Shirts as Blue as the Ink on Their Paychecks

By Paul Wagner

June 2016

Well back in the day, it was 1986 when I first stepped onto the campus of Boeing Vertol as a new employee. Employees at the time were required to wear a white shirt, tie, sport jacket and slacks, the fashion or dress code at the time. White shirt every day was the standard.

I was assigned to the Methods Engineering group for the V-22 Osprey program. The V-22 program was split between Boeing Vertol and Bell Helicopter. Boeing would be building the fuselage and Bell Helicopter would be producing the wing and drive systems.

At this point in the program, there was very little engineering. Drawings were being produced, and tool strings were being determined. The only interesting item to see was the 34-foot mock-up. This was a wooden model of the fuselage and the only thing to get your hands around.

As I was figuring out the Methods Engineering group, I would visit the Design group producing the drawings. A floor of drafting tables that seems to go on and on. Engineers standing over the tables with pencils in hand and T-squares. But over the months a new computer system evolved. CATIA was being introduced, and that made a vast improvement. 3-D models. This was the future.

The future, however, was again wearing the white-shirt-and-tie standard look. Then one day, something just did not seem right. As I was talking with an engineer, I noticed something odd. It seemed like the entire floor of Engineering Design was wearing navy blue shirts. With my white shirt, I stood out, so I asked an engineer, "Why is everyone wearing a blue shirt?"

He explained that today is Thursday, Blue Shirt Thursday.

Blue Shirt Thursday?

Yes, Blue Shirt Thursday.

Thursday was payday at the company -- a special day. The manager had the honor of walking round with a box of envelopes containing your paycheck. The checks were printed in blue ink. So, I had learned the Engineering group would wear blue shirts. The blue shirts matched the blue printed check and thus, Blue Shirt Thursday.

I never learned who the person was that started this custom in this particular group at Boeing Vertol and cannot give them credit.

But over time, the company name has changed. I still work on the V-22 Osprey program and managed to stay my entire 30 years with Vertical Lift. I still hold true, every Thursday, to Blue Shirt Thursday.