Icons: History of Coveralls

Icons: History of Coveralls

PRODUCTS | 05.08.2021

Dickies coveralls and boiler suits have been a workwear staple since the 1920’s, starting off as hard-wearing overalls fit for purpose and made to protect tradesmen from injury, before gaining popularity over the years to become a cult lifestyle piece perfect for everyday wear, adopted as a statement street-style fashion piece.

1920’s: Dickies’ Work Suits

If we go right back to the beginning, the first ever Dickies product catalog from 1928 features Dickies Work Suits - these early iterations were highly-constructed, durable overalls made for workers in mind. Loaded with important features and benefits, Dickies Work Suits were the garment of choice at the time for tradesmen, made from mineral-dyed sweat proof material and constructed in white boat-sail drill, olive drab twill and express stripe. They were long-wearing but also looked cool, striking the perfect balance between practicality and fashion. But how did the design develop over the next few decades? Let’s take a closer look.


1930’s-1940’s: Denim and Twill Coveralls

During the 1930’s and early 1940’s, Dickies updated their boiler suits and started to sell denim and twill coveralls with a unique double needle-stitched bib on the front. Other new features included a button and zipper front, three front chest pockets, two pockets with snap closure and one side-opening watch pocket. The back now had adjustable waist button tabs and there were of course work-essential back tool pockets and hammer loops. Every kind of worker’s need was carefully thought through and catered for.

All of these design updates were deliberate, intended for different work purposes - short sleeve boiler suits made from lightweight, flame retardant materials were made for workers in hot environments (welders and industrial workers) whereas economy overalls made from cheaper materials were made for decorators and engineers, as their work is less demanding and hard-wearing on the garments. There was such a wide range of coveralls and boiler suits because Dickies believed in making workwear that was fit for the purpose intended, with different applications requiring different properties from the garment. 


1950’s-1960’s: 10oz Materials and Easy-Care Performance Coveralls

After a brief production hiatus during the war, Dickies soon returned to full production in the 1950’s, bringing out a series of newly-designed coveralls with streamlined features that continued for decades. The buttons were updated to become durable snaps and the coveralls now came in beefy 10oz materials, including Fisher Stripe denim, Hickory Stripe, Fine Weave blue denim, and forest green carded army twill. The design updates of the coveralls continued to finely tune the garment details to accommodate various work purposes - for example, the Fisher Stripe coverall was made with no exterior hardware, making it the best choice for working on cars without the danger of scratching the paint. 

By the 1960’s, new fabric technologies evolved in the workwear market, which were of course reflected in Dickies coveralls. A new collection of Shape Set garments, made from 65% Cotton and 35% Polyester, were developed and made into work shirts, pants and coveralls. Dickies brought out Shape Set Long Sleeve Coveralls and 50/50 Short Sleeve Coveralls in a range of colourways, including Olive, Air Force Blue, Lincoln Green, Cedar and White. As well as the Shape Set fabric, these new easy-care performance coveralls did not need ironing and had revolutionary soil-release technology. The range was expanding as the demand for workwear was constantly increasing. 


1970’s-1980’s: Dickies Coveralls Became A Workwear Staple in America

By the 1970’s, a total of 11 colors were available as part of the coveralls offering. Dickies coveralls became such a popular workwear staple due to their high quality and durability, with the Herringbone and Twill coveralls remaining the strongest sellers to this day. The pocket designs by this point were well established, and denim knee patches had been added by the customer to the coverall on the left side to extend the working life of the garment. 

By the time it got to the 1980’s, America was coverall crazy! Dickies coveralls began to be seen everywhere in America, getting featured in publications such as People, Popular Mechanics and Parade magazines. Not just confined to the workwear market anymore, coveralls were breaking into national lifestyle media titles, as their appeal and reputation grew. In terms of changes to design, the new addition of diagonal zipper pockets gave the LS Coveralls a more on-trend military look. 

1990’s: The Dickies Coverall Top Billin’

In the 1990’s, Dickies coveralls were appropriated and re-purposed for casual wear, whilst still delivering the expected performance and durability of their workwear design. The standardized construction details provided a clean backdrop for personal styling preferences, easily dressed up or down. Audio Two were a popular Brooklyn native hip hop duo from the 80’s and 90’s who released their hit Top Billin’ in 1988, and were seen wearing Dickies coveralls in magazine editorials and promo shots.

Continuing the life span and popularity of coveralls, they were offered for sale in the Dickies direct to consumer workwear catalog called The Worker’s Choice and remained an iconic style across generations for future decades to come.

2000’s-Modern Day: Dickies Lifestyle Coveralls Reign Supreme

In the 2000’s, Dickies coveralls were now cemented as a cult lifestyle piece, with a Dickies short-sleeved coverall even being featured in a GQ write-up about one of the many times Dickies coveralls have been used for lifestyle wear. If you fast-forward to modern day, celebrities often choose Dickies boiler suits as their casual outfit of choice, for example Kaia Gerber wore a pair of Dickies Short Sleeve Workwear Coveralls after the Miu Miu fashion show she had just walked in - a seamless transition from runway look to Dickies laidback cool!

When looking at the history of workwear, it is virtually synonymous with the history of Dickies coveralls. They have evolved over the years from functional, high-quality workwear pieces to lifestyle garments adopted by hip hop artists, celebrities and street style fashion. The use of high-quality materials, attention to detail and constant innovation to design and technology has culminated in making them an iconic, timeless piece that is a wardrobe essential.

I think we’ve covered all the bases here, just as Dickies coveralls have had our back for the past century. Whether you need them to keep your tools in handy pockets during your working day or just want a comfortable, fashionable, no-fuss outfit, Dickies coveralls have something for everyone. 

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