Blue Collar – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Blue-collar jobs are the backbone of any economy! They include jobs in manufacturing, construction, and manual labor. These jobs are often dangerous and physically demanding but essential to keeping things running. However, have you ever wondered what exactly the term blue collar means and where it came from? If so, you are in the right place. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The term “blue collar” is used to describe manual labor jobs. These jobs are typically in factories, construction sites, or other physical labor occupations. The term is often used in contrast to “white collar” jobs, which are typically office jobs that require mental labor rather than physical labor. Blue-collar workers earn their living with their hands and often work long, hard hours for little pay. Many of them do not have college degrees. Their income is usually determined by how many hours they work.

It is often used as a way to differentiate between manual labor jobs and office jobs. White-collar jobs are typically considered office jobs requiring little to no physical labor. They are usually seen as higher-skill jobs that require more education or training. More information can be found in the video (here).

Example Usage

“Her dad worked in a factory his whole life. He was a blue-collar worker.”

“He has a blue-collar job, but he aspires to something more.”

“John is a blue-collar guy from Pennsylvania.”

“The construction workers are the backbone of this city’s blue-collar workforce.”

Origin

The term “blue collar” is thought to have originated in the early 1900s. This term comes from the color of work clothing typically worn by manual laborers. They usually wear denim or other dark-colored, inexpensive clothing. This type of clothing, when usually stained with dirt and grease, is easier to hide. The phrase specifically was used because those who worked in professions that caused soiled garments would prefer darker blues to help them appear less unsightly on their way home at the end of the day.

In the United States, the blue-collar worker is often associated with a working-class background. Manual laborers are known to favor blue denim or chambray shirts in the US, in line with the term blue collar.  White collar on the other hand refers to those who work in offices as opposed to manual labor. Some examples of blue-collar jobs include factory workers, construction workers, mechanics, and janitors.

Phrases Similar to Blue Collar

  • “Working class,” describes someone who does manual labor or work that requires little education.
  • “Daily wagers,” are people who are paid by the day and have no guarantee of work tomorrow.
  • “Unskilled labor,” is used to describe jobs that don’t require special skills or training.
  • “Low-skilled labor,” is work that requires little training.

Phrases Opposite to Blue Collar

  • “White collar,” is used to describe professional office workers.
  • “Pink-collar” describes jobs in the service industry that are traditionally female-dominated, such as nursing or teaching.
  • “Golden collar” is a term used to describe highly skilled workers in technology.

What is The Correct Saying?

  • The term “blue-collar worker” is the correct way to say this phrase.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Blue Collar

Here are some improper usages of the term:

  • Being a blue-collar worker means that you have less to think about and an easier way of living.
  • The point of wearing blue is to be a blue-collar worker, not to hide dirt.
  • Hey blue collar, why don’t you refill the coffee machine and leave the hard work to us hard-hats!

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Blue Collar

When used correctly, the term “blue-collar worker” is neutral. It simply describes someone who does manual labor for a living. Here are some proper usages of the term:

  • He’s a hardworking blue-collar worker.
  • She’s a hardworking and humble woman from a blue-collar background.
  • He’s such a lazy blue-collar worker.
  • There is nothing wrong with being a blue-collar worker, it is honest work after all.

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