Vogue Origins: A Farmer’s Garment Made Mod

One day roughly a year ago, two friends and I had plans to go to an art museum.  Before heading to the exhibition, we all drove separately to one friend’s house to reconvene into one vehicle to assuage the lonely, lengthy Los Angeles drive and the preposterous price of parking. However, when I arrived, a terrible travesty occurred.  My friend and I were both wearing overalls.  Up until this point, I viewed overalls as a statement piece, but the transition clarified.  Write it in the sky!  Engrave it in stone!  This had become a trend.  As we stepped our fully denim-clad feet into that one small house, the shelves of every Forever 21, H&M, and Urban Outfitters would become filled with dungarees.  

Overall, an awkward situation.

It seems these days I can hardly exit a building without seeing a person in overalls, leading me to wonder: where did this trend come from?  And where is it headed?

Overalls certainly have mixed connotations.  Due to their portrayal in popular culture, one might associate the garment with an image of sunburnt, shirtless, American — country folk chewing on a piece of straw.  Type “farmer” into Google Images.  Count the number of humans wearing overalls.  You will certainly tire of this game before long, but it serves my point; out of the innumerable, infinitesimal images on the world-wide-web, I venture to estimate that anywhere from one-third to one-half contain a person in overalls.

Indeed, our pop culture findings are founded in sound logic.  Classic overalls are comprised of a loose pair of pants upheld by a bib buckled to suspenders – functional features for farm work and manual labor.  However, most modern overall-wearers are not concerned with scratchy nettles and mud-splash from rural fields, nor the oily machinery of a worksite: this is likely not the environment in which they find themselves.  Often, garments originate as utilitarian pieces and are appropriated uniquely for the purpose of “fashion.”

Although they had been introduced into statement fashion earlier, the 1990s saw one of the earliest waves of mainstream overall-wearing.  Popular television shows, such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Friends” displayed characters rocking loose, classic versions of the garment.  While sitcoms may not exemplify a perfect mirror of life (don’t get me started on Friends), they can certainly point to the growing acceptance of a fad.  This trend persisted through the decade, but eventually fizzled.  That is, until a change occurred.

While dungaree purists may stay true to the classic denim composition and loose structure, innovation in fashion occurs when a look is taken and changed.  Currently, dungarees of all sorts are in vogue, in different lengths, cuts and colors.  Slim, black overalls, shortalls, and overall dresses name but a few of the many options.

If you are like me, you may cringe at the idea of following a trend too closely, for fear of being branded as ordinary or predictable.  However, trends are not a bad thing!  They are rooted in history.  They signify admiration of innovation, which can lead to growth and change in how we dress ourselves.  As much as I would urge you to not jump off a bridge in a trendy circumstance, I refuse to completely denounce trends.  In short, I think overalls look damn cute.  Dressing differently at all times can be downright exhausting, so sometimes it is nice to dip your hands in the mainstream to try something tried, true, and ephemerally modern.

photography by Marley Loveman Brown
photography by Marley Loveman Brown
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