Designation of workers by collar color
Collar color is a set of terms denoting groups of working individuals based on the colors of their collars worn at work. These can commonly reflect one's occupation within a broad class, or sometimes gender; at least in the late 20th and 21st century, these are generally metaphorical and not a description of typical present apparel. For the two terms of longest use, 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, although none have received the kind of broad use in American English as the traditional white-collar/blue-collar distinction.
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. A white-collar worker is a salaried professional, typically referring to general office workers and management.
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 1970s as a phrase to describe jobs that were typically held by women; now the meaning has changed to encompass all service jobs.
There are a number of other terms used less frequently, or which translate to English from common use in other languages. These categories include:
- Red collar – Government workers of all types; derived from compensation received from red ink budget. In China, it also refers to Communist Party officials in private companies.
- Purple collar – Skilled workers, 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 and technicians.
- 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; also, people who work, but not for payment.
- Orange collar – Prison laborers, named for the orange jumpsuits commonly worn by inmates.
- Green collar – Workers in a wide range of professions relating to the environment and renewable energy.
- Scarlet collar – Workers in the sex industry
- Brown collar – Military personnel
- Steel collar – Robots, particularly in manufacturing that typically replace blue collar jobs.
- Black collar – Manual laborers in industries in which workers generally become very dirty, such as mining or oil-drilling; has also been used to describe workers in illegal professions.
- Grey collar – workforce that is not classified in blue collar nor white collar. It is occasionally used to describe elderly individuals working beyond the age of retirement, as well as those occupations incorporating elements of both blue- and white-collar.
- Gold collar – introduced in the early 2000s, this refers to a high skilled multi-disciplinarian or knowledge worker who combines intellectual labor—which is typically white-collar—with the manual labor of blue-collar positions. Armed with highly specialized knowledge, gold-collar workers usually engage in problem-solving or complex technical work in fields such as academic/scientific research, engineering technicians and advanced technology industries.
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