Designation of workers by collar color

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Groups of working individuals are typically classified based on the colors of their collars worn at work; these can commonly reflect one's occupation or sometimes gender.[1] White-collar workers are named for the white-collared shirts that were fashionable among office workers in the early and mid-20th century. Blue-collar workers are referred to as such because in the early 20th century, they usually wore sturdy, inexpensive clothing that did not show dirt easily, such as blue denim or cambric shirts. Various other "collar" descriptions exist as well.

White collar[edit]

The term "white-collar worker" was coined in the 1930s by Upton Sinclair, an American writer who referenced the word in connection to clerical, administrative and managerial functions during the 1930s.[2] A white-collar worker is a salaried professional, typically referring to general office workers and management. However, in certain developed countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, a person is assumed to be a white-collar worker when one engages in a highly professional and successful career or works in either an administrative or managerial role.

Blue collar[edit]

A blue-collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labour and either earns an hourly wage or is paid piece rate for the amount of work done. This term was first used in 1924.[3]

Pink collar[edit]

A pink-collar worker is also a member of the working class who performs in the service industry. They work in positions such as waiters, retail clerks, salespersons, and many other positions involving relations with people. The term was coined in the late 1990s as a phrase to describe jobs that were typically held by women; now the meaning has changed to encompass all service jobs.[4][5][6]

Gold collar[edit]

A gold-collar worker is a highly skilled multidisciplinarian who combines the mind of a white-collar worker with the hands of a blue-collar employee. Armed with a solid grounding in mathematics and science (physics, chemistry, and biology), these “gold-collar” workers—so named for their contributions to their companies and to the economy, as well as for their personal earning ability—apply that knowledge to technology.[7]

Other classifications[edit]

Some job categories involve duties that fall under one or more of the categories listed above, or none of the above.[8] These categories include:

  • Red collar– Government workers of all types;[9] derived from compensation received from red ink budget. Also in China, refers to Communist Party officials in private companies.[10]
  • Purple collar – Skilled technicians, typically someone who is both white and blue collar; an example is information technology workers. They are principally white-collar, but perform blue-collar tasks with some regularity, such as engineers.
  • New collar - develops technical and soft skills needed to work in the contemporary technology industry through nontraditional education paths
  • No collar – Artists and "free spirits" who tend to privilege passion and personal growth over financial gain. This term was popularized on the reality game show Survivor: Worlds Apart, which used No Collar (in addition to White and Blue Collar as the tribal divisions);[11] also, people who work, but not for payment.[9]
  • Orange collar – Prison laborers, named for the orange jumpsuits commonly worn by inmates.[9][12]
  • Green collar – Workers in a wide range of professions relating to the environment and renewable energy.
  • Scarlet collar – Workers in the sex industry[9]
  • Brown collar – Military personnel
  • Black collar – Manual laborers in industries in which workers generally become very dirty, such as mining or oil-drilling;[9][13] has also been used to describe workers in illegal professions.
  • Grey collar - workforce that is not classified in blue collar nor white collar.



  1. ^ Benczes, Réka (2006). Creative Compounding in English: The Semantics of Metaphorical and Metonymical Noun-Noun Combinations. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 144–146.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition. Electronically indexed online document. White collar, usage 1, first example.
  3. ^ Wickman, Forrest. "Working Man's Blues: Why do we call manual laborers blue collar?", 1 May 2012.
  4. ^ Elkins, Kathleen (February 17, 2015) "20 jobs that are dominated by women" Business Insider
  5. ^ "Pink collar"
  6. ^ Tennery, Ann (Mat 23, 2012) "The Term 'Pink Collar' Is Silly And Outdated — Let’s Retire It" Time
  7. ^ Ann Roe, Mary (May 2001) [1] Harvard Business Review
  8. ^ Van Horn, Carl; Schaffner, Herbert (2003). Work in America: M-Z. CA, USA: ABC-Clio Ltd. p. 597. ISBN 9781576076767.
  9. ^ a b c d e Biseria, Puneet (May 20, 2015) "Types of Collar"
  10. ^ "Red-Collars in Private Companies". Beijing Review. Jun 28, 2007. Retrieved 14 April 2015.
  11. ^ Feinberg, Daniel. "Recap: 'Survivor: Worlds Apart' Premiere - 'It's Survivor Warfare'". Hitfix. Hitfix, Inc. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  12. ^ Pandeli, Jenna (2014). "Title: Orange collar workers: an exploratory study of modern prison labour and the involvement of private firms". University of Bristol. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  13. ^ Friedrich, Thomas (2013) Hitler's Berlin: Abused City Spencer, Stewart (trans). New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-16670-5. p.12.