29/3/19 Blue collar, white collar
The term blue-collar describes working-class people, especially those who work in manufacturing, construction, and other fields involving manual labor and hourly wages. It also describes things having to do with working-class people, such as the areas where they live and their shared concerns, and it can describe a style of working. For instance, a football coach who is hands-on in practice and speaks in a no-nonsense way might be described as having a blue-collar style.
White-collar describes people who don’t perform manual labor, especially office workers, management, and administrative staff. It is also extended to describe things having to do with white-collar people (especially in the phrase white-collar crime), but it is not as common as blue-collar in this sort of use.
Both terms came about in the early to middle 20th century in the United States. White-collar precedes blue-collar by a few years (or at least was widely used earlier),1 so the latter may have been suggested by the former. Their derivations are obvious. People who work in manufaturing and other manual-labor jobs tend to wear darker, often blue, clothing to conceal dirt and grease, whereas people who work in offices tend to wear white or light-colored clothing because there is little risk of getting visibly dirty.
The income gains of the blue-collar workers under the powerful post-World War II unions, at the expense of the largely unorganized white-collar workers, raise questions about the subsequent interplay of income, power, status, and style of life at these class levels.