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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Resurgence of Overalls

From Hard Work to High Fashion

Overalls, once regarded as childish and hillbilly-esque are taking the fashion world by storm. Comprised of material ranging from denim to corduroy, an absurd amount of pockets and unrivaled comfort, there is nothing out there quite like them. Currently, overalls are enjoying plenty of time in the limelight as celebrities and college students proudly rock them as they lounge, paint and skate through their days. In spite of their trending popularity, overalls have had to overcome a history of stigma to reclaim their place in outfit rotations.

The overalls phenomenon dates back to the 1750s, when they were first adopted by farmers and sailors as a protective garment for rigorous manual labor. Initially, the nascent versions of the overalls were known as slops. Transitioning into the 1870s, Levi Strauss, a German immigrant and founder of Levi Strauss & Co. located in San Francisco, began mass-producing overalls, propelling their beloved utility and comfort into working-class households across the nation.

Since their emergence, overalls gained significant attention in media and pop-culture. In the 1940s, they became a symbol for the indomitable spirit of the American worker. During World War II, the iconic character Rosie the Riveter even donned a pair of strapped trusty blues to show her support for the efforts of women factory workers.

Gradually, the industrious allure surrounding overalls began to take on a more (for lack of a better word) slop vibe.

“Overalls have been the outfit of choice for any redneck scumbag with a sharp implement,” according to an article from the The Daily Beast. “They are almost compulsory for slasher films […] they all have killers wearing denim overalls to match their one-eyed potato-sack hoods and hockey masks.” Naturally, this detrimental sentiment forced overalls into taking a lengthy hiatus from the fashion scene.

Fast-forward years later and overalls have awakened from their hibernation to join the ranks of bold stylish statements worn by fashionistas, artists and anyone else willing to give them a spin. indomitable

Laili Attai, who graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in managerial economics and is now a Merchandising Assistant at Banana Republic, noted her initial hesitation about getting into the overalls game.

“When I thought about someone wearing overalls at that time I was like, ‘I’m not five years old, I’m not going to be wearing overalls,’” Attai said.

Eventually Attai became enticed by the care-free call of overalls. For Attai, who is a fashion blogger, they were a perfect fit for her modern, laid-back aesthetic.

“My style became more sophisticated Bohemian,” Attai said. “I look really relaxed, but I put a lot of effort into it. That’s exactly what I think overalls are. They look like you put effort into what you are wearing, but they still have a really relaxed Bohemian vibe.”

One of the major upsides of overalls is their never-ending supply of remarkably deep pockets. Overalls lovers never cease to find creative uses for these practical pouches.

“When I wear my overalls it’s usually a day that I am vlogging,” Attai said. “My overalls’ pocket that’s right on my breastbone is a perfect point of view for my camera. So there’ll be days I can go around and for that hour, it has my perspective for the day.”

In addition to fashion forward individuals, overalls have created a soft spot in artists’ hearts for their comfort, coverage and utility. Maxine Aiello, an overalls devotee and third-year art studio major, commented on their versatile and comfortable characteristics.

“I really appreciate the unisex aspect of them because it’s a little frustrating how impractical women’s clothes can be sometimes,” Aiello said. “I like to reap the benefits of some men’s clothing.”

When focusing on her art, overalls provide Aiello with the trusty and considerate qualities that have become a necessity in the art studio.

“Well, in most of my work, since I do mostly sculpture, I have to be pretty flexible,” Aiello said. “What I am wearing needs to accommodate a lot of things. I usually need to be wearing pants. I don’t want to be wearing pants that I have to pull up all the time, that’s one of the huge plusses of overalls. They just stay on.”

Aiello also remarked that overalls give her the ability to conveniently transform into a walking mini storage unit.

“Having everything on my person is definitely becoming a preference of mine,” Aiello said. “With overalls, you got all the latches. I put keys on them. I hold tools in them, whether it’s nails, clips or tape. I’ve definitely walked around with all of my overalls stuffed with pockets of things feeling like a pack rat.”

A fundamental tenet of overalls is that you don’t have to be a fashionista or artist to relish the many benefits that they provide, just a little bold. Owen Sowerwine, a second-year environmental science major, has also pledged his support to the movement. He embraced the look when realizing overalls had transitioned to “something people actually rock.”

“I think that more people are accepting them as a piece of clothing and not work wear,” Sowerwine said.

Along with Aiello and Attai, he greatly emphasized the pockets and utility aspect as key factor in his overalls experience.

“I think they are super utilitarian, at least the ones that I have, have a f*** ton of pockets,” Sowerwine said.

Despite originally buying them for casual use, his overalls returned to their roots when he was employed on a farm this past summer.

“When I worked on an organic farm, they were really clutch,” Sowerine said. “I’d just wear boots with them.”

The diverse combination of Attai’s, Aiello’s and Sowerwine’s experiences embody the true character of overalls. After conquering stereotypes, they have re-emerged to add some much needed comfort and flare to life’s everyday activities. May all those daring enough to give overalls a try, wear and continue to wear them unjudged for years to come.

Written by: Andrew Williams –– arts@theaggie.org


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