (4, 5). While the matching Stone Island kit was certainly eye-catching, it wasn’t the first time that Drake has experimented with the all-white everything vibe.
It’s been a mainstay of his wardrobe since the early 2010s, when he would pair white jeans and a white hoodie with wheat-coloured Timberland boots, or throw a beige coat on top of a white crewneck worn with white jeans and white sneakers.
AND OF COURSE, WHO COULD FORGET ABOUT THE TIME THAT DRAKE AND RIHANNA TOOK THE STAGE BOTH WEARING ALL-WHITE OUTFITS FOR THE 2016 BRIT AWARDS. THIS WAS PEAK DRAKE AND RIHANNA ERA AND THE PRISTINE WHITE OUTFITS GAVE OFF A DREAMY, ALMOST ANGELIC VIBE THAT WE, AS A SOCIETY, WILL NEVER GET TO TRULY APPRECIATE.
Overall, Drake tends to rock the all-white looks when he’s feeling at the top of his game. We all have pieces that we dust off for “big occasions”, Drake’s just happens to feature a lot of white.
Hip-Hop writ large
It would disingenuous to talk about Drake but leave out hip-hop proud history when it comes to the aesthetic. P. Diddy is probably the biggest ambassador of the white-on-white outfit, having stepped out in predominantly white garb a number of times over the years. I mean… the man throws an all-white party.
Kanye West, too, hasn’t shied away from pairing a white T-shirt with white pants and sneakers — he seemed particularly fond of it in the early KimYe days —, nor has his mentor Jay-Z. Is this something that gets passed down from one generation of rap moguls to the next? We may never know. Two of West’s frequent collaborators, Common and John Legend, are both fond of the white tux or, at the very least, the white smoking jacket.
There’s something about the way that hip-hop artists wear white-on-white that exudes a quiet confidence — or not so quiet, given the palette’s flamboyant nature, despite the lack of colour.
You probably never noticed the sheer quantity — and outlandish quality — of white-on-white looks in Scarface. Okay, well, you probably noticed that white suit, broken up with the blood red shirt, but what about the white tux that Tony Montana sports? And what about Alejandro Sosa, the single best-dressed movie villain of all time and the originator of drug dealer chic? Yes I know those are two big claims, but I stand firmly behind them. Sosa greets Tony Montana in a white linen shirt, white pants and a cream coloured track top, before later pulling off a pair of white pants, with a beige sweater layered over a white button down. Even the leading lady, Elvira Hancock, steps out in a stunning white suit dress, with matching white heels and a white hat.
In Scarface the whites-only looks tend to be braggadocios and, to a certain extent, presumptuous like we laid out at the outset because the underworld kingpins are confident they couldn’t possibly get their pristine white garments dirty. But it works in the context of the movie and very well at that.
White-on-white is for only the most self-assured… at least in Scarface.
Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2019
Of course, this interest in the history of the white-on-white outfit was sparked by something and that something was Virgil Abloh’s debut show for Louis Vuitton. The first seventeen looks of his Spring-Summer 2019 collection were all pristinely achromatic. They were drapey and layered in a way that is only possible when all of the layers are white, illustrating just how powerful—and goddamn luxurious—a well-layered white-on-white outfit can be.
The rest of the collection was chock full of colours and prints, ranging from beige to vibrant reds and eye-searing neons. The idea, per Abloh, was that of light hitting a prism; the white looks were the pure light and the coloured looks that came after were the dispersed light. Despite the very articulate explanation for the aesthetic break, the first seventeen looks stood above the others in terms of their understated luxury—at least in this writer’s eyes.
The white-on-white aesthetic knows no bounds. From Steve McQueen to Virgil Abloh’s debut Louis Vuitton collection, pairing white garments together has transcended eras, genders, styles and even classes. It is a look that exudes an aura of confidence and one that few are willing to try for themselves. But, having long looked upon it with apprehension, I can testify that there’s something about a white jacket, white T-shirt and white pants that, when worn together, makes you feel like a million bucks.
All white everything
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