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What is a Blue Collar Worker?

Michael Pollick
Updated Jan 21, 2024
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Quite often, the color of a person's work shirt is used as a bit of cultural shorthand to determine his or her socioeconomic class. White collar workers are often associated with the upper middle and rich classes, since their work is primarily office-related. A blue collar worker is generally viewed as a middle class skilled laborer, who may work in an industrial setting or other hands-on professions. A pink collar worker is a person in a traditionally female job. In some countries, such as Great Britain, there is also the black collar worker, who barely earns a subsistence wage as an unskilled laborer in coal mines or other labor-intensive jobs.

The "blue collar" aspect of the term may be a misnomer these days, since skilled laborers and union workers are not necessarily limited to blue work shirts anymore. The original work shirts created for the middle and lower class workforce were indeed blue, often to match the blue denim work pants and overalls favored by factory workers. White shirts would never survive the harsh conditions of a factory, so they were reserved for clerical workers seeking a professional appearance. Management and labor leaders often recognized their peers by the color of their shirts.

Over time, the term blue collar worker entered the public vernacular to represent the hardworking Everyman, a regular working class citizen who provided for his or her family. This type of worker is often viewed as having traditional values, a strong sense of patriotism and a solid work ethic. Many are either members of a labor union or strongly support worker's rights in non-union labor situations.

This connection with the common man has led to a few other nicknames associated with skilled laborers. He may be a "Workaday Joe," a "regular working stiff," "Joe Six-Pack," or "Joe Lunchbox." Many are content to work 40 hours a week for decent hourly wages. For many blue collar workers, working overtime or on holidays is their preferred version of a white collar performance bonus. Retirement typically means a nominal company or union-funded pension, not a golden parachute or perpetual stock dividends.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By latte31 — On Dec 03, 2010

I know that there is also a term for pink color which denotes a profession that is dominated by women.

An example of a pink collar worker could be hair stylist or elementary school teacher although these professions are now seeing a surge in men entering these professions.

An administrative assistant or a nurse is normally a type of profession with a lot of women but occasionally you do see men in these positions.

By subway11 — On Dec 01, 2010

I agree their skits are funny. I think that you can really classify a blue collar worker if they have to wear a uniform or not.

Usually blue collar workers all wear distinguishable uniforms. A police office, a fireman, a crossing guard, a bellman, and a mechanic all inform you of the type of job they have based on their attire.

White collar individuals all wear business attire and are usually executives or work in administrative supporting roles.

By SauteePan — On Nov 29, 2010

Blue collar comedy depicts satirical humor based on what a blue collar worker experiences.

Blue collar TV as it is otherwise known features comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, Bill Engwall, and Larry the Cable Guy.

These blue collar jokes are offered by stand up routines from each of the comedians. They also go on a blue collar comedy tour which is really funny. These blue collar comedians poke fun at themselves and makes for great light hearted humor. It is nice when people do not take themselves so seriously.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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