Why Do Painters Wear White?

Do you ever wonder why painters wear white? It’s not just because it’s a clean and professional colour, there are actually several reasons why painters wear white uniforms. Find out the history of painters uniforms and why white is still the most popular colour choice today!

Skill Level

Painters began to wear white as a way to set themselves apart from non-union painters. This became a symbol of professionalism, even to the extent of wearing a bowtie while on site! At the end of a long day painting interiors or exteriors, the aim was that their uniforms were left spotless. That meant the painter was seen as highly skilled in their profession and should be contracted for projects. It also leaves the impression that the painter will do a nice, neat and tidy job without getting paint everything.

The other side of ensuring that their uniforms were clean at the end of the day is cost. It was expensive to frequently replace clothing, so it was wisest to learn how not to make a mess! Nowadays with the growth of fast fashion, clothing has become cheaper and easier to replace if paint stains are unable to be removed.

This idea of determining one’s skill level has since shifted. Nowadays we see painters with perfectly white uniforms as new to the trade. While those decorated with paint splatters as seasoned painters.

Hide The Mess

The practicality of painters wearing white is to hide the extent of what may have dripped onto them while working. Painters use a variety of products when prepping a wall or ceiling to remove any imperfections prior to painting. They typically work with white based products like primer, caulk, spackle, plaster, and drywall repair dust. It can get a little messy while using these materials, so the white on white helps to hide the evidence!

Overtime, we have created innovative technology that gives us a wide variety of hues to choose from today. However, originally what was your main option for painting a home or office interior was white. So the obvious choice for a painter was to also dress in white, hiding any drops or splatters that may have made it onto them throughout the day. This strategy left them looking as clean and professional as possible compared to if they wore darker attire.

White is also the base for creating alternative colours for the project. Today we simply mix ratios of red, blue and yellow to achieve the desired hue. Whereas painters used to mix white lead powder with paint paste in order to create colour. This process would send large amounts of white dust into the air. So their white clothes would mask how messy the dust made them.

Keep Your Cool

Australia has some of the hottest days especially in summer. When working outside painting exteriors, it can be easy to get dehydrated and suffer heat stroke. White has the ability to reflect light, which will subsequently be cooler than dark colours. It is essential for painters and other trades working outside to wear white or light coloured uniforms to remain as cool as possible. Dark tones will absorb the sunlight, making the painter prone to heat stroke or sunburn. Wearing light colours will help keep them cooler for longer periods of time to get the job done safely!

Dialling Into Your Subconscious

When you are going about your day and come across a group of people in their whites, your subconscious automatically suspects they are painters. Before you see the ‘wet paint’ sign, you are already looking out for what could be a hazard. This includes ladders, paint trays, tins or tool kits that painters have out. You are more aware of your surroundings to avoid leaning or sitting on something that has been freshly painted! Ideally white serves as an alarm for us to snap out of the thought bubble you’re in and focus on what’s going on.

Another subconscious thought that can be triggered is that white means the good guy. Typically in stories when white is worn it means purity or the hero. With common day hero ideas becoming more dynamic, this may not be front of mind but can certainly mean ‘good’ compared to dark or black tones.

White Is Cheap

Overall, white apparel is cheap to manufacture as most natural fibres are white. Ideally, most uniforms are made from cotton which straight from the plant is white. Cotton is much more breathable than other fibres and doesn’t require much further treatment when being spun into yarn. With fast fashion, nylon and polyester has grown popular as it’s much cheaper to produce. It can be easily made into into white or a variety of other colours. However, if deciding between synthetic and natural fibre, you’ll be much more comfortable in cotton than polyester!

Painters Aren’t Alone

Painters are not the only ones throughout the ages who have chosen white as the main uniform. You may start to think about chefs, nurses, doctors, or butchers who are typically seen in white and start to question why. They all typically choose it for the same reason as painters, but it is difficult to establish who started the trend first!