Overalls are a single garment consisting of pants, a chest covering, and suspenders or braces. They are typically a utilitarian garment worn as some sort of protection in various occupations, including farm and railroad work, car racing, and military work. Some people wear the garment as a fashion statement or for comfort rather than for work. A similar garment, which covers the entire torso and arms on top, is also sometimes referred to by this name, though it is more often called a coverall.
A variety of materials can be used to make overalls, but denim is perhaps the most common. Called dungarees in England after the Indian fabric that was the precursor to denim, this type first became popular among British sailors and railroad workers in the United States in the 19th century. Modern day blue jeans are also sometimes called dungarees and also started out as work attire. Denim overalls have become more common as everyday wear, particularly for young people, and many different colors and styles are available.
Function often determines the fabric used to make overalls. Race car drivers and drag racers wear outfits made of a fire resistant textile, such as wool or Nomex®, to protect them in the event of crashes. Those worn by members of the military are also commonly fireproof. Factory workers, mechanics, sailors, and similar types of workers may wear protective coveralls, or boilersuits, made of cotton or nylon. These suits are usually worn over street clothes, whereas overalls are typically worn over long johns and a shirt, or only a shirt.
In Sweden and Finland, many university students wear special coveralls known as student overalls. Engineering students most often wear them, but some students in other fields of study have adopted the practice. Students are assigned different colors, depending upon their specific academic program, and they make the uniform their own by adding buttons, patches, and so on related to their political and personal interests, becoming something of a walking scrapbook. Students may also exchange pieces of their garments with one another.