Painters wear white because homes used to be painted white. Wearing all white allows painters to look cleaner and worry less about white paint color spots on their clothing.
Often called “painter’s whites”, the all-white look originated in the 17th and 18th centuries when painters made their pants from the white canvas sails of ships.
Today, white remains the most popular color used to paint houses. Likewise, wearing all white is synonymous with the painting industry or trade. Moreover, all-white painter’s pants or overalls are sold in paint stores like Sherwin Williams, Home Depot, and Benjamin Moore to this day.
Accordingly, professional painters still wear white overalls, pants, caps, and t-shirts because of tradition and functionality. Let’s dive into the history and logic behind why so many painters wear white.
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Wearing All-White is a Painting Tradition
In terms of tradition, wearing all white used to signify that you were a member of the painter’s union in the 19th and 20th centuries. Wearing a clean white shirt and pants also signals to others that you are a painter by trade. A white uniform was synonymous with painter’s clothing for both union and non-union workers.
Certainly, wearing all-white or white overalls can be a good marketing tool. Many painting businesses live off of referrals and word of mouth so all-white attire can attract clients looking to paint their homes. Indeed, everyone knows that painters wear white so it’s not hard to find the painting contractor on a job site when they are wearing all white clothes.
White Clothes Make Painter’s Lives Easier
When it comes to functionality, wearing white makes painters’ lives easier, on and off the job site. First, white-colored shirts and slacks show paint splatter and color better than other clothing.
Additionally, various paint colors, caulk, and drywall spackle on an all-white painter’s uniform show they’ve been working on multiple jobs and staying busy. No question, it’s a point of pride for a professional painter to show their battle scars on their painter’s whites.
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In contrast, some painters take pride in the cleanliness of their white clothing during and after a job. To some, a clean, crisp white uniform signals a higher level of skill and fewer mistakes since it’s so easy to wipe off paint splatter on your work pants or shirt.
Not to mention, wearing all-white helps signal to the world that there’s potentially wet paint on an active job nearby. Historically, white-colored clothes were cheaper to make while being durable and lightweight. What’s more, paint colors actually used to be hand-mixed on-site. That means the white lead powder and paint paste kicked up during the mixing process was easier to hide on white pants or shirts.
Exterior Painters Wear All-White
For exterior painters, wearing white work clothes is significantly cooler versus darker shades that get hot in direct sunlight. Not surprisingly, white cotton materials breathe a lot easier for home painters working outside in the summer heat. Also, white shows dirt better, which can be good or bad, depending on the situation.
On one hand, it’s always good to maintain a clean, professional appearance in front of customers. No homeowner wants a dirty painter tracking mud through their homes.
On the other hand, a completely clean white shirt and pants might signal that not much got done in terms of painting that day. In any case, just make sure that you carry a few extra Sherwin painter shirts or clean pants when working around various landscaping outdoors!
Lastly, some say that wearing white is like a walking color canvas for a painting tradesperson. This can be useful in case you need to match paint colors at the store and forget the color code. Over the past 15 years, I have only had to do this once so the jury is still out on this as a potential benefit.
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Interior Painters Wearing Whites
And for interior painters, white clothing allows them to spot drips and wet splotches before walking off painting jobs. Similarly, painters deal with a ton of drywall compound and white primer which hides better on white-colored attire. Lastly, you can clean white scrubs and pants with bleach which makes it easier to clean tough stains.
Back in the olden days, interior painters used to mix and match paint colors, dye, and pigments on the job site itself. Functionally, white color paint was most often used for houses so wearing white helped hide splatter marks.
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All in all, both interior and exterior painters all over the world wear white uniform colors to show they take pride in their trade. It not only makes their lives easier but signifies to everyone else that the real painters have arrived.
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Do painters drink a lot?
There is no evidence that painters drink a lot more on average than other professions. While some say painters drink more than other trades, there's zero data to back up that claim. According to a study by SAMHSA, Miners are actually the heaviest alcohol drinkers among all industries surveyed. However, construction workers do have high rates of alcohol dependence as a whole. Painters fall within that bucket but there's no study that shows they drink more than roofers, electricians, or flooring contractors.
What should you wear when painting?
You should wear comfortable clothing you won't mind getting paint on. Trust us, you will somehow get paint on your clothing so don't roll the dice. An old pair of pants or khakis and a white t-shirt work well. Bonus points if they if you have a white pair of overalls similar to "painter whites" worn by the pros. They might not help you be a better painter but at least you'll look the part.
What are some of the best painter's whites to buy?
The best painter's whites to buy are made by Dickies, Carhartt, and Blaklader. These can be found online on sites like Amazon, Walmart, or brand name sites like Dickies.com.