When someone envisions the traditional farmer, most people see a person who is wearing denim overalls. Have you ever wondered exactly why they wear this outfit? It has become uncommon in today’s society to see a farmer in traditional overalls, although they are still worn. With all that being said, let’s explain why farmers wear overalls.
Farmers first started wearing denim overalls in the United States in the 1700s. Originally they were called “slops” and became the standard uniform for the farming class. The overalls were worn as a protective layer of clothing while farmers worked. Overalls, also referred to as bib-and-brace overalls or dungarees originally were made out of denim, but the fabric varied from cloth to corduroy. They ended up being mass-produced by Levi Strauss in the 1890s. These caught on with farmers due to how durable denim was in holding up to the elements as well as the day to day life of a farmer.
Unlike other fabrics, denim is able to hold up to being wet from mud or water for long periods of time without breaking down as a cloth material would. The denim used in overalls was rugged and cheap. This allowed working-class farmers to easily afford them, and they also saw the overall value for their money. Denim bib overalls were also very adjustable, which meant you didn’t have to worry about them becoming too tight or too loose.
Not only are overalls rugged, but they are also comfortable. When they worked their land, they wanted their clothing to be comfortable while remaining functional. The overalls not only provided the protection they needed for muck, dirt, and oil, but they also fulfilled the need for comfort. Overalls are generally a bit roomy, so they allow the farmer to easily bend over without feeling constricted. They also did not constrict their arms, which allowed them a good range of motion. Farmers are often bending under machinery or reaching in awkward positions. The ability to freely move their arms was a huge advantage.
Overalls don’t fall down like traditional pants and since they sit over your shoulder, you wouldn’t need a belt. Imagine bending down all day, you would eventually get aggravated by continually adjusting your pants. These shoulder straps eliminated that hassle for farmers.
Another benefit was overalls had an extra chest pocket. The pockets would allow farmers to carry their tools without the need for a separate tool belt. One of the most valuable things a farmer has is their time. Anything that makes a farmer’s job easier is a wise investment for them. The pockets on the chest of the overalls allowed them to keep tools on them, so they wouldn’t have to go back and forth. In the world of farming, saving time is making money.
There are, however, a few downsides to wearing overalls. For one, if you were working in cold temperatures, they really didn’t provide a lot of warmth, which would make farmers need jackets and extra layers. This would take away from many of the advantages as we mentioned above. Although they had chest pockets, they did lack a lot of storage offered by other garments.If you needed protection from the wind, overalls didn’t help much at all besides your legs and torso.
With all of these cons came innovation, which is why you rarely see farmers wearing overalls today. There are some who still do, and it is dependent on the climate of the area you are in as well as what your work entails.With the invention of coveralls, things are much different. Why would a farmer wear coveralls over a pair of denim bib overalls? So, how do coveralls compare to standard denim bib overalls?
Well, coveralls do as the name states. They cover your entire body. This means you don’t need any other garments like a jacket since the coverall will cover both your legs and torso. Whatever clothing you have under the coveralls will typically be protected from the elements you are working in, such as rain, dirt, or mud. They will also keep you much warmer than overalls as they are more insulated. However, not all coveralls are this insulated. Some coveralls are made out of lightweight material, so they breathe well. Think of them as a more durable jumpsuit. Another plus for coveralls is the high visibility they offer due to them often having some sort of reflective marking on the outfit.
Coveralls also have pockets on the legs, arms, and chest making them more capable of storage than traditional overalls. Many farmers find themselves carrying around a bunch of smaller tools, so the addition of all of this extra storage is seen to be highly desirable.
The main problem with coveralls is their inability to regulate your heat, especially if you buy a pair more suited for cold weather. The only way to regulate the heat of a coverall is to open the zipper in front, which makes them very awkward to work in. This is where overalls have an advantage over the coveralls by giving you the ability to layer while still maintaining high levels of protection.
As you can see, there are many practical reasons for farmers to wear denim bib overalls. They give the farmers a layer of protection from the muck, dirt, and grime that comes with their daily work life. The denim bibs also give them additional chest pockets, which help them carry their tools. They stay up due to their suspenders and are adjustable, so you don’t have to worry about outgrowing your pair. Another positive is denim holds up well to the wear and tear you would expect on a farm.
Perhaps most importantly, they are very cost-effective, and farmers need to make every dollar they spend count. Farmers may not wear the traditional denim bib overalls as often anymore, but that classic outfit will always be how we picture farmers.