Boilersuits: Simplicity Equals Functionality

By bsozak | November 12, 2012

boiler suitThere are so many types of attire than are meant for only particular occasions that it’s sometimes had to keep track. Sometimes, we can get two items confused that are really used for totally different purposes by the wearer. For instance, can you think of one garment that remarkably resembles a jumpsuit (at least in a design sense), but has no business being worn by a dare devil skydiver? It’s nothing less than it’s less colorful cousin, the boilersuit (also known as the coverall).

Like a jumpsuit, it has full arms and legs and connects as a one-piece garment, covering the entire body. Unlike a jumpsuit, it is less tight fitting because it is designed for comfort and hard work. It has no jacket tails, no gap between trousers and coat and is fastened shut with a variety of methods. Velcro, buttons, zippers or snap fasteners are among the most popular ones. They also have a long pocket on one thigh made to hold tools. Hoods are also usually attached in case the wearer has to endure harsh weather or other hazardous work environment.

Boilersuits derived their name from the type of work they were originally designer for: maintaining-coal fired boilers. The men that wore these garments were exposed to dangerous circumstances where wearing a one-piece piece of durable clothing was essential. One common task of a coal miner was checking for steam leaks or cleaning soot that had gathered inside of a firebox of a train engine. The worker had to climb inside to perform his duty. Although this sounds very dangerous, given the fact that he was wearing a one-piece garment, he was actually in far less danger. The sealed front of the boilersuit keeps pieces of soot from falling between the gap that occurs between trousers and a jacket. Also, wearing a boilersuit prevented any waistband or jacket tail from getting caught in tight quarters as the worker navigated the fire hole.

Today, boilersuits are used among workers in industrial environments over street clothes as well as uniformed officers. The French police, also known as the CRS, also wear them. The US Army and Marine Corps adorn boiler suits when they take the position as “CVCs”, also known as “Combat Vehicle Crewman”. Strangely enough, Japanese politicians have also taken to wearing them in order to “convey an image of preparedness”. They’ve even shown up on the party scene in some Nordic countries and as Halloween costumes in America in 2010, after the BP oil spill.

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