Blue-collar worker definition
A term, which some consider pejorative, that is variously used to describe working class people employed as tradesmen or those who perform any form of manual labour. Most ‘blue collar jobs’ typically have a high degree of physical exertion or physical work, as opposed to ‘white collar jobs,’ which are mostly office-based. Blue-collar workers may be paid by the hour or by the project, or – for more experienced workers or for long-term projects – may be salaried.
While the term white-collar came about because workers in offices were likely to wear suits and therefore white shirts, blue-collar workers are so-called because they often wear heavy-duty overalls due to the nature of their work, and these are often coloured blue to minimise the appearance of stains.
The term blue-collar worker does not automatically suggest low-pay. Many blue-colour jobs require extremely skilled labour and are therefore well-paid. At the same time, while white-collar jobs are typically associated with being high-paid, there are now many lower-paid jobs in the white-collar sector, such as interns, assistants and executives which are often entry-level.
According to an article on Slate.com, the term was first used in an Alden, Iowa newspaper called the Times in 1924: “If we may call professions and office positions white collar jobs, we may call the trades blue collar jobs.”