Boiler suits have a long record in fashion history, today they remain one of the most common and sought after workwear essentials. Discover the origins of boiler suits and the different varieties of contemporary boiler suits currently available. From the highstreets to casual ready-to-wear, the effortless chic of the boiler suit has been embraced by brands today, each placing their own spin on the history garment.
What is a boiler suit?
In the most basic of terms, a boiler suit is a one-piece garment worn for protection during heavy manual labor, traditionally sported in boiler rooms. A boiler room was a space in a building or ship where the main energy source was housed – the boiler. These were often hot and physically demanding spaces and a head-to-toe garment was needed to protect workers from their taxing work environment.
Today, versions of the boiler suit have made their way into everyday fashion. Less so worn for its protective attributes, and more for the workwear inspired aesthetic that they offer.
What started the boiler suit trend?
The boiler suit trend stems from American workwear, at the dawn of the western industrial revolution, these suits were worn by the working class. They are a symbol of hard work, practicality, and western economic growth and power. Over the 20th century, they remained a reminder of American values. During the Second World War, the suit was popularized in American war propaganda. The ever iconic “Rosie the Riveter” famously wore one, the suit became a symbol for both men and women because of her. The boiler suit has remained a staple for men and women alike ever since.
Types of Boiler Suits
There are several types of boiler suits available new, upcycled, or vintage. Finding the right fit, color, material, and finishes is entirely up to your personal taste and desire.
Vintage workwear boiler suits
Boiler suits have been around for over a century and have been worn by many. Vintage workwear suits are an interesting option if you want a piece with a history. Vintage canvas and denim have a long lifespan compared to newer cotton fabrics, they are remarkably durable and still hold structural integrity decades past their construction. Classic blue boiler suits will always remain in fashion and are a great option if you want a put together look with one piece.
Upcycled Boiler Suit
Upcycled boiler suits are constructed in such a way as to create an entirely new piece from deadstock denim or canvas fabric or older garments. An upcycled piece is interesting to have in your wardrobe, as they come with a story behind what they were previously and how they were transformed into their current state. Boiler suits are relatively simple to construct, using older fabrics and designing your own is entirely possible for even newer sewers. There are many highly-skilled upcycled designers, that can transform vintage fabrics into contemporary boiler suits.
Denim Boiler Suit
Denim is an American classic, making the denim boiler suit one of the ultimate pieces of Americana. Wearing a denim boiler suit is perfect for all seasons and most occasions. It is the epitome of classic and effortless, accessories are all you have to add to make countless outfits. Denim can be a fun material as it ages and gets discolored over time, showing history and character as it ages. Different washes and treatments can add to the overall effect as well, white denim versus a deep blue stone wash can each create its own unique vibe.
High Fashion Brands that design boiler suits
Nearly all of the high fashion brands have designed some version of the utilitarian staple. Here are a few beloved brands and their take on the classic boiler suit.
Weekend Max Mara
Chic and free, best describes the Weekend Max Mara collection. They have taken classic utilitarian pieces and designed different coveralls, including a green boiler suit that exudes chic and comfort. They often opt to use softer cotton blends, making their garments more flexible and comfortable for longer wear.
Stella McCartney is best known for pushing sustainability in the fashion industry, the brand’s take on the classic boiler suit is simple, modern, and feminine. The boiler suit was traditionally a menswear piece, Stella McCartney adds feminine accents and angles to their works resulting in a more feminine take on a highly masculine staple. They also don’t stray away from bright colors, nothing says “femininity” like a pink boiler suit.
Tommy Hilfiger is an American classic and has designed numerous boiler suits over the years. The brand has preferred to create denim boiler suits, tapping into the all-American aesthetic of the brand, silhouette, and material – Tommy Hilfiger, boiler suit, and denim. They have done many riffs off of the classic suit, designing with striped patterns, numerous colors, and different tailoring techniques. This is a great brand to shop for if you are looking for a new or vintage boiler suit. Their boiler suits have been in production for decades, there is a color and size for everyone.
Best known for its athletic lines, Adidas has produced a few boiler suits over the years. The Adidas boiler suit is one of the most unique iterations of the classic silhouette. Adidas takes many of the trappings and finishes from their tracksuits and applies them to a one-piece boiler suit. It is a fun and sporty look that exudes cool and comfort. Their version of the suit is constructed from polyester, the fit is remarkably light and comfortable.
& Other Stories
& Other Stories is a contemporary women’s ready-to-wear brand, offering a wide selection of modern takes on classic pieces. The brand philosophy is to create a collection of everything someone might want to wear in one space, with a focus on pieces that can be worn all year round and for years to come. Boiler suits are a common style that can effortlessly be worn for years and decades to come. & Other Stories has made a few versions of the suit over the years, each with a more feminine cut and contemporary finishes. This is the place to shop if you are in search of something more modern and youthful.
Endless Possibilities and Styles
A boiler suit is traditionally made of a heavy fabric like canvas or denim, as these are durable fibers that can withstand long term wear. Contemporary versions of the boiler suit are not exclusively produced from denim or canvas, today they are often made from lighter, more comfortable cotton and even polyester fabrics. Finishes on a boiler suit include metal rivets on seams, durable zip closures, and functional pockets and tool loops. Boiler suits require a full pant, this is because they, traditionally, were designed for safety in the workplace. They have the option of a short sleeve or long sleeve, but again they were designed with safety in mind, so a full-top sleeve is classic.