Use of the term 'boilersuit' is said to have first been recorded in The Sunday Express in 1928 but the garment itself is thought to have originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The word comes from the garment's use in maintaining coal fired boilers on steam locomotives. To clean the firebox someone had to climb through the small firehole. A one-piece suit like the boilersuit prevented snagging when getting in and out and also stopped soot from going down your kecks!!
Boilersuits or coveralls have a long history of use within the military and in some instances are still part of the uniform. The first use of an Overall as uniform is thought to have been during the American Civil war although this was more reminiscent of what we would now call a bib and brace.
Whilst the fashion world has flirted with the boilersuit over the years it remains mostly an item of work clothing.
Choosing the right style of boilersuit depends on a number of factors such as the intended purpose, required colours and the budget available. If you are using the coverall for welding or certain other trades there may be EU regulations which limit the styles you can use. You can see the full range of boilersuits here
The vast majority of boilersuits are simply intended as a one piece suit to keep dirt and spills off you whilst working. They are particularly popular as they are very comfortable to wear and there is no join between the top and bottoms, eliminating riding up which creates gaps for dirt and bits to get in. This is a particularly prominent problem with mechanics when lying down underneath cars, groundsmen when sitting on ride-on mowers etc but equally applies to many other trades. The most popular colour for boilersuits is navy blue as this hides the dirt, although farmers and groundsmen often prefer green and painters / decorators usually go for white. Orange is an increasing favourite, partly through people using it as fancy dress jumpsuits going as Guantanamo Bay detainees!!
The vast majority of our boilersuits are manufactured from polycotton (specifically 65% Polyester 35% Cotton). The exception to this is the cotton drill boilersuit which is 100% cotton and the flame retardant boilersuit which is cotton treated with flame retardant chemicals and can be seen in our flame retardant workwear section. The advantage of 100% cotton is that it can be boil washed which makes the navy version popular with mechanics (to remove grease) and White with painters to remove paint, thinners etc. It is also popular with butchers / abattoir workers who need to boil the garments not only remove stains but also to kill bacteria. The downside of cotton drill is that although the fabric is pre-shrunk you do inevitably get a little more shrinkage after repeated washing, as with most cotton garments (typically 2%). It is also a heavier and slightly stiffer fabric than polycotton.
The majority of our other coveralls are poly/cotton which tends to come in two weights – standard weight 7oz (or 245gsm) and heavyweight 9oz (or 300gsm). The benefits of polycotton is that is hardwearing and more flexible that cotton whilst being lighter weight. It cannot be boil washed though and should not be washed at over 50C. It also comes in a wider range of styles and colours. The vast majority of standard users of coveralls would be best suited to one of the models of 7oz polycotton which are offered in 3 styles. The first is a standard stud front boilersuit, the second is the zip front coverall and the third is the economy ‘Regular’ boilersuit. This differs from the first two (and is cheaper) because it does not have a separate waistband. When manufactured, the top and bottom parts are sewn together at the waist. On higher spec coveralls, a separate strip of fabric is then placed over this seam and sewn on both sides to reinforce it.
There are also a number of other boilersuits in different styles and fabrics. We offer a hooded boilersuit which is popular with scaffolding firms and a couple of disposable coveralls which are good for really messy jobs which would completely ruin a normal boilersuit. We also offer a couple of warm insulated boilersuits from Dickies and Carharrt which are great for the depths of winter. There’s a whole range of waterproof coveralls which are in our waterproofs section.
Most of our boilersuits are sized ‘to fit chest size’. This means that you should measure your chest size (all the way round the fullest part) just over the skin or a thin t-shirt. The measurement you get is the size you should choose. You don’t need to go up a size to leave room for undergarments or for movement – this is already taken into account. You should only usually go up a size if you generally wear extra thick garments underneath, or if you like a baggy fitting. If your measurement is in between two sizes you should generally round up i.e. if your chest measures 41” choose size 42”. One or two of our coveralls are sized S, M, L etc and we give the chest sizes that these fit. This works in exactly the same way – pick the size that your actual measurement equates to.
We then come to the issue of leg length. Some of the higher spec Click boilersuits, and all Dickies boilersuits, come in both regular and tall inside leg lengths. We have found, having sold many, many thousands of the standard boilersuits in a single leg length, that it is almost never an issue and they fit 90%+ of people. However, if you particularly want a longer leg they are available in those models.