Labor Day Netnography

Niraj Sharma |
 09/06/11 |
4 min read

Labor Day may officially be a day to recognize the contributions of working people, but for those who get the long weekend off, it’s a time for trips, relaxing and partying. People who have to work, on the other hand, are a bit resentful, and rightly so—aren’t their employers supposed to give them the day off to say thank you? On the lighter side, the holiday is the annual occasion to observe or disregard the fashion injunction against wearing white after Labor Day.

About Labor Day

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 5 in 2011) that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. For most Americans, Labor Day is the symbolic end of the summer. In high society, Labor Day is considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable for women to wear white.

Positive Themes

“Recreational Time” was the biggest positive, with people specifying that they were “Going Somewhere,” “Doing Sports,” or “Reading Good Books.”

  • It’s time for road trip, I think labor day would be a good weekend for one. (source)
  • But I’m all caught up now! Yay for a trip to Mexico! I am trying to convince Miguel to do some sort of quick Labor Day weekend getaway – with the way my work is going right now I could really use it. (source)
  • @bcuban I am so not going out in the whole sept month! Aspen,CO for labor day weekend is pure Volleyball! Don’t you just love Aspen!? I do! (source)

Who doesn’t look forward to a three-day weekend?  So “Looking Forward To It” was a common theme.

  • I can’t wait until this weekend!I love labor day weekend! (source)
  • Gonna enjoy my two days off this #labor day #weekend hope everyone enjoys as well :). (source)

Many posters say Labor Day to them means “A Celebration.”

  • Out talking with the immediate neighbor when others strolled by and stopped to chat. Most are staying put this weekend, planning to attend Labor Day festivities in town but thought the BBQ tonight would be a great swan song to summer. (source)
  • RT @mwarren92: Parades, crafts, square-dancing, funnel cakes, and fun! I love Labor Day weekend!!! (source)

And here’s a rebel who’s going to wear white after Labor Day. Shocking!

  • RT @nancywurtzel: Hey, I’m going to wear white clothes all weekend, because the fashion police say ‘no white’ after Labor Day. Damn Them … (source)

Negative Themes

Several Labor Day themes vie for the biggest negative, with “Have to Work” getting the largest slice of the pie chart.

  • I hate Labor Day weekend because I have to work 2/3 of it. (source)
  • Labor Day Weekend is fitting..I’m working the whole weekend and Monday too… so close. (source)

We saw in Positive Themes that many people look forward to the weekend, but many others find it “Pretty Boring,” or mainly think of it in terms of “Traffic & Crowded.”

  • I know Monday is a holiday, but does anyone really like Labor Day? (source)
  • I believe my labor day weekend will be pretty boring. (source)
  • We have been to the area on both Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends, and it’s insanely packed. If you plan on sleeping in Knoxville, it’s best to just stay there. It could take 2 hours or more for you to get to Gatlinburg itself with all the traffic. (source)

Apparently the “can’t wear white after Labor Day,” injunction gives people an opportunity to be a nonconformist.

  • I’d be scared to wear white after Labor Day… Tim Gunn might come hunt you down… (source)
  • I’ve never really followed the no white after Labor Day rule as I think it’s stupid, especially if it’s still hot out. Technically the summer isn’t over until mid-late September, so why should people feel like they can’t dress for the season after the 1st Monday of that month? IMO it’s ridiculous! (source)


One theme that’s almost completely missing from the discussion is the diminished status of labor in the country. Membership in unions fell to a 70-year low last year  and there are controversial anti-union measures that have already been adopted or are under consideration in several states. But saying that the original meaning and intent of a holiday (in this case, honoring labor) can get a bit lost is not really an insight (think Christmas, Memorial Day, Easter).

What people like most about Labor Day is simply that it’s a three-day weekend they can spend doing what they like, whether that’s traveling or reading. Because everyone has the same three days off, the traffic and crowding at popular destinations can be a turnoff, but apparently not so much that people don’t go.

The holiday also serves as a traditional milepost in the progress of the year: kids go back to school, summer is over, and, oh yeah, you can’t wear white anymore. Why not? If you you’re curious about the “rule,” you can read about its origins here.

About Our Approach

This case study is a form of social media analysis called a netnography—a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online communities.

To write this netnography, NetBase analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about the brand. The posts are automatically sorted into Positive or Negative classifications by our natural language processing (NLP) engine, then we manually sample those posts.

To summarize a netnography as we’ve done here, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.

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