The answer isn’t entirely clear but there are two explanations that rise to the top.
White is the prominent color in the industry with materials like paint, plaster, spackle and caulk. Even the most detailed painter on occasion will get some of the materials onto themselves. So in order to keep looking tidy, painters began wearing white. In doing so white became the look of every painter. Even when more colors became popular the white was easily bleached to maintain the pristine and clean look. Not alway glamorous but functional and practical.
Our other explanation dates back to the 19th-century and European Labor Unions – who knew? White was the “uniform” for union painters to differentiate themselves and build a reputation of quality and attention to detail. 200 plus years of tradition can’t be wrong.
Do all painters still continue with the traditional whites? Not necessarily, but we love the tradition and what it means to the trade. Mad respect to all the painters out there now and in the past!