Since their inception in the late 1800s, overalls have remained a staple item of clothing, first in heavy industry – where they remain common to this day – and then later as a fashion item, where they have been a semi-constant item of clothing since the late 1960s.
As such, the way the clothing item is viewed has changed and remained somewhat complex over the years.
However, even as trends have come and gone, overalls have remained a popular mainstay in many different ways.
This article will take a brief look at the history of the overalls, and the ways in which they can be worn today.
Overalls: The Facts
The overalls have an interesting history, and one that is as amorphous and persistent as their place within fashion.
While the exact beginnings of overalls are unknown, they were first described in 1776 as protective over-clothes garments worn by slaves for manual work.
Levi Strauss (1890s)
What could be considered the first example of uniformity within the garment came around in the 1890s, when Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis created their denim ‘jeans’, which in their first iteration were actually overalls.
These were high waisted denim trousers that could be attached to separate cotton or leather suspenders, and were popular amongst workers due to their high durability and suitability for manual work.
Harry David Lee (1911)
The first example of the ‘bib and brace’ overalls (now considered the main definition) wasn’t created until 1911, when Harry David Lee released overalls with a raised denim bib at the front, and connected straps that went over the shoulder to the bottom of the back.
In modern times, they have been a popular fashion item amongst young people, originating in the United States, but spreading all around the world.
Despite varying moments of being fashionable, overalls were considered ‘uncool’ for some time, at least from a fashion sense, that is until the 21st century when they became an example of high fashion, popularized by the likes of Stella McCartney and other notable designers.
How To Wear Overalls
Of course, when it comes to fashion, there are no right or wrong answers, and everyone should wear whatever they want, in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
However, there are several established ways to wear overalls that can be helpful if you are struggling for inspiration.
Luckily, due to their long history in both work and fashion circles, overalls can now be comfortably worn with any number of items, including t-shirts, varying forms of shoes, boots, and sneakers, or even with high heels.
One of the main inspirations for how to wear overalls comes from country music, where the item of clothing has long been a staple worn by both men and women.
This look can be a relaxed, casual, and rugged look, reminiscent of other forms of workwear commonly worn by singers in the genre.
For this look, they could be paired with cowboy boots, lace up work boots, or even sneakers.
When combined with accessories such as hats (brimmed or trucker hats), a cool vintage tee, and various forms of jewelry or scarves (neckerchiefs), this can be a cool, head turning look that is steeped in history and style.
Retro 70s Overalls
Denim and color blocked overalls have a long association with the 1970s, and if you are looking to achieve a retro look from that era, then overalls are a great place addition to any wardrobe.
When paired with thick heeled boots, a groovy patterned top, and accessories like hats, earrings, and some cool vintage shades, this really is a look that, oddly, feels quite timeless.
In modern times, there are a number of overall dresses on the market, often coming in various colors of denim, cotton twill, or corduroy.
These can be paired with any number of tops, tshirts, and vests, and go really well with almost any form of outer wear.
Pair with smart shoes for a touch of elegance, or wear with sneakers or Doc Marten boots to add a touch of edge.
There are also numerous patterned variations of overalls available in both men’s and women’s sizes.
These can range from pinstripe or hickory striped designs – akin to classic railway workwear (think Casey Jones) – or more bright, vibrant patterns, more akin to hippy culture.
There are countless options on the market, and they can become a great statement piece that perfectly lets your personality shine through.
These work better with basic colored pairings, such as the classic black or white tee, however, there are really no limits.
Brands like Carhartt and Dickies produce countless types of overalls for both men and women, allowing a rugged, casual, yet striking look that is perfect for those wanting to add a statement piece to their wardrobe.
Pair with boots or sneakers, add a hoodie or trucker jacket, and accessorize with any number of hats – beanies, flat caps, and trucker hats work the best if you are going for the workwear/hipster style, but ultimately the world is your oyster!
Wearing Overalls For Work
Of course, depending on your job, overalls might be a part of your day-to-day uniform.
With this, there are several brands and styles depending on the industry.
Painters, construction workers, engineers, and mechanics have all been known to wear this workwear staple, both in terms of convenience and comfort, but also because of their durability that protects them from damage and grime.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about overalls, and some of the potential ways you could wear or style them.
Despite their long history, they are a versatile, eye catching item of clothing that continue to capture the hearts and minds of designers and fashionistas alike.
Why not try them for yourself?