Overalls – a very special garment

It’s colourful, covered in badges, and sometimes dirty and frayed. But for many students it’s their most-loved item of clothing. As the autumn term kicks off, the bib overalls come on.

Students wearing overalls are walking down the stairs

“Overalls mustn’t be washed – that’s a rule. You can wear them in the shower or bathtub, but washing’s a no-no”, says Olle Östergren, fourth-year psychology student.

Patch close-upOlle and his student friend Andrea Wennström are wearing the green bib overalls with light-green stripes, representing the psychology programme at Linköping University. At first their overalls were unadorned, but over the years all sorts of badges have been added.

“I haven’t counted exactly, but I probably have about a hundred badges on my overalls, and they’re definitely the most expensive item of clothing I own”, says Olle Östergren.

Olle’s overalls are covered with badges from parties, mentor committees, sections, and greetings from friends. With time, each pair becomes unique and personal. But they all have the owner’s name sewn onto the leg. Some wearers attach a bottle opener, or some other handy item, to their pair.

“You can attach the badges in different ways. For instance, a badge from a party that you don’t think was that great, you can attach at the bottom of the leg. Sewing a badge on upside-down means one thing, and aiming it in a specific direction something else. So you can tell a lot from a pair of overalls”, says Andrea Wennström.

Andrea Wennström and Olle Östergren are standing in their overallsAndrea Wennström and Olle ÖstergrenOlle Östergren and Andrea Wennström, who are both elders, wear their overalls during Nolle-P to show the new students that they are available for questions. Otherwise, overalls are mainly worn at parties and other events.

“It’s a great outfit for a student, because you never have to think about what you’re going to wear”, says Olle Östergren.

Andrea Wennström adds: “And since it doesn’t matter if they get dirty, you can take part in all the games and activities without worrying about ruining them.”

For the new students, the rule is that they have to wear the overalls with the bib buttoned up, until after the ceremonial opening of the overalls. After that they can undo the bib, and tie it at the waist.

“Overalls are great because they’re an ice-breaker in social situations, and you feel a sense of belonging. It’s nice when you see green overalls in a crowd. You think: Hey, a friend!”, says Andrea Wennström.

They are worn at all sorts of student experiences, and for many students they become a valuable memento that is kept long after graduation.

“Your overalls become a story, a chronicle of everything social you’ve done as a student. For me, they’re a very special garment – they’re my ‘ovies’. I can’t see that I would ever get rid of them. Maybe I’ll hang them up somewhere, and take them out for the student reunion”, says Olle Östergren.

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