Why Do Painters Wear White?

why do painters wear whiteIndeed, why do painters wear white? This question is often asked and one often gets a click of the tongue as an answer. However, research proves a lot. To begin with, this tradition has historical origins, so let’s begin with unravelling a bit of history.

What history throws up

Way back in the 17th century, painters used white discarded canvas sails to make their uniforms. Though this fabric was inexpensive, it was highly durable, so painters liked to wear them. In time, painters’ uniforms were always white, because sails were always white and no other colour. Sometime later, painters began mixing paint white lead powder with paint paste to create a new paint. They found that by wearing chalk white clothes, their clothes would not show up any lead dust. Though lead dust is no longer used, the white uniforms continue.

According to another source, painters first wore white in England in the 18th century when buildings and homes were whitewashed. And then there’s also the theory that says that this practice began in the early part of the 20th century when unionised painters took on white to be their uniform to differentiate themselves from non-union workers. Members of the painters’ union wore white clothes and black necktie as a mark of their professionalism. If they came home with a streak of colour on their white clothes, it meant they were highly skilled.

However, the thinking now is vastly different. Now, painters with many colours on their whites means he is a widely experienced man and one in stark white clothes means he’s new on the job.

So, why do painters wear white at all?

There are many reasons for this. Let’s go down the list:

Work-related reasons:

  • In the days gone by, painters used to have to mix about 22.7 kg of white lead powder with a can of paint paste to make about 7.6 litres of paint. This process generally threw up large quantities of white dust. To cover up the dust that would settle on their white uniforms, painters decided to wear all-white clothes and since then, the tradition has stuck.
  • White stands for cleanliness so wearing all-white means the painter will give you a neat and clean job without getting any paint on himself or your furniture and objects.
  • Wearing white is a sign of a professional painter, as against people who wear coloured clothes.
  • White embodies all colours of the spectrum, and painters deal with all these colours, hence they wear white.
  • Painters work in the outdoors which can be very hot. Wearing white can keep them cool as white reflects heat best.
  • By wearing white clothes, painters can prove how hard they’ve worked when their colleagues see a variety of colours splashed on their clothes.
  • Painters view their clothes as a mobile colour chart. So, if they run out of a particular shade which is already on their clothing, they merely point to it at the paint store and get another lot of it to complete the job.
  • Painters often choose to be dressed in all-white so that they look neat even at the end of the day and they don’t have to worry about spots on their clothing.
  • Usually, people ask for light colours for paints. These colours will therefore blend in nicely with painters’ white clothes.
  • Considering painters work with drywall repair dust and tons of white paint, they’d look awful at the end of the day if they were dressed in dark-coloured clothes. This makes white a better choice of colour for their uniforms.

People-oriented reasons

  • Painters wear white because the mistresses of homes don’t want dirty people to enter their homes with a trail of dirt after them. Instead, if painters wear white, the customer can easily see that they are neatly dressed and will receive them courteously.
  • People have a good feeling about the colour white, so by wearing white, painters will willy-nilly attract customers.
  • Painters need to wear durable clothes because they are cheaper to replace.

Profession-oriented reasons

  • Painters believe that if they are dressed in a formally chosen uniform with a distinctive colour, it could mean they are professional painters. This makes their white clothes a mark of professionalism.
  • Wearing white to work gives professional painters a feeling of pride in their work and solidarity.
  • Taking the above aspect of cleanliness a bit further, painters believe that like doctors and nurses, if they too can be dressed in white uniforms, the general impression about them should include the fact that thorough professionals who are excellent at their jobs.
  • If you see a man dressed in all-white, you know immediately he’s a painter and that you should walk warily, not touch any and everything around you and treat him with respect. That’s the true hallmark of a professional painter. Besides, This helps painters get their work done faster and with less interference, which is good for them and their clients.
  • Since painters wear white, as opposed to plumbers or carpenters who don’t, painters never get mistaken for members of other professions.
  • The colour white for a painter’s uniform has been chosen with great foresight. For instance, if you consider the fact that he works not just with this colour but with a wide spectrum of colours, he can always bleach his coloured clothes and restore them to their earlier white state. This makes his clothes very easy to maintain, which would not be possible if these professionals wore anything other than white, because when bleached, the colours could well fade. This makes a white uniform easier to maintain and long-lasting too.
  • White is an accepted symbol of purity and cleanliness, qualities that everyone would want to be part of their homes.


So, there are all kinds of reasons that make painters wear white, work well in them and feel comfortable in them too. Besides, it gives them professional pride and a feeling of belongingness to be wearing white while working. So, why not?

Author: John Clax

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