A selection of non-binary overalls
Credit: iStock/Getty Images; Brian Wong/Xtra
Identity
4 min

Buckle up: Overalls are the non-binary uniform

Mauree Turner said so!

In the 18th century, overalls were worn by militiamen during the American Revolution. Twenty-five years ago, they were beloved by ’90s boy bands. Today, they belong to non-binary people.

These denim dungarees are even the garment newly-elected non-binary Muslim state representative Mauree Turner is wearing in their official portrait following their ground-breaking electoral result. Specifically, a nice pair of classic Dickies in brown duck.

Turner is not alone. I have personally described my own gender as “overalls, gardening, bike mechanics, bowl cut.” I own little else—counting two pairs of blue denim, three black denim, one pinstripe, one brown duck and one part of shortalls in my must-leave-the-house-clothed arsenal. I bought my first adult pair years ago—brown duck workhorses, meant to be worn over my clothing as I worked in the chilly concrete basement of a Vancouver bike repair shop. I’d admired the well-worn pair an older, retired colleague wore to shield his clothes from bike grease. But then I kept buying them: There was something cozy, metaphorically as well as literally protective, about wearing them. I didn’t always feel comfortable in my body, or the way strangers read my gender. Wearing overalls took the edge off.

Lo and behold, if you search “non-binary” + “overalls” on Twitter, you will find scores more of us.

We’re lifting weights:

We’re in Carhartt’s with beautiful hair and tattoos:

We’re even achieving the coveted and rare combination of overalls in sweatpant material:

Non-binary people exist at the intersection of many other identities—age, race, ethnicity, disability, religion or lack thereof. Some of us are broke, and others, I assume, must be swimming in nice big piles of Scrooge McDuck-style coin pools.

The one thing we have in common? Deep love of the moment buckles click over riveted buttons. So, I took to the internet and asked other non-binary folks why our overall uniform is so beloved within our community.

John Elizabeth Stintzi in overalls
Credit: Courtesy John Elizabeth Stintzi

“Back in my youth, the only person I knew who wore them was the most redneck human being I’d ever met,” says John Elizabeth Stintzi, who grew up in rural Ontario and recently purchased their first pair. “There is something very attractive, I think, in that they have kind of been taken over by queer people.”

Nola Werlinich in overalls
Credit: Courtesy Nola Werlinich

“They feel truly gender neutral to me,” adds Nola Werlinich. “They can be femme or masc or neither or both. They’re playful and functional (hello, pockets!). Also, they obscure my chest—a source of dysphoria for me—and I never feel the need to bind when wearing a pair.”

df parizeau in overalls
Credit: Courtesy df parizeau

For df parizeau, who describes themself as appearing masculine to others, the ability to pair overalls with fun sweaters, to make them more queer, more femme, is enjoyable—a way to play around with fashion that feels comfortable.

Chief Schubert in overalls
Credit: Courtesy Chief Schubert

And Chief Schubert, a 24-year-old enby from the U.K., says their overalls give them “a sense of safety.” Their favourite pair is grey corduroy with a dinosaur pattern—truly a pinnacle of queer fashion.

Erin Sparks in overalls
Credit: Courtesy Erin Sparks

“I’m still developing the relationship I have between my gender and the clothes I wear,” says Victoria, B.C.-based Erin Sparks. “So often it feels as though there’s one specific way to ‘look non-binary,’ and this almost always means thin, white and androgynous in a way that’s very palatable to cis folks. I’ve really struggled to find a balance between what feels validating for me and what I feel like I’m supposed to wear. Overalls are this wonderful, uncomplicated piece of clothing that always feels good, no matter what.”

The author, andrea bennett, in overalls
Credit: Courtesy andrea bennett

All of these reasons feel relatable to me, a person who (after I’ve purchased the pair I want in my size) tweets to share overalls sales with fellow non-binary people every time they crop up.

There is something welcoming, even inviting, about the fact that overalls are beloved by both small children and people who work with hammers and wear steel-toe boots.

And in the same way certain haircuts are a quiet nod to other queer folks, overalls can signal that their wearer is queer, that their gender may not align with cultural expectations. Added bonus: They are simply comfortable as heck. So buckle up, enbys—and please do remember to send me a DM when a particularly nice pair goes on sale!