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Dickies’ guide to overalls

ORIGINS SERIES | 22.07.2020

Overalls are the ultimate workwear-to-fashion crossover. Count their close cousins boilersuits, dungarees and jumpsuits and you’ve got a whole family of wearable staples that can trace their lineage directly back to some real tough workplaces. Fashion overalls are more refined than their professional equivalents, and worn properly, they’re great for casual wear, maybe even getting a little active.

What were overalls originally designed for?

Overalls were designed to wear over other normal clothes to protect them and the wearer from things like dirt, oil paint and grease when working. Some closer-fitting overalls can be worn on their own, but most need something to be worn underneath.

The idea is that you could turn up at work in your own normal clothes and slip your overalls on over them when you were doing work that could get you dirty. At the end of the day, simply take them off and you’ve not ruined your good clothes. Overalls, therefore, didn’t have to have any trimmings or nods to fashion, as they were always meant to be damaged, dirtied and eventually discarded. As with many other types of workwear, however, they gained popularity as a fashion item, and designers gave overalls a makeover to turn them into cool casual wear.

 

Overalls, boilersuits, dungarees and jumpsuits: what’s the difference?

  • Overalls: a garment that covers arms, legs and torso (UK); a garment that covers legs and torso, with shoulder straps (US)
  • Boilersuit: a garment that covers arms, legs and torso
  • Dungarees: a garment that covers legs and torso, with shoulder straps
  • Jumpsuit: loose-fitting one-piece with or without sleeves, mainly worn by women

At Dickies Life, we refer to overalls as being the bib and brace type typical of our American roots as that’s the fashion interpretation of the word. They’re great for working and getting active in, but they’re cool just to hang out in, worn with a T-shirt or vest. If you’re looking for the boiler suit type for some hard graft, you have to head over to our sister site, Dickies Workwear

 

Can overalls be worn for fashion?

Overalls and dungarees look fantastic worn in everyday leisure settings with a T-shirt and trainers or boots – they’re not just workwear. You’re always going to achieve a laid-back, informal look when you’re dressed like this – it’s practically impossible for them to be formal. 

For the ultimate in off-duty style, remember to unhook one of the bib braces and leave it dangling – and don’t worry, they’ll stay on. You can wear them with a long- or short-sleeved top underneath, and with your best trainers, the look is complete. Hassle-free dressing for lazy days in the town or city.

 

What should I wear with overalls?

The beauty of overalls is that they can be worn with almost anything, although their laid-back vibe means they look better with a T-shirt, sweatshirt or vest underneath. Then you don’t have to worry about anything but your footwear – which probably means trainers or some relaxed boots.

In most cases, you won’t go wrong with a simple white T-shirt as it’ll accentuate the colour of the overalls, especially the braces. Worn with a fastened-up coat or jacket, they’ll be indistinguishable from a pair of jeans, so if you want to show off your bib and braces, you need to make sure you’re unfastened – which could mean extra layers if it’s cooler out.

 

Overalls – wear them your way

Whether you call them overalls, boiler suits or dungarees, you’re in for a treat if you’ve never taken the plunge before. You’ll feel totally chill, the loose fit and unmistakable laid-back air giving you an open, friendly and approachable look as you hang out with friends or just pop to the shops. It’s a more relaxed and confident way to dress.


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