White Shoes Rule

White Shoes Rule


white shoe rule

There are various schools of thought on wearing white bucks and spectators (which ill collectively refer to as ‘white shoes’), no doubt.  Since my interest in men’s style took hold a few years ago I have heard murmurings about the differences in the rule on the subject between the north and the south.  Something I had always attributed to the warmer climate of our southern states.  However, a recent reading up on the subject, including an article from To The Manor Born, has shed some new light onto the subject.

It is opined that this difference between the North and South perhaps relates to the Civil War, which is not surprising in the least because it seems that most current day differences stem from the war (for all of you non-American readers you may want to quickly read up on the subject if you are not familiar).  In the Northeast, it is permissible to wear white shoes between Memorial and Labor Days, which is the white shoe rule that I have always followed.  Many people follow these rules for white pants and shorts as well.  However, I have always thought that whites season started earlier in the South, around Easter.  Again, due to the warmer climate.

In the TTMB piece, David Bagwell argues that the difference in Southern custom, which favors white season starting at Easter, results more from Memorial Day honoring fallen Union, and not Confederate, soldiers.  And for any Southern gentlemen to honor Union soldiers is apparently an anathema, so Memorial Day is apparently not a real holiday in more traditional parts of the South.  Thus, it would be illogical to start whites season on such a ‘holiday,’ or so I have interpreted it.  But then again, I am just a Yankee with some Southern roots; so what do I know…

Well anyway, for those of us above the Mason Dixon tomorrow is a great day, for we can wear our white bucks yet again.  Well, at least until Labor day, that is.

God Bless America,

Justin L. Jeffers


  1. Any Southerner still “honoring” Confederate “traditions” of racism and slavery by refusing to celebrate Memorial Day is an asshole

    • As a Southerner who has been around the South a bit, I’ve never come across southerners who don’t celebrate Memorial Day. I think David Bagwell just conjured that up as pure conjecture to explain why Southerners wear summer shoes before the “official unofficial” start of Summer, Memorial Day. We wear summery clothes before Memorial Day because the temperatures down here get summery well before Memorial Day, and for no other reason.

      This isn’t the first time I’ve had a conversation with someone who tried to explain away something as being due to Southern sour grapes over losing the Civil War. Around Halloween, I was asking on an architecture forum about why it’s so hard to find examples of Second Empire-style architecture (the classic haunted house style). Some brain proceeded to lecture me on Second Empire being a style associated with the North, and since Houstonians had been on the side of the South and still harbored a grudge about the Civil War in the late 1800s, they rejected anything associated with the North. That argument doesn’t hold water, however, because there are numerous county courthouses throughout Texas built in the Second Empire style.

  2. the one that will make you stand out the most is white. White handmadebrogues can also work well in clubs … I will wear them with a pair of simple jeans and dress shirt

  3. Regarding the shoes pictured above; Please make no mention, ever, of where they may be procured. Utterly Hideous.

  4. Down here on the Texas Gulf Coast, we have a practically tropical climate, so many of us believe the exceptions for tropical climates prevail. The rule as it pertains to linen is the one most commonly flouted, linen is worn whenever it is hot enough that linen would be more comfortable than even the lightest tropical worsted (worsted and humidity make for an unpleasant smell). That’s from about sometime in early-mid May all the way to late October. Though we tend to avoid very obvious summertime outfits after mid-September – like seersucker suits, white or cream linen suits, white bucks. A tan or stone poplin suit is still fair game, though.

    I first don my white bucks on Easter Sunday, and put them away after Labor Day, unless I happen to be attending a daytime wedding in September when it’s hot. Some other rules:
    1. Please don’t wear your white bucks with shorts. Don’t wear any dress shoes with shorts, and white bucks are cut like a dress shoe. The only shoes that look good with shorts are lowcut casual shoes like boat shoes, loafers. A derby-cut shoe with shorts gives the impression of a British schoolboy in shortpants, not a good look. And while we are at it, don’t wear a longsleeve shirt with shorts, that defies all logic – your legs need to be ventilated but your arms need to be insulated?
    2. Please wear your white bucks with socks. Get some white, cream, or light tan dress socks. Wearing shoes, especially leather shoes, especially in the heat of summer, is terrible for your feet and for the leather of the shoes. And putting aside shoe care and foot health, the only shoes that really look good with bare ankles are lowcut shoes like loafers and boat shoes, and only when they are worn with shorts. When they are worn with pants, these shoes should be worn with socks. The brief gap of bare skin between trouser and leather is aesthetically jarring. Again, white bucks are a dressier cut of shoe, and should be worn only with pants, which also means they should be worn with socks.
    3. In the city, white bucks shouldn’t be worn in the evening. If you’re wearing white bucks, chances are you’re at least giving a passing nod to traditional mens’ style, and such style had rules. Frank Sinatra was an icon of style in his day, and believed, as nightime was a more formal time that daytime (hence no tuxedos before 6), one should dress more formally at night. He believed a man should never wear a brown suit after dark. He was also strict on shoes: “There’s no excuse for brown shoes past sundown…. Or white shoes. Or anything gray, unless it’s deep charcoal. Or blue, unless it’s midnight blue. In fact, let’s keep it simple: after dark, men should wear black.” I don’t think we need to be quite so strict as old blue eyes, but a bright white shoe really is a daytime shoe. So unless you’re at the seashore or maybe out in the country, change out of the bucks before sundown.
    4. Keep your white bucks looking nice. I know there is a whole tradition going back to the 1950s of East Coast prep school and college-age boys letting their white bucks get scuffed and stained, maybe deliberately so, but if you’re a grown man and want to look like one, put in the effort to keep your leather shoes shined, and your white bucks cleaned and chalked.

    Oh, and I agree with Mac, those shoes in the picture are utterly hideous. In this day and age, white bucks themselves are a bit of a bold statement, wingtipped ones with full broguing cross way over into dandyism. About the only occasion those wouldn’t look out of place is at a Kentucky Derby viewing party, as most outfits at those parties are practically costumes meant to convey southern gentility. And just because Brooks Brothers sells something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Brooks sells no-iron dress shirts, after all.