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Steaming Question: What's Boiler Suit?

Did You Know What Boiler Suit Is?
MIRCHI KOMACHI released a unisex boiler suit in November, 2021.
The jumpsuit we previously made was also of “a boxy silhouette like boiler suit”, but this time we made a classic boiler suit.

…I’m writing as if the term "boiler suit" is well known as "jeans". But is it really a common sense what boiler suit is?
Well, why don't we explore together about this cool item!

 

We See Boiler Suit Often
We don’t see someone in a boiler suit in the street often. No.
But we see boiler suits very often on the cinema / PC screen.
It’s worn by various experts like mechanics, factory workers, air force pilots, astronauts, and so on. And some musicians' costumes, too.
You must be recalling the red boiler suit from the Spanish series Money Heist, the one-piece suit the heist team wore along with the Salvador Dalí mask, which their hostages were made to wear as well.

Money Heist members in the red boiler suitSeason by season, their boiler suit was modified.

 
Also, the fuchsia boiler suit which the guards of "the organisation" in Squid Game were wearing along with the circle/triangle/rectangle-marked mask.

still from Squid Game
The contract between the green of the participants’ tracksuits and the pink of the guards’ boiler suits was sharp.

 
More experts of various professions in boiler suits...

"female" GhostbustersI didn’t know till now that there was a sequel of “female” Ghostbusters! Yes, the ones from 1984 or 1989 were “male” Ghostbusters - though nobody adds “male”.

 
If we extend back, the uniform worn by the underground labourers in the 1926 masterpiece Metropolis. Back in those days, boiler suits were associated with machinery or anything futuristic. 

still from the 1927 film Metropolis by Fritz Lang
It looks like a one-piece boiler suit though there’s some decoration at the waist.

 
Also, the psycho killers in the horror movies love boiler suits, too.
Sure, a boiler suit is comfortable for any actions of killing and avoids their inner clothes from getting smeared with blood!

still from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning

 

still from the film HalloweenHalloween


Also, personally, the movie Us sticks out in my mind. The red boiler suit was used very very effectively.
Its costume designer said, “their clothes are like a bloodstain within the frame”. They spent so much time fixing the tone of that red. “It’s half the colour of wet blood; it’s half the colour of dried blood. It’s like an old wound.” ...Wow.
I won’t write more coz it would be a spoiler for those who haven’t watched it yet.

the 2019 horror film Us - by Jordan Peele, starring Lupita Nyong'oUs

 
OK, by now every single one of you has a clear picture what boiler suit is.
So this is it for my blog “What's Boiler Suit?”... No no! Stay with me a little more.

Can anyone explain the difference between boiler suit and jumpsuit?
There’s also an item named “coverall”, right? Wait, is “overall” different from that? 
Your
 friend the other day was wearing super cute tiny clothes which she called “rompers”, and you thought it was a word for a babies' clothes!
… Yes, there are words for many similar items and it’s confusing which is what.
I definitely needed to know how English-speaking people distinguish different one-piece items, so I did some research.
Let me show you how I interpreted.


 
Difference 1: Boiler Suit vs Jumpsuit
Both are the names of the one-piece clothes with the top and the long pants connected. They were named after their original purposes whose history I will mention later.
In the present context, it seems to me that “boiler suit” is considered as one of various kinds of  “jumpsuits”.
Among various kinds of jumpsuits, the ones described as “boiler suit” is the ones with the details of classic boiler suits. A classic boiler suit is long-sleeved with long pants, has a shirt/stand collar, is open-front with a zipper or buttons, has multiple pockets, is made with thicker strong fabrics or the fabrics which suit the particular professions.
Meanwhile, “jumpsuit” is used to describe whatever one-pieces with the long pants as the bottom. It can have half sleeves, long sleeves, sleeveless, tight fit, loose fit, tapered pants, wide pants, and so on and on. Of course the fabrics also vary, and the details like opening and collar vary, too.

product page of a boiler suit aka jumpsuitAn almost-classic boiler suit which is sold as a “jumpsuit”.

 

jumpsuit (non boiler suit) by Sabyasachi

Example 1 of the non-boiler-suit jumpsuit (by Sabyasachi!)

