When you know, you know. From birth, Southerners are packed chock-full with the customs of our deeply rooted heritage. Our culture is as steeped in tradition as the sweet tea we drink, and Southerners are born into a legacy that makes us feel strongly bound to what came before us. Nonetheless, some feel it more strongly than others. For example, can you be Southern by birth, but not in taste? Of course. There are certain tells of true Southern taste, and these cover every pillar, from style preferences to behavioral expectations. In fact, we’d be inclined to say that how we conduct ourselves speaks more loudly concerning taste than which china patterns we pick. These champions of Southern taste showcase some of our favorite things: timeless antiques, smocked dresses, and wedding traditions; as well as some things graceful Southerners just know: table manners, seersucker season, and grocery store etiquette. For those wondering just how Southern in taste they are, find the ultimate checklist below and see which customs fit you like a glove. Convinced you have better Southern inclinations than your sister or best friend? We’d say this is a fine challenge.
Classic and timeless beats trendy and cool, every time.
When it comes to everything from personal style to home décor, classic will always work. (Unlike that Lucite bedside table.) From your pearls to your credenza, heirlooms are timeless and treasured. A certain nostalgia comes along with being Southern and receiving things that are passed down, and we like to show our respect. As for our closet, we know that investing in a classic white button-down and a little black dress will transcend time, while those leather jeggings definitely will not. (Check out the Gal Meets Glam collection for classic Southern silhouettes.)
The season is always on our mind.
You know that seersucker is only appropriate starting Easter Sunday and definitely not at Christmas dinner. Mama always said that white just won’t do after Labor Day, and (trends be darned!) we still can’t bring ourselves to do it. You know that summer is a time for peaches, tomatoes, and okra—and you’ll be serving such all season when hosting, always fresh from the garden or farmers’ market. Derby season begs for a brand-new wide-brim hat, and football season your best gameday colors. These rules are understood and steadfast.
Antique dives, flea markets, and thrift stores are filled with hidden gems.
Southerners love to strike a deal. Present day: This looks like us snagging a Costco steal or shopping designer at T.J. Maxx. Growing up: This looked like our father spontaneously buying an old pickup truck at a gas station because the deal “was too sweet to pass up.” You know that incorporating antique finds into your own collection of heirlooms and modern décor gives a certain Southern charm to any home, and you’re not too proud to go search for it. That antique table you found in the corner of the flea market will always outlive Ikea.
Smocks and bows, gingham and seersucker—these are the staples of the Southern child’s wardrobe.
Southern children’s clothing is a pillar all its own. There’s really no occasion that doesn’t call for our little girls to don their cutest smocked dress with a matching hair bow on top. We don’t send our kids to school in sweats, barring the apocalypse is unfolding. Our young boys don’t wear miniature tuxedos for weddings, but button-front bobby suits. You’ll know when you see a Southern baby–because he or she will be dressed in something monogrammed, smocked, or specifically designed to showcase those chubby thighs. Down here, our taste in children’s clothing is just a bit more classic.
We’d take the Shag and swing dancing over the waltz any day.
This is just how we like to celebrate. It’s a surefire win at Southern weddings and parties, getting everyone on their feet and off their behinds (no one wants to throw a dull party down here). It’s the dance of choice at sorority formals, with bands playing loud and quick. Though we know how to wow the crowd at any debutante ball with a curtsy and a waltz, we’re way more about the high-paced hullabaloo of shagging and swing dancing that any stuffy swaying.
Weddings are a delicate dance of tradition.
Before we say “I do,” we have to say “I don’t” to any and everything tacky. Tradition means everything in Southern weddings, from burying the bourbon to weaving in a treasured heirloom as your “something borrowed.” Monograms make the list, with the wedding party sporting everything from hankies, to bow ties, to pocket squares with their respective monograms stitched in the wedding colors. Flower girls wear smocked dresses, and ring bearers don button-up bobby suits. Outdoor weddings in the summer trade thick black tuxes for airy light seersucker. Without a doubt, our weddings put Southern taste on full display.
Our silver and china is treasured, but used often.
Our china can be seen as a tale of time. Patterns get passed down from generation to generation, and we register for them before entering a new phase of life. Be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, those paper plates are staying in the cabinet or drawer where they belong. These Southern celebrations are the time to break out the china and Good Silver. Not to say we won’t use our china on any given Tuesday either; it gives a little charm and elegance to every meal. We’re even inclined to display these beautiful plates on our dining room walls. Sharing something sentimental in a more decorative way is a tasteful way to enjoy it daily.
Manners are the ultimate accessory.
You know nothing makes you look better than a good set of manners. Southerners are practically born writing thank you notes, and we grow up learning the proper etiquette for every situation, from the church pew to the holiday party. Always saying “yes ma’am” and “yes sir,” “please” and “thank you”—this sets us apart from our regional counterparts. It’s not old-fashioned; it’s respectful. For us, bad manners make up the highest level of bad taste.
But our hair and lipstick are a close second.
Right after your manners, perfectly coiffed hair and classic lipstick will make you feel ready for anything. Every Southern woman knows that a signature lipstick shade is about more than just finding your perfect color. It’s about finding confidence in a tube, and we veer towards classic reds and tasteful nudes. Southern women have always placed importance on putting their best foot forward in every situation, and you’ll follow suit for the sake of letting the legacy live on. Whether we’re heading to church service or the grocery store, we’ll have these two accessories in tow.
We would never air dirty laundry at the dinner party—or put those elbows on the supper table.
There’s nothing more distasteful than acting up at supper, be it a dinner party or family meal. Table manners might be your grandmother’s most particular grievance, but she knows just as well that you never air dirty laundry in front of a crowd. You’re there to have a meal and a conversation, nothing more. No matter what, acting gracious and composed is always the best look. While it’s no secret that adults can act up at a dinner party like the naughtiest of kids, you know how to keep things tasteful. In the words of Mama: “Always remember: A Southern woman is fully capable of having a smile on her face and murder in her heart—figuratively speaking, of course.”
We pay heed to the rules, but know when to break them. (Rarely, and with purpose.)
Being born Southern comes with hefty expectations, but Southerners know that some rules are just worth following. Pride is as thick as honey down here, and you won’t be caught dead with your hair wet or makeup shabby, even at the grocery store. (We take supermarket etiquette very seriously.) It’s not about being conceited; it’s about showing respect to those around us. Handwritten thank you notes, sympathy casseroles, and calling your Mama on Sunday night—these are some essentials we know. Alas, there’s always exceptions. When holiday hosting is in full swing, storebought pie crust and rotisserie chicken help keep insanity at bay.
Bow ties and pearls aren’t to be worn ironically.
Pearls are a forever classic, and we treasure every strand down here. Bow ties always look debonair á la James Bond, but Southern men can wear them in every color and pattern under the sun for a little extra flair. These two essentials are the epitome of traditional style and Southern taste—accessories that will never let you down. Our taste might seem archaic to some, but we won’t apologize for it. Classic always comes back. (Those skinny neck ties on the other hand...)