An age-old question that painters get asked daily; why do painters wear white? There really is no number one answer, but several answers. Every painter seems to have their own answer, and in my opinion, each answer may just be right!
I believe that the uniform began as a good reason for wearing white, it was then validated over time, and became the standard by reasons that made sense as the painter’s clothing evolved.
Here’s what I have found in online research and heard from other painters:
In England, in the 18th Century painters started wearing white clothing because the most popular paint colour used was white. More specifically – Whitewash. Whitewash was a common substance used mostly on the exterior of a building. The liquid was a cheap substitute for real paint. It would rub off onto your clothing if you leaned against even after it was quite dry.
Now think about the fact that whitewash was used outside. This meant that painters had to work long hours in the heat and sun, and the best colour to repel the sun is white, it made sense to wear white.
And finally, when you got plaster or whitewash on your clothes, the painter would still look clean.
Union painters provided the next good reason to maintain the white and turned the regular white clothing into a uniform they were proud to wear. The union painters wanted to differentiate themselves from the non-union painters, who would wear white shirts and dark pants, so union painters started wearing white pants, white shirt and a bowtie. Yes, a bowtie. Making them look more professional than the non-union painters.
Today, painters that wear white do so for many reasons.
I wear white because it shows customers and potential customers that I am a Professional Painter.
In case you want to get technical, white is not actually a colour! Pure white is the absence of colour. In other words, you can’t mix colours to create white. Therefore, white is the absence of colour in the strictest sense of the definition.
By Chris Wagg