 

jumpsuit (non boiler suit) worn by Rihanna

Example 2 of the non-boiler-suit jumpsuit


Difference 2: Boiler Suit vs Coverall vs Jumpsuit
In the workwear industry, very often “boiler suit” and “coverall” describe the same item. I saw some websites which say “the word ‘boiler suit’ is used in UK, and ‘coverall’ is used in US where they want to distinguish it from ‘overall’”, but I am not sure if it’s correct or not.
In the fashion industry, it seems to me that “jumpsuit” and “coverall” are used as the same things, only depending on how each designer/company calls their product.


Difference 3: Coverall vs Overall
As I’ve already written, “coverall” is a one-piece clothes with the top and the long pants connected.
“Overall” is also a one-piece clothes with pants. But not only it's sleeveless but nothing covers the shoulder. In the top, there’s only a bib with braces, and straps are connecting the bib with the pants at the back via the shoulder.
...Eww my text is so confusing, isn't it? You can recognise the item immediately on the photos:

overall worn by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City
Example 1 of overall


overall worn by BTS
Example 2 of overall

 

Difference 4: Jumpsuit vs Rompers
The word “rompers” is originally used for a one-piece item for babies. But when it’s used to describe an item for adults, I think it’s safe to consider it’s about the jumpsuits with the pants whose length is shorter than the knee-length.

Rompers worn by Kristen Stewart
Rompers on the red carpet

 


The History Of Boiler Suit (& A Bit About Jumpsuit)
The name “boiler suit” was born because it was first worn by the men who maintained the coal-powered boilers, probably in the mid 1800’s.
In the steam trains, someone had to climb inside the firebox (where the coal is thrown in) to check the steam leakage from inside and to clean the accumulated soot. One-piece workwear doesn’t have any gap between upper body and lower body, and it prevents hot ash and soot coming inside the clothes. Also it solved issues like a belt getting hung somewhere or a jacket riding up while going into the narrow opening hole of the firebox.

boiler suit worn by a train worker in 1800s

The usefullness of having no gap between the top and the bottom was obvious for various purposes. During the World War 1, the pilots of open-cockpit planes needed protection from rain and low temperature during the flights. The Australian inventor Sidney Cotton invented the one-piece flight suit “Sidcot” in 1917. It became popular all around the world.
The word “jumpsuit” was born in 1940s for the flight suits worn by the U.S. air force who jumped out of planes by a parachute.

flight suit worn by pilots in 1910sPilots in 1910s

 

AMELIA EARHART in jumpsuit in 1920s
Amelia Earhart in jumpsuit in 1920s

 

On the other hand, “boiler” suit became popular not only for the train workers but for factory workers all over the world.
In 1920s and 30s, it became popular even among the left-wing intellectuals and activists including many members of the Bauhaus Movement which sympathised with the workers and proletariat. Boiler suit was worn as an unofficial uniform of anti-fascist anarchists during the Spanish Civil War, too.

Anarchists during Spanish Civil War

 

Meanwhile, during World War 2 when Winston Churchill was the prime minister of the U.K., he had his shirt maker make boiler suits for him with fabrics like pinstripe wool or velvet which are normally used for the formal suits. He happily brought his special boiler suits for official visits to Washington or Yalta.
In the U.K. during the World War 2, everyone in big cities had one boiler suit which they called “siren suit”. It was meant to be worn over the clothes when the air-raid siren is blown.

Winston Churchill  in pin stripe boiler suit aka siren suit

 

During World War 2, due to the lack of manpower after men had gone to war, women were pulled into the workplaces which were considered as “men’s jobs”. In the munition factories,  the shipyards, and so on, the women in boiler suits worked.

women in boiler suit during World War 2

 

After the war, boiler suits (and jumpsuits) have been worn by various cultural icons and artists, and were spread among common people as daily clothing items. I will talk about some of the iconic boiler suit moments in the next episode.
I also want to talk about some fun facts &  styling ideas to enjoy wearing boiler suits (and jumpsuits) in daily life, even if you're not a mechanic, a factory worker, nor a serial killer.
Stay tuned!

 


Bonus Video
The famous poster of Rosie the Riveter was part of the propaganda campaign by U.S. government during World War 2 to get women into the workforce where men, the “original” workers, had gone to the war front.
Actually, the poster was not originally related to a person called Rosie nor had the purpose of recruiting women.
But later, Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of (American / Western) feminism and women’s empowerment.
Using this opportunity, let’s explore the background of Rosie the Riveter poster which is bloody broadly used on social media.

 


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