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The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor. Typically, white collar work is performed in an office or cubicle.
The term refers to the white dress shirts of male office workers common through most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western countries, as opposed to the blue shirts, uniforms or cover-alls of manual or service workers.
The term "white collar" is credited to Upton Sinclair, an American writer, in relation to contemporary clerical, administrative and management workers during the 1930s, though references to "easy work and a white collar" appear as early as 1911.
The blue collar and white collar descriptors as it pertains to work dress may no longer be an accurate descriptor as office attire has broadened beyond a white shirt and tie. Employees in office environments may wear a variety of colors, may dress business casual or wear casual clothes altogether. In addition work tasks have blurred. "White-collar" employees may perform "blue-collar" tasks (or vice versa). An example would be a restaurant manager who may wear more formal clothing yet still assist with cooking food or taking customers' orders or a construction worker who also performs desk work.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition. Electronically indexed online document. White collar, usage 1, first example.