*** koveralls coveralls


Figure 1.--Ovearalls were commonly worn on the farm and by workingmen by the late 19th century. The were hardly considered fashionable and were not worn by city boys much until the late 1940s. The one exception was coveralls made for little boys.

No clothing item as assumed more importance in a boy's wardrobe during the second half of the 20th century than blue jeans. The first jeans worn by boys, although it was not a boys' style, was overalls. I have collected relatively little information on this style. It is esentially Aerican. It was worn mostly in rural Americaas work clothes, but in the 1990s has become stylish for both boys and girls.



One of the central symbols of modern American culture are blue jeans. They were in fact the creation of a 19th century German Jewish immigrant--Levi Strauss. Levi Strauss overalls began appearing in the 1870s and by the 1880s had become enormously popular as work clothes. The original jeans were workclothes and the idea that they would one day be fashionable would have been inconceivable to 19th Century children. The most popular style of jeans were initially overalls which were made in the bib-front style. By the late 19th century they were widely worn by farmers, miners, and laborers all over America. Boys in rural America commonly went to school in overalls through the 1930s.

Koveralls introduced

Levi Strauss in 1912 introduced its first playsuits for children, known as Koveralls. Simon Davis, the son of Jacob Davis designed the Koverall. Davis was the superintendent of the Levi Strauss Valencia Street factory. Levi Strauss & Co. advertised the Koveralls widelyand the Koveralls became the first product sold nationwide by Levi's the 1920s introduced "Koveralls", a denim play garment. This was quite a novel idea at the time. For the first timevin America, some affluent city boys were esentially wearing overalls. Levi Strauss in the 1920s introduced 'Koveralls', a denim play garment. They were conceived of by ??? Davis, son of Jacob Davis This was quite a novel idea at the time. For the first timevin America, some affluent city boys were esentially wearing overalls.

bib-front shorts
Figure 2.--Bibfront overalls for younger boys in the 1990s were made in a wide variety of colors and materials.


The overall was generally seen as workingsman clothes and a symbol of poverty by urban Americans for decades. Blue jeans without the bibfront seemed much more acceptable to urban boys. Many city boys first saw blue jeans in cowboy movies and liked the look. American boys as knickers disappeared in the 1940s, American boys began to wear blue jeans. The availability of jeans was at first limited by the War. By the 1970s jeans had become almost a uniform of American and soon worldwide youth and increasingly a fashion statement.

Overalls for children

Overalls reemrged in the 1980s as a child's garment. They began to be worn by small children. Shortalls became less commonly worn by boys in the 1970s and by the 1980s mothesd had begun to repalce them with overall-like garments. Overalls until the 1970s were almost always made with long pants. As they replaced shortalls, short pants overalls began to appear, but only for younger boys.

Fashionable overalls

Overalls were adopted by girls and boys of all ages as a fashion statement, especially by the girls. Overalls were at first primarily for very young children, but older girls began to wear them in the 1990s. Older boys also began wearing them, often with long baggy shorts.

Fashionable bib-front overalls
Figure 3.--Older boys in the 1990s commonly wear bibfront overalls, but in muted colors or traditional blue denim.


One HBC contributor suggest that this bibfront overalls trached their peak of popularity in the mid-1990s. He believes that while still worn, the popularity among older boys has begun to decline.


The original overalls were made of traditional blue denim. The overalls available for boys in the 1990s was a much larger range of materials, including corderoy, canvas sheeting, and other materials.


I'm not sure what colors the Koveralls of the 1920s were made.

The overalls that appeared for younger children in the 1980s began to appear in a wider range of bright colors that appealed to young children. The overalls that older boys started wearing in the 1990s, however, were blue denim or other plain colors.


The original overalls all had long pants. Shortpants would have been unheard of in the late 19th Century. The Koveralls for boys introduced for younger boys in the 1920s also had only long pants.

The bib-front overalls appearing in the 1980s had both short and long pants versions. They were often made to be worn in large baggy sizes.

Figure 4.--Many boys believe it is stylish to wear overalls with one of the shoulder straps undone. Along with the backwards baseball cap and baggy pants, overalls were an important element in hiphop fashions.


Overalls in the late 19th and early 20th Century were worn by boys of all ages as well as adult men. The Koveralls introfuced in tne 1920s were primarily for younger boys. I'm not positive about this, but I think they were mostly worn by relatively younger boys, up to about 8 years of age. (This needs to be confirmed.) The coloful overalls that appeared for younger boys in the 1980s were generallys for boys of up to 5 and 6 years of age. The overalls, especially the denim and other muted color overalls were worn by boys of all ages.


The original Koveralls had lon pants. Often boys in the 1920s and 30s who mostly wore short pants had a pair of Koveralls for rough outdoor play wear. They may have influenced the shortalls which appeared in the 1950s, althout shortalls were worn for could be worn for dressy as well as play wear. Koveralls in return began to replace shortalls which by the 1980s were being worn by younger boys, mostly todlers. Koveralls began to appear in both long pants and shortpants styles. Koveralls by the 1990s began to be worn by boys of all ages as well as girls.

Recall in 1999

CPSC and Levi Strauss in 1999 announced an infant and toddler Koverall and shortall recall. In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Levi Strauss & Co. ofSan Francisco, Calif., voluntarily recalled about 3,000 Little Levi's Koveralls and Shortalls. The snap fasteners on theinside legs of these garments may separate, creating a potential choking risk to children. CPSC and Levi Strauss are not aware of any injuries involving these garments. This recall is being conducted to prevent the possibility of injury.

Figure 5.--Bibfront overalls, both short and long pants styles, are now worn by boys of all ages and are considered stylish.

The recalled Little Levi's brand Koveralls and Shortalls styled for boys in sizes 12 to 24 months and 2T to 4T were all soldin indigo denim with product codes: 29028-2891 and 22028-2891 (Koveralls) and 22020-2891 and 29020-2891(Shortalls). Koveralls is a youth version of traditional adult overalls and Shortalls is a short pant length version.Levi Strauss is also recalling infant sizes 12 to 24 months of its Levi's brand Girlswear Koveralls and Shortalls withproduct codes: 38806-0817 and 38806-0881 (Koveralls) and 39867-0881, 39867-0817, and 39867-9281 (Shortalls). Thegirls garments were sold in stonebleach denim, pink twill, or pink check fabric with an elastic back. The product codes arelocated on the back of the care label sewn in an inside seam of each garment.Retail stores sold the garments nationwide beginning in November 1996.

Consumers should immediately stop using these garments and return them to the store where purchased for a full refund.Consumers with questions about the recall may call Levi Strauss & Co. at 1-(800)USA-LEVI, or write to the company at:Levi's Plaza, P.O. Box 7215, San Francisco, Calif. 94120.

Jump Suits

One HBC reader believes that there may have been a connection between koveralls/coveralls and jump suits. He writes, "They were a popular more fashionable alternative to overalls for children in the 1920s and 30s. I think that accounts for why you would see jumpsuits being marketed to older men in the 70s and 80s. I have noted the younger boys are wearing coveralls in many old American school photographs." Loveralls seem to have been less popular in Europe. wehave noticed some British schools where boys wore boiler suits when playing outside in inclemate weather.


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Created: October 2, 1998
Last updated: December 24, 2003