Why do painters wear white?
By Michelle Garner

Share this article:  

In a family of painters and wallcovering installers, seeing men wearing the white painter's pants and white overalls was pretty much normal. As I grew older and developed a sense of fashion, I began to wonder why white of all colors? White is one of the toughest colors to get clean, and dirt stands out like a neon sign. Painters not only work with white, but every other color of the rainbow. In my opinion, black would be a better color for hiding dirt and stains, but I was never asked. White is the chosen uniform color for people in the painting industry, but why?


Do you work with painters who always wear white?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

It appears no one has a clear answer to the question. The more research you do, the more answers you find and all are different. Here are some of the answers:
  • Painters wearing white is a bit of a warning to everyone else. If you see a painter, you tend not to touch anything.
  • Painters wear white because white goes with every color.
  • It looks more professional when painters arrive to a job wearing white pants or overalls, as opposed to every one wearing a different color.
  • What if all painters wore a darker color like green, red or blue? They would all be wearing green, red or blue, but in different shades depending on how fast the colors faded.
  • You can bleach your whites clean with no fading.
  • The good guys always wear white.
  • Painters wear white because painter's pants and overalls are made in only one color, white.
  • White is the combination of all colors, and painters deal with every color.
  • Most colors used when painting are a light color. The light colors will blend in with the white pants or overalls.
  • It is the coolest color to wear when working outside in the heat. White reflects heat better than any other color.
  • Painters wear white because the more paint colors that are on your clothing, the harder you have worked.
  • Painters wear white because it is a built-in color chart. If you are on a job and run out of paint, the color is already on your clothing when you go to the paint store. Just point to the color needed for that job.
  • Painters wear white clothing because it was adopted in the 20th century by union workers who wanted to set themselves apart from nonunion workers. The union guys used to wear all white with black neckties to represent professionalism.
  • Painters wear white because houses used to be painted white. Painters chose to wear white so they would look neat all of the time and would not have to worry about white spots on their clothing.
  • Painter wear white because women do not want dirty people coming in their houses tracking dirt everywhere. If someone shows up wearing white, the customer can tell if they are clean or dirty.
  • In the 17th and 18th century, painters made their pants from the white canvas sails of ships.
  • People are naturally attracted to white, so white painter's pants will attract customers.
  • Painters wearing white began in the 18th century to match the whitewashed buildings.
  • The most common color painters deal with is white and they use other white stuff like plaster and spackle. They wear white clothes so the splotches do not show. A painter in blue jeans is going to finish the day looking a lot messier than a painter in white.
  • White is a symbol of cleanliness. It leaves the impression the painter is going to do a nice, neat and tidy job without getting paint all over himself and everything else.
  • Replacing plain white clothes can be cheaper.
  • Painters wear white because painters used to mix 50 pounds of "white lead powder" with a can of paint paste in order to make about two gallons of paint. The mixing process produced large amounts of white dust. To hide the dust, the painters wore white.
  • Doctors are required to wear scrubs, and painters are required to wear white painter's pants or overalls.
The number one reason that I found for painters wearing white makes the most sense to me out of all the reasons that I found: Painters wear white to cover their naked bodies!

So as you can see, the mystery of painters in white pants or overalls still remains. My research found many logical answers and some just for fun. I can tell you this much, who ever started this trend was either unaware or just did not care that wearing white after Labor Day is major offense according to the fashion police. Whatever color you wear really does not matter, as long as you get the job done. Like my father always says, "I pay you to put the paint on the walls, not on your clothes."

Michelle Garner is the marketing coordinator at Harry C. Garner Contractor, Inc., which was formed in 1945 by Michelle's grandfather Harry Garner. In 1950, Harry became a charter member of the Charlotte Chapter of the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America.