The cotton workwear garments are the European equivalent of the denim clothes on the other side of the Atlantic, in both cases they have spawned the ‘blue collar’ expression that describes the working class.
With the industrial revolution, workers used machines and did dirty work, the clothes would get dirty or stuck into machinery, sometimes ripped. Workers secured the obligation for their employers to provide the clothes: an outfit consisting of trousers and a jacket to go on top of your regular clothes.
They had to be produced in large quantities, be solid, thick, long-lasting, and of a darker colour. The cheapest colour to produce was blue.
Over in the US the Lewis Strauss Company used ‘bleu de Gênes’ ‘Blue from Genes’, which became ‘jeans’.
In Europe, they first used Prussian Blue, also sometimes indigo blue, but the shade and description that has stuck is Bugatti blue – it came from the iconic racing cars.
How did the Bugatti blue came about? The early racing cars were all black, in 1903 as the British Grand Prix took place in Ireland, the cars were painted green.
After that different nationalities chose a colour – white for Germany, red for Italy, yellow for Belgium and blue for France with its Bugatti cars. The Bugatti blue varied slightly from one car model to another, just like the workwear clothes, so it’s not an exact colour but a shade of blue within the palette.