A construction worker wearing overalls
Typeprotective clothing

Overalls, also called bib-and-brace overalls or dungarees, are a type of garment usually used as protective clothing when working. The garments are commonly referred to as a "pair of overalls" by analogy with "pair of trousers".[1]

Overalls were originally made of denim, but they can also be made of other materials such as corduroy, chino cloth, or leather. Overalls were invented in the mid to late 1890s by Grace Howard and Jacob W. Davis at Levi Strauss & Co., but they went through an evolution to reach their modern form.[2] Initially created to serve as protective clothing during physically demanding work, they have since also become a fashion garment.[3] Many high fashion brands have released their own spin on overalls.[4]

A 1920 advertisement for Over Alls, published in the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Journal, depicts railway workers adjusting track.
A 1920 advertisement for Over Alls, published in the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Journal, depicts railway workers adjusting track.



The exact beginnings of the wearing of overalls are unclear, but they are mentioned in literature as early as 1776 as protective working garments commonly worn by slaves.[5]

The first evidence of overalls being mass-produced are those made by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis in the 1890s. The first "jeans" they invented were actually "waist-high overalls", consisting of denim pants with suspenders attached with buttons, but with no bib.[2] From the beginning, denim overalls were popular workers' garments due to their durability. In fact, Levi Strauss & Co.'s slogan in the 1880s-1890s was "Never Rip, Never Tear".[6]

In 1911, Harry David Lee made the first bib overalls, made of pants with pockets with a bib and straps over the shoulders.[2]

In 1927, Lee's developed a "hook-less fastener" and created "button-less" overalls. Zippers replaced buttons.[2] Soon after, suspender buttons were traded in for belt loops to attach over-the-shoulder straps.[2]

The Overalls Movement of 1920

In 1920, groups of "Overalls Clubs" formed around the United States. They took overalls as their symbol to protest the rising cost of clothing, and profiteering in the garment industry.[7]

The Great Depression

In the 1930s, the poorest segments of the American population wore overalls: farmers, miners, loggers, and railroad workers.[8] They were most commonly worn by men and boys in the Southern and Midwestern United States. They can be seen in many of Walker Evans's photographs.[6]

Modern history

Diesel Black Gold Fall/Winter 2010 Collection
Diesel Black Gold Fall/Winter 2010 Collection

Bib overalls (in different colors and textiles) became popular garments among American youth from the 1960s onward.[9]

In the 21st century, overalls have evolved into high-fashion garments. Designers such as Stella McCartney feature them in ready-to-wear collections for men, women, and children. McCartney's children's overalls sell for as much as $138.[10] Nordstrom sells overalls for as much as $1,080.[11]


Levi Strauss & Co. and Lee were not the only companies making overalls in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Garments adapted from overalls

Salopettes for a motorcycle rider
Salopettes for a motorcycle rider

Shortalls (a contraction of the words "short" and "overalls") are with the lower part adapted into shorts.[7]

Salopettes is the French word for bib-and-brace overalls. The word is used in English for a similar garment to overalls worn for sailing, skiing, diving, and other heavy-duty activities. They are made of wind-and-waterproof trousers, traditionally with a high waist reaching to the chest and held up by adjustable shoulder braces.[12][13]

Historically, military "overalls" were loose garments worn in the 18th and early 19th centuries over soldiers' breeches and gaiters when on active service or in barracks. After 1823, the term was replaced by "trousers" in British Army documents, but it survives to the present day in reference to the tight-fitting garments strapped under the instep, worn as part of the mess dress and full dress uniforms of cavalry regiments.[14]


  1. ^ "Walton & Taylor "The History of Overalls (Jeans)"". www.waltontaylor.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kyi, Tanya Lloyd (2011). The lowdown on denim. Hanmer, Clayton. Toronto: Annick Press. ISBN 978-1-55451-415-1. OCLC 825770364.
  3. ^ "Christian Dior Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection – Vogue". www.vogue.com. March 3, 2017.
  4. ^ MacDonall, Nancy (May 6, 2021). "Skinny Jeans, Move Over: Overalls Are Here (Again)". The Wall Street Journal.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e Sullivan, James (November 7, 2006). Jeans: a cultural history of an American icon. New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 1-59240-214-3. OCLC 62697070.
  6. ^ a b McClendon, Emma (2016). Denim : fashion's frontier. New Haven. ISBN 978-0-300-21914-2. OCLC 930798077.
  7. ^ a b Goldman, Jonathan (2020). "The New York City Overalls Parade, 1920". The Gotham Center for New York City History.
  8. ^ a b Gunn, Douglas; Sims, Josh; Luckett, Roy (2012). Vintage menswear : a collection from the Vintage Showroom. London: Laurence King. ISBN 978-1-78067-203-8. OCLC 866622270.
  9. ^ Batchelor, Bob (2008). American Pop: Popular Culture Decade by Decade, Volume 3 1960-1989. Vol. 3. Greenwood Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-313-36416-7.
  10. ^ "Stella McCartney – Designer RTW, Bags & accessories, Lingerie, Adidas by Stella McCartney, Fragrances, Kids". Stella McCartney – Designer RTW, Bags & accessories, Lingerie, Adidas by Stella McCartney, Fragrances, Kids. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "Tu es mon TRÉSOR Imitation Pearl Embellished Overalls (Nordstrom Exclusive) | Nordstrom". Nordstrom. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  12. ^ "the definition of salopettes". Dictionary.com. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  13. ^ "Une histoire de salopette". La Parisienne (in French). May 24, 2010. Archived from the original on March 27, 2018. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  14. ^ Carman, W.Y. (1977). A Dictionary of Military Uniform. p. 97. ISBN 0-684-15130-8.