You’ve surely encountered more than once that high-profile people who perform significant duties and are distinguished by their education and higher incomes (civil servants, lawyers, doctors, executives, people employed in the public sector, etc.) are called “white collars.” This term became widespread in the 1950s in the United States (it was most likely first used by the American writer Upton Sinclair) when the middle class began to take shape (and the classic division between agriculture, industry and services began to disappear), becoming the current landscape of American job market nomenclature.

Over time, in addition to the white color, other shades emerged to define the types of collar workers in the US, which was later translated to other countries as well. Below are additional groups we can distinguish in the labor market.

Blue, white, pink – the most popular types of collar workers

The traditional division into manual, intellectual or service sector workers was reflected in collar colors. For this reason, apart from white, the blue and pink types emerged, which took place already in the previous century.

  1. Blue collars
  2. This term refers to people who perform manual labor in manufacturing and industrial plants, and who often need to have specialized skills (especially in the operation of machinery and tools). The name is meant to refer to work clothing, which is most typically denim or similar in color (because it best masks dirt, grease, etc.). This group would include mechanics, electricians, carpenters, construction workers or miners, among others.

  3. Pink collars
  4. The term was first used by Louise Kapp Howe in her book “Pink Collar Workers,” published in 1977. “Pink collar workers. Inside the world of women’s work,” in which she described her collected experiences and thoughts regarding the professions considered most feminized – that is, the work of beauticians, caregivers, stewardesses, nurses, hairdressers or secretaries.

    People in these professions could not expect high salaries. Nowadays, the color pink denotes all those working in the service sector who do jobs that require interpersonal skills, thrive and succeed financially. It is also worth remembering that more and more such professions are also performed by men, although women still by far dominate.

Additional types of collar workers

We can conclude that blue, white and pink refer to “traditional occupations.” However, while the above groups are undoubtedly the most numerous, additional types of employees are also increasingly mentioned as a result of changes in the labor market. The most interesting examples are listed below:

  • Green collars – this modern group emerged from the current approach focusing on the pursuit of sustainable development. Individuals in this group perform tasks aimed at supporting the environment through the creation of green solutions (e.g., companies and institutions related to renewable energy sources, green construction, waste management or public transportation),
  • Brown collars – include those working in the military,
  • Gold collars – are those employed in the technology and science sectors who perform work that requires highly specialized knowledge and skills (e.g., programmers, engineers, scientists),
  • Grey collars – that is, older people who typically do manual or seasonal work (e.g., retirees who take on part-time jobs to supplement their income),
  • No collar – employed on their terms, rejecting frameworks and established rules, often without a regular source of income. This category includes a wide range of workers who are not subject to the classic employment structure, and their situation can be socially and economically diverse (artists, freelancers, seasonal workers, etc.).
collar workers

Types of employees – summary

The types of workers outlined above were mainly created in the last century and for the US market, which means that they will not always be fully adapted to the socio-occupational divisions existing in other countries. What’s more, it’s already apparent that significant changes are taking place in the typology (groups defined by new colors created for this reason) – and due to today’s rapid development of technology and new generations entering the labor market, further transformations can be expected to ensure alignment with the modern landscape. This, it is worth remembering that these divisions are only conventional and should not be taken as a determinant of social and professional position.

If you are interested in people management, read also:: Virtual events – new possibilities or limitations?

If you like our content, join our busy bees community on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok.

Collar workers. Emerging and traditional types nicole mankin avatar 1background

Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.