Today’s businesses and organizations are not homogenous. The workforce is multi-generational with Veterans, Baby Boomers, Next-Gen, Millennials and Gen-Z workers. There are workers that do manual labor, handle a large variety and volume of paperwork, manage others, provide highly specialized services, work in the field rather than the office and perform a diversity of duties.
It may be very clear where an employee is positioned in the structural organization of the company, but what about the color of their collar? Wikipedia states that collar color is a set of terms that identify groups of working individuals based on the color of their collars worn at work. These can commonly reflect a person’s occupation within a broad class, or sometimes gender during the late 20th and 21st Century. The collar colors are generally symbolic and not a description of today’s typical apparel.
White-collar and blue-collar terms have the longest history of use. White-collar referred to the white-collared shirts that were fashionable among office workers in the early and mid-20th century. Blue-collared workers were named because they usually wore sturdy, inexpensive clothing that did not show dirt easily, such as blue denim or chambray shirts in the 20th century.
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.
Some examples of white-collar jobs include: corporate executives, advertising and public relation professionals, architects, engineers, stockbrokers, doctors, dentists and dietitians. These positions often can be highly stressful, demanding and require good time-management skills.
The term blue-collar worker was first used in 1924 and represents a member of the working class who performs manual labor for an hourly wage. Blue-collar workers are generally out of the office and in the field doing hard manual labor. Manual laborers typically prefer dark clothing so the dirt and sweat from their hard work does not easily show on their clothing. Plumbers, mechanics, electricians, HVAC service technicians and other trades people are examples of blue-collar workers.
There are many different collar colors beyond white and blue associated with different types of workers. The different characteristics of each job determine which category it comes under. The various collar colors are nothing more than occupational classifications that distinguish workers and service providers in each sector.
There are a number of other collar colors that are used less frequently, or which have been translated to English from common use in other languages. These categories include:
Pink-collar jobs, as the name implies, typically in the past have been jobs that cater towards women. Generally, pink-collar labor is related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales, or other service-oriented types of work. Librarians, maids, flight attendants, receptionists and secretaries are included in this segment.
Gray collar refers to people not classified as white or blue. These workers often are people who work beyond retirement. They are principally white-collar workers either working part-time or are under employed. Under employed means that the person may be qualified with a specific degree but may be holding a job that does not require such high qualification. IT professionals, health care professionals, child care professionals and skilled technicians are included in this group.
Gold-collar jobs are computer engineers, jobs with “technician” or “technologist” in their title, researchers, analysts and lawyers. Highly skilled individuals who are valued for their problem-solving skills, creativity and intelligence whose job involves non-repetitive and complex tasks are also included in this segment.
Green-collar jobs primarily are the environmental sector jobs with job functions in renewable energy, nature conservation, sustainability efforts, organic farmers, green lobbyists and engineers in eco-friendly vehicle manufacturing.
Black-collar jobs previously were in the mining and oil industries and included workers doing physical jobs conducted in a dirty environment. Today black-collar workers are creative professionals such as artists, graphic designers and video producers. The term transferred to them due to their unofficial uniforms, which often are comprised of black attire.
Purple-collar jobs are skilled workers and typically someone who is both white and blue-collar. Information technology workers are one example. They are principally white-collar, but perform blue-collar tasks with some regularity, such as engineers and technicians.
Chrome-collar jobs are a new term for an advanced technological working concept. These are jobs that are automated and done by robots, particularly in manufacturing that typically replace blue-collar jobs.
Red-collar jobs refer to government workers of all types. The term originates from compensation received from red ink budgets
Orange-collar jobs refer to prison laborers, named for the very bright and obvious orange jumpsuits worn by inmates.
Brown-collar jobs are military jobs.
COLLARS WITHOUT COLORS
Popped-collar jobs are a term for employees from rich families that take 9 to 5 jobs to build their character. They can also be young people who usually work at prestigious golf clubs or in jobs related to the stock market.
No-collar jobs are artists and free spirits who choose passion and growth over financial gains. People who do not get paid but still work as volunteers are included in this segment.
New-collar jobs are one of the most important to the economy. These workers develop the technical and soft skills needed to work in technology jobs through non-traditional education paths. These workers do not have a four-year degree from college. Instead, new-collar workers are trained through community colleges, vocational schools, software boot camps, technical certification programs, high school technical education and on-the job apprentices and internships.
And I leave you with this closing thought. Diversity in the workforce with many different collar colors has great value. Always respect and value every single worker no matter what the color of their collar.
Longtime columnist Glenn Ebersole is a registered professional engineer and a Strategic Business Development/Marketing Executive and Leader in the AEC industry and related fields. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-575-8572.