Think of the typical painter and I’m sure we all have a similar picture: white clothes and coveralls, brushes in hand, paint splotches all over, usually a white hat as well, their hair carefully kept out of the way while the focus on their work. Most people know the look, it’s essentially a painters uniform at this point, the “Boys in White,” as it were, but did you ever consider why painters wear white?
The short answer is; white is the easiest colour to wear when you paint. Especially with heavier fabrics, you can bleach them without worrying about the materials degrading too much. Unlike everywhere else in the world, where you need to be very careful when wearing white, painters can worry the least when wearing white.
Looking At The History
Historically, the painter’s uniform may have originated back in the 17th century, when painters likely made their clothes from old canvas sails. The fabric was cheap but tough, so painters liked wearing it, but sails are almost exclusively white as well, so their colour choices were a little limited. Later, painters used to mix paint white lead powder with paint paste to make their paint. White clothes helped mask the dust from the lead. Thankfully lead paint isn’t used anymore, but the clothing colours stuck.
Everyone Knows It
Nowadays, white is an almost universally recognized colour for painters and this actually helps with the job at hand. People may not see the brushes in their hands for whatever reason, but if you see a guy in the familiar painting outfit, you instantly start being more careful with everything around you. This helps painters get their work done faster and with less interference, which is good for them and their clients.
Less Mixups & Working Outdoors
And let’s not forget the professional aspect of the painter’s uniform. With other colours, there can be mixups, vastly different shades. If a painting company’s uniform was blue, every painter would show up in a wide range of colours that don’t match at all. With white, well, it’s much easier to match. There’s no such thing as navy white. Well, there is, but the difference between pastel white and navy white isn’t nearly the difference between navy blue and pastel blue.
The last major reason why painters wear white is because they work outside. A lot. Lighter colours are just cooler than darker colours, making the hot days just a little easier when painting outside.
Well .. It’s Always Been That Way
But just like the men making their clothes from white sails, painters these days don’t usually have a lot of colour choices when it comes to their work clothes. Overall companies know painters prefer white, so they make white coveralls for painters, so painters wear white and get used to the colour. It’s a cycle that we don’t actually mind. After all, we all know other painters when we see them and, in a way, its a sign of solidarity, of pride in our work. And it keeps people from sitting on that park bench we literally just painted. That’s a big plus too.