Friday is the New Black: The History of a Retailer’s Favorite Day

Attention, shoppers! As you may know, today is the dreaded/beloved "Black Friday," when the Christmas shopping season starts, discounts are at their highest, and stores abound with ravenous bargain hunters. Now, despite what you may think, Thanksgiving was not created as a day-long preparation and "carb up" for the big spree (in fact, most Pilgrims put off their trip to the local WalMart to the last minute.). Instead, "Black Friday" rose out of Post-War affluence when Ozzies and Harriets everywhere would wake from turkey-induced slumbers and, panicked that they had only a month until X-mas, would run down to Gimbels (ask your parents) to stock up on underwear and G.I. Joes. Retailers responded by creating more discounts, a feedback loop that continues to draw ever more frenzied customers.
For more on Black Friday, read below.
Coined in the mid-60s to describe the gridlock that cropped up in downtown Philadelphia each year after Thanksgiving, "Black Friday" was a nod to the "Black Thursday," "Black Monday," and "Black Tuesday" that ushered in what we now call the "First Depression." The urban legend that "Black Friday," refers to the date when many retailers go from being "in the red" (Grandpa's way of saying "in debt") to "in the black," (old-folk speak for "solvent") is just that—hokum (rest home for "bullshit"). As we all know, any decent business stays in debt permanently for tax purposes. Another non-fact, today is typically not the largest spending day of the year, which changes on an annual basis. Other important "black" dates include "Black Saturday," the time when a violent massacre helped foment the Lebanese Civil War and, of course, the day when Vince McMahon took over WTBS wrestling programming. "Black Monday," kicked off the recession of the late '80s and is not to be confused with "Blue Monday," which is either a drug-induced hangover or a New Order song. "Cyber Monday," an Internet-age "Black Friday," is the first workday after Thanksgiving when the laziest of shoppers (i.e. us) take advantage of ecommerce discounts (stay tuned for those.) We hope that this brief historical lesson will help add context to and enrich the experience of elbowing perfectly innocent people in the face in order to get a hold of that 70%-off Paul Smith scarf that Dad might possibly like for Christmas. Happy shopping.
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