old fashioned painters in white

So, Why Do Painters Wear White??


Why the White Uniform?  This is a question we are asked frequently.  There are some different theories as to where this “uniform” for painters originated.  The story we stick to when asked may not be 100% factual…but it sure sounds good and people seem to buy it!

Legend has it that back in the late 19th century union painters adopted the all white uniform to set themselves apart from the non-union painters.  This became their symbol of professionalism and they often added a black bow tie just to enhance the professional look.  At the end of the day if the painter came off a job with little paint on their clothing it would suggest that they were skilled.   Oddly enough, this same theory has shifted today.  When you see a painter with several colors on their whites it suggests a seasoned veteran of the trade. Nowadays if you see a painter in a perfectly white uniform it usually means it’s his very first day on the job. 


It Just Makes Sense

Regardless of where the uniform was derived from we can give you some reasons it is preferred within the ranks of the Men In White Painting crew. 

  • We deal with a lot of white paint and drywall repair dust. We would look far worse leaving those jobs if we were in dark clothing.
  • It often gives the impression of cleanliness and purity. Two qualities that everyone should welcome in their homes.
  • While working outside on those exterior jobs white clothing is the coolest option available.
  • When one sees men dressed in all white they immediately become more aware of their surroundings and where they touch. This uniform may have prevented many a wet thumb!
  • While working on heavily populated construction sites we are never mistaken for carpenters or plumbers.
  • Because painters just wear white and it’s what is available to us at the painters supply retailers. While we like to always stay ahead of the game…we are totally fine with status quo on this issue.
  • The most important reason the painters at Men In White Painting wear it is…we’ve spent far too much money branding ourselves and to have them wear anything else would be false advertising really.


 painter white


There ya have it folks! Clear as mud, right!?!

8 thoughts on “So, Why Do Painters Wear White??”

  1. My new husband would paint like the picture with step ladder on ledge to save himself some money! Just found this funny because there are people who would do this dumb stuff to save a buck and not do a professional job!!!!!

    1. I agree with your point, “cleanliness and purity … welcome into homes.” Clothes need to be fresh. A painter that shows up in filthy whites? One would assume they are not proud of their work, appearance, or odour. Claiming they have attention to detail, but cannot plan?, far enough ahead–to purchase a second pair?, or find a laundry? Reputation by appearances is job number one of a painter and decorator. Real painters wear whites.

  2. I had heard that painters wore white to show their professionalism.
    That is, if the painters clothes where nice and white, it meant he was not a sloppy painter.
    A sloppy, unprofessional painter’s, “whites” would be covered in paint stains.

    1. Just because a painter has paint all over his clothes doesn’t mean he’s a sloppy painter or his work sucks. Although it doesn’t not mean that. 😉

  3. I am a Union Painter out of DC53 local 91. It doesnt matter how “clean” your whites are. My dad has been in for 36yrs and has NEVER worn white pants but the occasional white shirt when outside in hot conditions. We dont judge whites lol I have recently started wearing my whites theyre cooler and the pockets on them especially the Sherwin Williams brand have the perfect amount pockets and loops where we need them for our tools. I love the Nostalgia of painters whites

  4. My dad was a painting contractor for 20 years, 1975 to 1995. He did some pretty big houses in the Branson, Mo. area during the height of their boom, and never once did he ever wear whites. While on the job he work old cloths (mostly used a sprayer, so the over-spray would get him no matter what), and he knew a lot of builders, so he always had plenty of work. I do recall the few times he did the odd job for someone at their house he would show up in old cloths, and no one would think any less of him for it. He could do a lot of things with paint too. He was good with matching stain, and paint. I recall he took a trip to Champaign, Ill. to take a class on doing faux finishes so he could expand the type of work he could do. He was pretty good with faux wood and faux marble.

  5. Lol. I’m a 53 year old painter… the son, nephew, grandson and brother of a painter… raised in So. Ca., primarily doing residential work for the rich and famous…and have never worn anything but painter’s whites but have only in recent years been conscientious enough to keep my whites as clean as possible.
    My comment on the matter is simply that the only legitimately RATIONAL and factually ACCURATE answer to this age old question (which I posted to my grandpa in 76 or 77) is that whites are just what painters wear!
    White is, in fact, a clean and professional look… but even that fact doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that NOBODY who knows WHY painters first started wearing “whites” is still alive…or, apparently, ever considered the matter of sufficient importance to “pass down” that information.
    The skill of a painter can be determined by only one thing and that is his (or her) work… any assessment of a person’s worth, made ANY other means, is only a demonstration of the ignorance and vanity of the one making said assessment.

  6. Just my reason: Painters used to cover themselves with (white)drop clothes while painting? And the color stuck?

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