It is colourful, full of patches and sometimes also tatty and dirty, but it is the favourite garment for many students. The overall is worn at the start of term, at parties where the dress code prescribes it, and at other social events. 

Students wearing overallsOveralls are those stained, colourful and funny-looking garments that can be seen here and there on campus. Photo credit Magnus Johansson When new, it looks like your average overall, doctor’s white coat or dungarees. In pristine condition, clean and nondescript. But it is soon adorned with patches and side stripes or turned into a tailcoat, always with a personal touch. We are talking about the overall, the favourite garment of many students.

Peer students wearing overallsOveralls are most often worn by students in their second year or higher. Photo credit Emma Busk Winquist The overall can be bought in the first trembling weeks at university, when everything around you is unfamiliar and you are wondering why everyone is wearing practically identical clothing. You know that overalls are worn by students and peer mentors who are already in their second year or higher, but the rest is a mystery. After some time, you start noticing details: overalls come in different colours, and have different patches, there are names written on them, and some even have sewn-on bottle openers and other items that may come in handy. This all seems rather practical, and before you know it your overall has become your favourite garment. You wear it to parties where the dress code prescribes it, and to other parties and events. Your overall will be a staple garment, and you will never have to worry about what to wear. The overall always works – except for posh dining events.

As a new student, you wear your overall buttoned up, but after the overalls inauguration event later in the term you may unbutton it to the waist and wear it with the sleeves tied around your waist.

The overall – a comfy garment in any student context

Student wearing overalls.Overalls can be worn any time, but most usually at parties where they are obligatory, at dinners or in pubs. Photo credit Hanna Söderquist One of the good things about the overall is that it can function as an ice breaker in social contexts and provide a sense of belonging. If you see anyone with a similar overall, you can be sure that it is a friend, someone who belongs to the same division as you. 

The colour of the overall is determined by the programme you are on. Brown is for computer technicians, red for teachers, green for psychologists, turquoise for biomedical analysts and blue for ESN (Erasmus Student Network) exchange students.

Most overalls are monochrome, but some have more colours such as red and yellow if you are on the mechanical engineering programme. If several programmes have the same colour on their overalls, they can be told apart by the colour of the side stripes. The side stripes are sewn or glued to the sides of the trouser legs. Fabrics for the side stripes, and a lot of other things, such as textile glue and marker pens, can be bought from Bokab in Kårallen on Campus Valla or from fabric shops in town. To help you find the way, you can join a guided walk on campus or in town. 

Student in overallOveralls are often adorned with patches. For those who have many patches, their overall may very well be the most expensive garment in their wardrobe. Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar Then it is time to start pimping your overall! Maybe you will be invited to join a sewing event, or organise one yourself, to sew on the side stripes, your name and your first patch.  Some patches are sold only in Bokab and in Unicrew Store on Campus Valla, others are sold in the student union houses and by the student associations you are a member of. Some patches are sold only in connection with events and parties. 

After a term or so, you have perfected your sewing skills. Your overall is covered in patches from various dinner parties and events, and greetings from friends. Each overall is now personal and unique. Some overalls have hundreds of patches on them, and are now the most expensive garment in their owner’s wardrobe. 

The placement of the patches also tells a story. A patch from a party that was not worth while may be placed at the bottom of a trouser leg. A patch placed upside down means one thing and its specific location means something else. 

The art of deciphering an overall

Your patches tell a story, about parties you have attended, places you have visited and other fun stuff. Along with reading your course literature you will quickly learn how to read an overall. Just by looking at an overall you get a lot of information about its bearer, what and where they are studying, for how long they have been studying, how active they are and in what areas, and whether you have been to the same parties. 

Student overallThe overall must not be washed (unless its owner is actually in it) but it is ok to air it. Photo credit Teres Wramell With time, the overall will fade, it will get worn out and dirty. You hang it outside to air. Maybe you take a bath or a shower while wearing it, as you may not wash it unless you are in it.

But one thing is certain. Your overall will accompany you to all sorts of experiences during your studies, from parties and games to reception of new students. Many keep their memento-covered overall long after they have finished their studies. It becomes a chronicle of your student life, something that retains its place of honour in your wardrobe, and will maybe be worn again at a reunion, when new history is made.

Text: Teres Wramell
Translated by: Anneli Mosell

Overalls guide

Yellow, brown, red — who wears what?

All programmes and their divisions have unique overalls. Are you curious to find out what the different programme overalls look like? Check out the overalls guide at

Overalls history

Student overalls probably first appeared in the late 1960s or early 1970s at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Why? Simply because overalls were worn in the laboratories and students started wearing them to student pubs. The reason for this is not entirely clear – it could be that they might not have had time to change, or maybe it was just a fun idea.

As the party committees of various student associations started to tour the country, the use of overalls spread to more universities.

The first documented case of a student association wearing overalls was the student orchestra ab Kruthornen from the Västmanlands-Dala student association in Uppsala, shown wearing their pink (red) overalls on the cover of their 1966 album “Dancing with Kruthornen”. 

But when did the first overalls appear at Linköping University? Well, this is a point of contention among experts.

Find out more about student life at LiU