What Are Painter’s Whites?
The painting industry has a long-standing tradition of wearing painter’s whites. A complete set of white overalls and a cap is the classic uniform for painters, but why?
The reasons are both practical and traditional. On a purely practical level, painting in white provides an easier canvas to work with, as paint colors are more easily seen against a white background. This allows a professional painter to quickly and accurately identify any areas that need to be touched up or blended in with the surrounding paint.
On a more traditional level, painting in white is seen as an homage to the master craftsmen of centuries past. In pre-industrial times, those who practiced skilled trades were generally considered working-class members. This included painters, and many of them donned white uniforms to signify their place in the community.
Though times have changed, this tradition is still a popular culture in the painting industry. Painters’ whites serve as a reminder of the hard-working craftspeople who came before us – and also provide an easier canvas to work with!
The History Behind Painters Wearing White
As far back as the nineteenth century, white clothes became the official union-approved uniform for wearing when painting by the International Union of Painters And Allied Trades. These white uniforms were a way to quickly identify officially certified professional painters from hobbyists or non-union painters. It symbolized solidarity and professionalism that carried substantial weight for years. Nowadays, union membership is much less common, but the “painter’s whites” have remained a tradition for many. Thus, there are a great many non-union painters who continue wearing white as part of their profession.
In reality, while the Union of Painters’ official legislation about white clothing as it correlates with painting is some of the earliest known documentation, the association of a white uniform with painters does stretch back even further than that, to before the profession was unionized in any form.
White Is the Base Color of Every Other Color
Even if the job that a given painter is doing does not overtly involve painting something white, it is bound to include the color white and the risk of getting white on their uniform, thanks to the fact that nearly all paints have a white base color. One must first have a white base to achieve any other paint color. Whether working on art, houses, or any other type of canvas, white is the color all paint begins with.
The way colored paint works is that one takes a base and mixes additional colors or hues into it to get the color they are looking for. Practically any hue for your canvas can be made with your paint simply by adding different amounts of primary colors such as red, blue, yellow, etc. But the most common color base for paint is white.
Like many elements of the professional painting business, the white base stems from tradition. Centuries ago, painters used to mix white lead powder and paint paste to create paint they could use on their canvas. This default color was white, which led to white becoming a standardized color for the exterior and interior of homes. Though this uniformity resulted from a practical constraint, it stuck, as white was both classical and helped to keep the temperatures down in houses during hot summer months, long before air conditioning.
Many years later, the advent of adding coloring or dye to the paint was established as a norm, and in the decades since, multi-colored houses with dynamic interiors and exteriors have become more commonplace. But even with all of these options at our disposal, white is the color most commonly asked for by our guests.
Another reason why painters wear white clothing is that they use white products more regularly. For example, consider if a painter painted outdoors and instead wore blue clothing. If they were painting a white wall while wearing blue clothing, there’s all the more chance of blue fuzz and/or color streaks rubbing off on the white wall and ruining that painter’s hard work. Painters always want to take pride in their work and deliver a pristine final result for their customers, and wearing white simply makes that all the easier.
Simultaneously, painting can often cause large quantities of white flakes to accumulate on the painter’s clothing at various stages. From applying primer to finishing the mix to applying the actual paint, there are many stages at which these white flakes on any other hue of clothing would make a painter’s uniform appear dirty or unkempt. No one likes to see people they’ve hired looking unprofessional, so the white uniforms also double to camouflage this process element from customers’ eyes.
Wearing White Keeps Things Cool and Clean
White does not absorb as much heat from the Sun as other colors. If you’re walking or running, you always want to wear lighter colors, with white being the best choice. This is because white reflects the sunlight and heat, allowing you’re walking to be significantly cooler than it would be otherwise.
Painting is hard work, and nothing could be worse than wearing uniforms that make the job even more difficult. Painters wear white, especially when painting outdoors, to keep their internal body temperature in check, stay healthy, and do their best job. If a painter suffers from heat exhaustion, it will harm their health and work. Thus, white uniforms remain the safest and best choice to deliver top-notch work and results.
White uniforms also carry with them values such as purity and cleanliness rooted in tradition. White clothes are the most neutral clothing options, so the best way to remain cool, clean, and safe is to wear white while on the job.
A White Uniform Is a Warning for Wet Paint
Furthermore, a white uniform acts as a warning sign that helps people within the surrounding area immediately discern that there may be wet paint in the area. The image of a painter working outside, having painted a house in their white uniform, instantly brings with it connotations and implications to all passersby.
In contrast, multi-colored clothes in the same situation could mean any number of things: an A/C repair job, plumbing, electric work, etc. This is especially helpful given that white paint can tend to blend together, even when freshly painted on a wall. Thus, before any other sign is put up, wearing white uniforms serves as a clear communicator of the warning of wet paint.
But when people see a painter in their white uniform, they tend to catch onto the idea pretty quickly. In this way, painters wear white for the same reason that anyone working near traffic wears a reflective safety vest: its an easy way to quickly and efficiently visually communicate to everyone around you what kind of a job you are doing and how to best proceed in a way that is safe for all involved.
The Uniform Philosophy
Even in 2023, uniforms serve an important purpose. Whether painters are union or non-union, wearing white is of functional use to them, and it also presents all painters as a united front. The uniforms present the public with immediate information about the individual and also serve as a reminder that this individual is part of a larger collective.
Why do painters wear white union?
Painters wear white union as a part of their uniform to show team unity and pride. It also keeps them safe from dust, dirt, and chemicals while they are on the job. The white color helps to reflect light and makes it easier for painters to see what they are doing more clearly. The white union protects from heat and is comfortable in hot conditions. In addition, the white uniform helps to identify painters so that they can be easily recognized on a job site.
Do painters have to wear white?
No, painters are not required to wear only white. However, many choose to do so for the reasons mentioned above. Some painting companies also have their own dress codes, which may require a more formal look and will likely require the wearing of a collared shirt in addition to the traditional white union clothing. Ultimately, it is up to each painter to decide what type of clothing they prefer to wear.
What is a painter’s shirt called?
The shirt worn by most painters is referred to as a white union shirt. It is typically made of thick cotton material and has buttons down the front and along the cuffs. The collar is usually double-stitched for durability. In addition, many painter’s shirts feature reflective stripes or patches so they can easily be seen in low-light conditions. The white union shirt is the most common type of clothing worn by painters and can be found in a variety of styles to suit different needs.
Two Painters, a Brush, and some Expertise About Why Painters Wear White
At Two Painters and a Brush, we are your go-to locally-owned, professionally operated painting company in Denver, CO. We know that sometimes the planning and managing of a change and expenditure such as this can get monotonous and overwhelming, but our team puts a focus on keeping things as simple and easy for our guests as possible so that you can remember what truly matters: your happiness.
Painting and redecorating your home should be a joyous experience that allows you to bring the creative vision within your mind to vivid life on the walls around you. It’s a beautiful experience that our team is honored to be a part of helping bring to fruition.
Wearing White or Not, We Are Proud of Our Work
We take great pride in our craftsmanship and work ethic at Two Painters and a Brush. Our team is rigorously trained and fully certified to deliver paint jobs that will make you happy for years. Our professional house painters have combined decades of experience in exterior and interior house painting projects to provide the best results possible. Our team exclusively uses high-quality paints and materials to further aid us in delivering excellent results.
To further best assist your needs, our team also provides a free estimate and color consultation, in which we can help you to find the exact colors you’ve been searching for to best compliment your home. If you’re searching for the best painters in Denver, CO, call (720) 831-8998 to get started with a free estimate today!