Overalls: Symbols And Homage To Hard Work

Overalls have historically been associated with rural living and a strong work ethic. Today, urban dwellers wear overalls as a fashion statement. Yet, the association with the rural lifestyle remains an unmistakable part of its iconic identity.

Overalls Emerge as Practical Clothing for Tough Jobs

Overalls were first known as “slops” and emerged in the 1700s as practical clothing for tough farming and rural work. Designed to be worn over a shirt, overalls are put on by stepping into a pair of loose-fitting pants attached to a “bib.” The entire outfit is secured with straps over the shoulders. This one-piece outfit protects clothing from wear and tear. An added benefit is that it can be worn without much need for alteration.

Dungarees and Bib Overalls Merge

Today, the term “dungaree” is synonymous with “overalls.”That said “dungaree” originally referred to a specific type of tough fabric from India. This strong, inexpensive fabric was known as “Dungri,” the name of the Indian village in which it originated. “Dungaree” is the British version of the word. Later, overalls were constructed out of this tough fabric, thus merging the two terms.   

Fashion Overalls Pay Homage to Working Roots

Overalls enjoyed a short stint in high fashion, especially after high-profile celebrities were seen wearing them. Mick Jagger was famously photographed in a pair of bejeweled, velvety overalls. The 1990s saw a rise of civilians wearing overalls (often with one strap undone), a look that has been popularized by hip hop and pop artists including Justin Bieber and Lauryn Hill. 

Today, many people still consider the attire a practical choice for their working lives. To them, overalls will always exemplify a strong work ethic and America’s rural heritage. This popular garment can be seen on farms across the heartland as well as in trendy urban centers.