The Waist Overall and my Ooe Yofukuten Mechanic Overalls

The Waist Overall.

Before your denim jeans were called ‘jeans’ and were the modern beautiful five-pocket masterpiece of ‘don’t fix it if it ain’t broken’ (first introduced in 1901) there were many prototypes that apparently needed some fixin’. Today we’ll be talking about the history of the waist overall and doing a deep dive into my Ooe Yofukuten trousers that are based off of old ‘waist overalls’, and learning a bit about Ooe Yofukuten as well.

Andrew Ostermeyer in 1936 wearing denim overalls
Credits to Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer
United States. Resettlement Administration.

What you typically think of when you picture overalls are not your typical denim jeans. But this term was used loosely by quite a bit of brands through out the entire history of denim. Actually, the apparent beginning of the term Overalls is generally unclear as we can see the term being stated in literature as far back to 1776, where it is mentioned as ‘protective gear’, apparently mostly for slaves, and whether it was denim at the time is unknown. But, like most denim expressions, Levi’s commercially used the term first.

In the late 1870’s the first ‘Jeans’ were actually what they called waist overalls and were essentially what you’re imagining a typical pair of overalls looks like but without the bib on the front attached. (Hence the former actually being called bib-overalls) While the bib was removed they instead added a ‘back-cinch’ to the back of the trousers and suspender buttons to hold them up while they toiled away doing mining stuff or whatever unfortunate task a denim-clad person was doing at the time. These obviously went through several changes throughout the years and they were improved upon, over and over again by many different brands, including the originals, Levi’s!

In 1901 they added a second back pocket to the waist overalls and thus was the creation of the ‘five-pocket’ denim. Then, eventually the term ‘jeans’ were coined in the 1960’s. That’s the word that we associate with any type of denim trousers today, especially the five-pocket denim jeans we are all familiar with. (well, it’d be weird if you weren’t familiar)

Levi’s 1940’s waist-overalls Ad with cinch-back Levi’s denim 1950’s Ad

Ooe Yofukuten Mechanic Overalls

If you don’t know much about Ooe Yofukuten, then.. well, we’re here to learn. Because I am quite literally an amateur to this, I am learning as we go along here. As I hope you are! Let’s chat about OY a bit. I am no stranger to what they do as I own about three of their pieces now, which are all absolutely gorgeous. But today we’ll focus on their ‘Mechanic Overalls’ which I own in the ‘ecru’ color way.

in the Ooe Yofuketen workshop
credits to @Criminal_Pink of Standard & Strange

Ooe Yofukuten is owned and ran by the fantastic denim duo and couple Ryo (Ryohei Ooe) and Hiro (Hiroko Ooe) . While being well-known in this small community of denim and heritage clothing lovers, I wouldn’t say they are exactly world famous for what they do. But they do what they do damn well. Which is make period correct denim and many other wonderful goods like bandanas and coats. They’ve been at it for awhile now, as Ryo and Hiro originally started out making very small-batch denim that they sold in vintage denim markets in Japan, which was successful enough for them to start producing more and open their own work shop. They have a deep passion for vintage garments and clothing in general, which can be seen in everything they produce. Before I rant too long about them, and I could, I’d recommend you go read more about them somewhere else, as I’m going to dive into the details of my Mechanic Overalls now.

The Details and Fit

You can see from these small portioned photos of the trousers that mine have developed character from paint / indigo dyeing. I think this is an interesting thing about white pants. A lot of people would take the approach of trying not to dirty them in any way possible – I decided to embrace it as someone would wearing these 80 years ago. I mean, I still wash them, I’m not a monster, but if something stains them, that just adds more character; it stays. I guess with these at the price of 350$ someone might be a little peeved at getting stains on their pair, which I can understand normally.

I think the first thing that catches my eye is the logo they put on the front. Its inherently reminiscent of old workwear brands, which makes a lot of sense, and adds so much character as well as feels more period accurate. Not to mention the call back to the original wearers of the trousers with the train and railroad illustration. The illustrator in me wants to consider the patch one of the best parts of the pants.

If it wasn’t obvious – these are 100% cotton denim. You can see the selvedge details in the belt loops and they are also advertised as ‘ecru denim’. While I don’t know exactly what the denim is or the mill, I can confirm it’s a 9.5oz Japanese denim.

Front left side featuring patch

For sizing you can see by the logo patch that I went with a size 31 – Ooe seems to run a little bigger in the sizing than I’m used to but also fit smaller. So in most cases my waist is roughly a 29″ so I would go for anywhere between a size 28 – 30, but with these the 31 measures to about a 29.5″ before I use the cinch-back, so they’re perfect. The inseam is a 34 across the board. I haven’t hemmed mine either, and noticed barely any shrinkage. Overall (heh, get it?) I would say they fit fantastic. They leave room in the thighs and seat for a roomy fit, while still being on the ‘slim’ side, with a big leg opening and a decently high-rise. Not my most favorite fit of trouser, but they have their time and place.

I’m obviously no expert on stitch work but I can tell these are superb in this aspect. There are no loose threads, sloppy stitching or poor construction. I suppose this is to be expected from two masters of their craft and one being the son of a tailor.

If I had to rate these on a scale of 1 – 10 I would give them a 9. Then again, this is an amateurs opinion, so take it with a grain of salt… or a spoon of salt. Either way, they’re fantastic trousers, versatile, scratch the heritage-wear itch and are well-priced for the material, the labor, and the uniqueness of the product, and I would highly recommend these if you somehow are able to find them yourself.

By the way, I myself bought them from Standard & Strange which is a wonderful shop I’ve never had the personal joy of stepping into in person, unfortunately. The shop is ran by very wonderful humans who have helped me empty my wallet several times for many amazing goods. Go give them your money.

Published by indigo amateur

Just a guy who likes to talk about clothes.

2 thoughts on “The Waist Overall and my Ooe Yofukuten Mechanic Overalls

  1. Hey Buster!
    Been following you for a while on Instagram but only today clicked your blog link and started reading. Nice post, I really want to get some Ooe to my collection too! I have to point out one mistake that you repeat though. It’s actually Yofukuten, not Yofuketen. Yōfukuten or 洋服店 is Japanese for “shop selling Western-style clothing”. In Japan the word yōfuku basically refers to all clothing that is not originally Japanese. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the correction Toni! I’ll fix this soon, hopefully. The cool thing about this blog is I am learning as I’m writing and going along. I love the interactive aspect as well when people reach out to tell me things I had no idea about! It makes this much more fulfilling.

      Thanks again!


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