Blue-Collar Workers, the Backbone of the Working Economy

Maybe you’ve heard the term before but didn’t quite know what it meant. Maybe you even though it was a little bit classist and offensive. It’s not. In fact, many blue-collar workers take great pride in the fact that they earn their living with their hands.

So what exactly is a blue-collar worker? A blue-collar worker is an individual who earns a living through physical labor—often manual labor. And while the term does include unskilled laborers, many of these modern blue-collar workers aren’t typically unskilled. In fact, many blue-collar workers today have extensive professional training and/or years of experience making them experts in their respective fields.

So where did the term come from?

The Historical Origins of the Blue-Collar Worker

Historically blue-collar workers were most often factory workers, construction workers, or other individuals who regularly got dirty during their workday. In fact, the term was coined in the 1920s because these individuals typically wore denim or chambray shirts which had been dyed with indigo to give them a deep blue-collar. Why? Because dark blue hides or masks dirt, grease, and other stains that would leave other fabrics looking worn out.

The term blue-collar worker is the direct opposite of white collar worker—which denotes professionals who most often work in office settings and don’t perform manual labor. These white collar workers were, historically, able to wear white and not get dirty during their workday. This privilege became something of a status symbol as the business suit evolved over time.

The Modern Blue-Collar Worker

A hallmark of blue-collar workers since the beginning of the 20th century has been the pride which they take in doing something, making something, or just plain breaking a sweat while they work. And that hard work ethic and pride of craftspersonship have carried over to the modern blue-collar workers that still keep this country running.

Nowadays when people use the term blue-collar worker, they’re typically referring to:

  • Gardeners
  • Cleaners
  • Handypersons
  • Contractors
  • Pest control experts

And other skilled or semi-skilled professionals who provide necessary services like:

  • Landscaping
  • Yard maintenance
  • House cleaning
  • Small home repairs and renovations

Blue-collar workers who are self-employed have thrived with the rise of the gig economy. These individuals can work as freelance service providers and offer their skills outside a traditional employer/employee relationship delivering the same services without the need for either party to employ a “middleman.” This allows these self-employed blue-collar workers to retain more of the fee clients pay for the job and lets clients negotiate more affordable rates for the work they need done.

In fact, it’s estimated that the majority of Americans are or will shortly be engaged in this gig economy in some form or another—whether it’s their main source of income or just a “side hustle.”

So, when you need something done around your house and can’t do it yourself (or don’t have the time) hiring a blue-collar worker to get the job done right is almost always the best option. And if you’re resourceful, you can deal directly with these workers rather than contracting through a business which passes unnecessary overhead costs to you.