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Designation of Workers by Collar Color
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.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.
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 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.
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.
A gold-collar worker is a highly skilled multidisciplinarian 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 I.T., scientific research and advanced industry.
Some job categories involve duties that fall under one or more of the categories listed above, or none of the above. These categories include:
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.
Grey collar - workforce that isn't 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.
^Benczes, Réka (2006). Creative Compounding in English: The Semantics of Metaphorical and Metonymical Noun-Noun Combinations. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. pp. 144-146.