Newcomers from around the country are flocking to the South, and who can blame them? We have enough giant insects to share, so the more the merrier. But while some of these folks “do as we do,” and participate in our activities, others arrive and want to tell us how disgusting our food is and how we sound like bumpkins. Then, of all the nerve, they brazenly wear white shoes after Labor Day because some low-level fashion intern at a magazine craving headlines has declared it to be OK. These people who thumb their noses at our way of life are the ones who give the other lovely newcomers a bad name.
After ack-ack-choking on my lunch yesterday when a woman wore bright white sandals at the table next to me, a full week after Labor Day, I realized this topic needed reviewing.
The white shoes rule boils down to this, we’re at the mercy of our chaotic environment, which is usually as hot as new love. We can point to any day on the calendar and there will be a 60% chance of being uncomfortable or having a tree fall on our house accompanied by a biblical fly-over of locusts.
Who amongst us hasn’t thrown open the windows just to be able to enjoy a cozy night by the fireplace?
Because of the unpredictable and confusing weather, our ancestors relied on the Farmer’s Almanac and the organization of their limited wardrobe to help them know where they were in the year. We’ve maintained the practice because tradition is a powerful force.
Suede boots signal we’re close to Thanksgiving and white sandals say, “let’s make plans to picnic at the beach” Seersucker says, “get the fireworks ready” and plaid wool skirts say, “let’s go caroling!” Just because some outsiders wear white shoes after Labor Day, don’t be weak and let them lure you to the dark side. The next thing you’ll know they’ll have you putting sugar on your grits. Granny would say, “remember who you are.”
Brides and majorettes are allowed to wear white shoes or boots all year, and the widow wears black. Crazed football fans wear T-shirts that say, “we’re gonna whoop ya.” The teenager at the Piggly Wiggly wears the giant pig costume and our pastors (used to) wear suits. We wear the uniform of society to keep order.
When newcomers “do as the Romans do,” it makes them one of us, and we love them like family. When they enjoy our food, children and music, we’ll save them a seat at the high school football games. But if they tell us our restaurants are terrible and our teachers are dim-bulbs, they should go ahead and wear white shoes after Labor Day as yet another signal they just don’t like the way we do things and don’t really want to be one of us.
Understanding the art of “fitting in,” Saint Ambrose would have quickly adjusted to living in the South today. Right after Easter, he’d pop on a seersucker robe with white bucks, and we’d love him as one of our own.
This story first appeared on AL.com and in the newspapers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville.