White Shirt Day is held every February 11, and it gladdens us to celebrate this day that brought great changes to the automobile industry and unionism as we know it today. Do you know that there was a time white t-shirts were only worn by the upper class in society? This later filtered into the workspace, and that’s why the top jobs are popularly called ‘white collared jobs.’
History of White Shirt Day
The color white has always been acknowledged as a color of peace and purity. Historically, white attires have been claimed to be the exclusivity of the upper class to signify high social standing. But more than that, white attires signify white-collar jobs and bosses in workplaces, and white t-shirts marked a radical mode of expression used by automobile workers several years back, making this day one of a kind.
In the 1900s, the industrial revolution and its resultant economic crisis affected numerous families, pushing them into poverty. At this time, the automobile industry in the United States was booming, and many automobile plants abounded that made staff work under deplorable conditions. This caused worries from workers whose efforts to unionize and fight for better work conditions were thwarted by the automobile companies. The United States Government in 1935 set the amount of money needed by a family of four to survive annually at $1,600, while an average automobile worker at the time took home $900.
Automobile workers banded together under the auspices of the United Automobile Workers, organizing the ‘flint sit-down strike,’ which continued for several months across the country. The workers remained inside the plants, wearing neat white shirts like the bosses, simply playing board games, and organizing lectures and concerts while refusing to work.
This was so they wouldn’t be replaced during the cause of the strike and to prevent violence and cold. This strike crippled the automobile industry for a while, but it also brought about a review of the working conditions and workers’ pay. This singular act then went on to influence other work sectors and unions fighting for better conditions of work. It inspired the government to institute laws to protect workers’ pay and basic conditions.
White Shirt Day timeline
Leonardo da Vinci sketches the first model of a car on paper, but it was never actually made.
The first self-propelled vehicle is developed by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in the shape of a tractor for the French army.
Workers in the automobile industry forms a union that would go on to be the largest and most powerful workers union at the time.
The strike which started in July has automobile workers wearing white t-shirts and seating inside the factories as a sign of their revolt against the pay and working conditions.
White Shirt Day FAQs
Did auto workers at that time wear White Shirts to work?
No, it was only for the period of the strike. It was a sign of revolt against the bosses in the automobile industry.
Where is White Shirt Day celebrated?
It is mainly celebrated in the United States, although some countries have also participated in recent times.
At which Automobile companies did the strike occur?
Mostly General Motors, but it rapidly spread through all other automobile plants in the United States at the time.
How to Observe White Shirt Day
Put on a white shirt
The best way to observe the day is to put on a white t-shirt to remember the great workers in the automobile industry who fought for the better working conditions we enjoy today. Try as much as possible to make sure your white t-shirt has no stains throughout the day.
Support those in the industry
Take this day to appreciate your friends and family that you know are working in the automobile industry. But, then again, don’t just limit it to friends and family; appreciate and support even those working in the industry you are not too close to.
Learn about the impact of the strike
This is a good time to research how this strike helped shape the work environment as we know it today. Don’t also forget to share this knowledge about the impact of the strike with all who would care to listen.
5 Important Facts About White Shirts
They were first underwear
The first White T-shirts were made as two-piece underwear by P. Hanes Knitting Company to be worn by soldiers as underwear during World War I.
It could not be worn publicly
Because it was invented as underwear, wearing a white t-shirt in public could cause a scene during its early days.
James Dean popularized it
Actor James Dean in the movie, “Rebel Without a Cause” wears a white t-shirt, instantly making it a rave at the time.
Camouflage white t-shirt
Many gangs and gang members wear white t-shirts in what is called ‘urban camouflage,’ because they believe it allows them to blend with the crowd and give the police a harder time finding them.
It signifies simplicity
The white t-shirt is not bogus, showcasing a high level of simplicity while still making you look incredibly good.
Why White Shirt Day is Important
It’s a remembrance of past deeds
This day reminds us of the sacrifice and struggles of the United Automobile Workers in the light of the workplace security we enjoy now. We love remembrance!
Encouraged rise of unionism
The actions of the automobile workers to strike against all odds can be directly linked with the birth of unionism in other sectors. This gives us all an opportunity to generally voice our dissatisfaction in the workplace today.
It’s a reminder of the power in unity
This day reminds us that if we are united under one voice and body, there is nothing we cannot achieve. What more reason do you need to celebrate?
White Shirt Day dates