You may have noticed that the MSM press has recently taken to describing sectors of society by the colour of collars. We investigated and were surprised at the variety of colours now on offer, but disappointed to find that there was not one singled out for designers or architects.
The first colour used, in 1924 in the United States, to denote working class or manual labourers, paid by the hour or by the piece. They usually wore Chambray or Denim, the latter a corruption of ‘Cloth de Nimes’, being cotton sourced in the South of France, as explained here in A&D. Often teamed with jeans, another US mis-pronunciation, this time of Genoa in Italy, a centre for working wear in the 19th C.
First coined in the 1930s by Upton Sinclair, an American writer, who used the word to denote salaried (as opposed to waged) professionals in clerical, administrative or managerial jobs. Expanded to general office workers, who wore fashionable white collared shirts in the early and mid 20th C, finished with a tie. Note to our National Party, now much in decline: in addition to better policies perhaps you could try to cover the top button in your ill-fitting white collars with a better tied tie.
It took another 60 years until a new colour was added: Pink; denoting workers in the much expanded service industries: retail, sales, food and beverage etc. Positions involving people relations, often held by women, hence ‘pink’. (Although ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ is thought to be a reversal of the 19th century arrangement.) Now the colour is extended to the many service workers who are gay. (How ironic that the ‘Shoppies’ union, that purportedly represented so many gay workers, was led for many years by the allegedly homophobic Joe de Bruyn, see here.)
Newest colour on the block. An early 21st C title for someone combining multidisciplinary knowledge drawn from various sectors, such as people problem-solving complex technical issues, academic and scientific researchers, and technicians in advanced industries.
Typically, government workers; derived either from the red ink in the budget; or the vast numbers of government workers in China, from the colour of the communist party. Despised and hollowed out from the public service in Australia by the LNP in the name of neo-liberalism, see Laura Tingle’s Quarterly essay.
When you mix red, blue and often white, purple. Skilled workers on software AND hardware. Includes engineers and technicians.
Workers in professions relating to the environment and renewable energy. The particular shade may vary from mild ‘greenwashers’ (the political party) to mid green talkers (Architects Declare) to full-on deep green adopters (modern hippies).
Workers in the sex industry. Whose spokesperson in Australia for so many years has been the brilliant Fiona Patten, leader of the Reason Party (formerly the Australian Sex Party), in the Victorian Legislative Council. The only current politician with a design background; educated in landscape architecture and industrial design at the CCAE (now University of Canberra) in the 80s. She founded a fashion label called Body Politics where her clientele included sex workers, so beginning a long involvement advocating on behalf of sex workers and the sex industry in general. She recently introduced bills on taxation, training and anti-vilification. We have far too few designers and architects in politics. Like Ted Mack and Evan Walker before her (the last ones we can think of), Fiona is a treasure better than the treasurer.
It’s the ‘oldies’, the elderly working beyond the age of retirement, often in unpaid volunteer work. In an increasingly privatised society it’s a form philanthropy that often goes unrecognised, although now desperately necessary.
Robots replacing the manufacturing blue collar jobs - erroneous as most are made from aluminium and plastic.
Brown Collar and Orange Collar
Typical terms in the US: brown refers to military personnel (in khaki) and prisons where inmates wear orange jumpsuits. The colours don't translate in Australia. Maybe our military could be referred to as ‘Cammo Collar’, and our prisoners are in green which may or may not be a ‘collar clash’.
Blue Sky Collar
While on local inventions, the nurses in light blue uniforms, our dedicated hospital workers, whose numbers far outweigh doctors, and whom we have come to rely on so much in this time of COVID, could be referred to as ‘blue sky collar’ workers. Too little recognition to date.
Not as you might think, miners - whose clothing is extremely dirty. But rather those in illegal or immoral professions - it alludes to black money. On second thoughts, maybe it can refer to FIFO coal mining workers too. And it robs us of the possibility of referring to architects and designers, or maybe not … but, no… inconsequential but not illegal.
Artists and free spirits whose sense of freedom has led them to not wearing any form of shirt. The term was popularized on Survivor: Worlds Apart, a reality game show which used the denomination as one of their three tribes.
A Designer Collar?
Rebels in our coffee club, we can think of nothing better than to ditch the idea of any kind of shirt, at all. But let’s adopt black as a tribute to all those architects and designers locked up in Melbourne who made wearing black so fashionable. And with a nod to history – let’s say our non-collar is … drum roll … ta da… black skivvy.
If you have a better idea, perhaps you'd like to write to +one / Plus.One.
+one / plus.one / plus 1 is a collective of designers and artists promoting sustainability and Australian design. We don’t support social media in any form, rather you can contact us at our email: [email protected].