Americans love bib overalls, for their utility, toughness, and wholesome good looks. And they love them for the symbolism, too. Bib overalls mean that you like to get your hands dirty. And for the people who make them, bib overalls are a point of pride. To build a good-looking and long-lasting pair is a badge of honor for these companies. If you make workwear, you’ve got to be able to build overalls. If you can’t, hang up your denim.
Knowing Americans love these garments, and that they’re a favorite item for gift giving, we gathered six—in denim, brown duck, and dark brown insulated—and wore them over approximately a six-week period to help you find a pair that fits you and your needs best.
Check out our gallery below to see some of our tested top performers and one old favorite that was not part of this test. Then scroll down to see our advice on quality and how we tested.
We’ve got nothing against foreign-made garments, but American-made overalls led decisively in this test for quality of materials, neatness of sewing, and overall workmanship. Having said that, all of the overalls in this test are well made and should provide good service.
To begin our test, we looked over each pair of overalls. Then we sought advice from an experienced seamstress about how to inspect them more thoroughly. She said we should spend more time looking at the inside of the garments than the outside because that’s where manufacturers hide slap-dash pocket construction, skimpy hems, and hasty serging (a serge is a type of sewing machine that binds fabric together with an overlock stitch created with three or four different threads). She also advised us to launder the garments to see what threads come loose in the wash and how neatly, or not, the overalls come out of the dryer. At that point, we laundered them according to the directions by the manufacturer and inspected their outside. So far so good. Then we turned them inside out to examine each pocket, strap, seam, hem, bar tack, and rivet. We used an 8x magnifying glass for close inspection of the thread count and the quality of sewing inside button holes and seams. We ironed each pair, even the great big billowy carpenter’s overalls from Ben Davis—no small achievement, we assure you.
How We Tested
In addition to inspecting each pair for quality and construction, we did what anyone buying these will do: We wore them. Day in and day out, we wore overalls, sometimes multiple pairs a day. We did yard work, fix-up projects, and tool testing. We wore them at the desk, to the office, and on runs to the lumber yard. We judged them on fit, comfort, warmth, ease of movement, and how well the hardware (zippers, clasps, and buckles) works. If you want a great conversation starter, wear bib overalls. Honestly. People have fond memories of them and will ask you where you got them. It’s fun. Here are eight that are sure to get people talking.
Dickies Indigo Bib Overalls
Fabric: 100% Cotton, 11.75 oz. Denim | Cut: Traditional | Workmanship: 4 stars
Dickies’s overalls are about as traditional as you’re going to find. Having said that, these are sewn in Mexico, and with a few exceptions, their workmanship is good. We can’t rate them on the same level as the Round House bibs in our test, which we gave one full star more. There’s good workmanship and there is meticulous workmanship. These are good. They feature triple-needle stitching on the inside and outside of both legs, a traditional layout of the bib and its pockets, a full cut through the hips and legs, and plentiful (18) bar tacks—in red thread, no less. If your tastes lean toward the traditional and you want a pair of overalls in which you have confidence and ease of movement, these would be a good choice.
Berne Highland Washed Insulated Bib Overall
Fabric: 100% Cotton sanded duck, 12 oz. (shell); 100% polyester (insulated quilted liner) | Cut: Updated traditional | Workmanship: 4.5 stars
Berne tells us this is one of its best-selling garments and one that it takes particular pride in, and we can see why. This is about as fully featured as bib overalls get. The B377 is equipped with 11 pockets, zip-to-hip legs, rivets and plentiful bar tacks at stress points, and elasticized straps and waist. They are so warm that they exceeded the cold autumn mornings used to test them. This is a winter garment, at home in at least 30-degree weather. And depending on your base layer and what you have immediately below, I think they’ll work just fine for much colder weather. Of course, a lot of that depends on your thermostat and how much movement you’re putting in. A final thoughtful detail that we like is the hanger strap between the shoulders on the back panel—a feature that should be standard on every heavy-duty overall.
—PREWASHED BUT RUGGED—
Carhartt Washed Denim Bib Overall, Unlined
Fabric: 100% Cotton pre-washed indigo denim, 11.75 ounce | Cut: Traditional | Workmanship: 4 stars
Carhartt is well familiar with denim bib overalls, having built duck and denim overalls decades before most workwear companies were even founded. That heritage shows in this heavy-denim product. It exhibits good workmanship and its prewash makes it comfortable right out of the package; it also helps it to launder a bit more easily. It comes out of the dryer nicely. One small complaint, and something we’re not particularly fond of: The slide buckles on the straps, though sturdy, require break-in and don’t slide easily when new. But overall, this is a well-rounded garment with deep pockets, triple stitching on the legs, and numerous bar tacks. If your tastes are traditional but you lean toward pre-washed denim, the R07-DST should suit you nicely.
Round House Made in USA Zipper Fly Blue Denim Bib Overalls
Fabric: 100% Cotton rigid indigo denim, 12 ounce | Cut: Traditional | Workmanship: 5 stars
We could find but two companies left in the U.S. producing bib overalls. One of them is Round House, a no-nonsense manufacturer in Shawnee, OK. They were the hands-down winner in this test in two important respects. First, their overalls have superior workmanship. Careful outside-in and inside-out analysis, even with a magnifying glass, found flawless seams and properly executed bar tacks. Nothing was crooked, slightly off, or hastily serged—all things we found on nearly every other garment in this test, especially on the inside. Next, their hardware (buckles, clasps, and zipper) perform flawlessly. These overalls are traditional and old-school. They are not built for a fashion statement. Their cut is true to size, with wide legs and a full cut through the hips. If you bend, squat, and turn in these, you stay comfortable. In short, this is an exemplary garment, built to perform the work it’s called to do. If every pair of pants, every shirt, jacket, and suit in the U.S. were sewn as well as these, Americans would be more neatly dressed.
Carhartt Duck Bib Overalls
Fabric: 100% Ringspun cotton duck, 12 ounce | Cut: Updated traditional | Workmanship: 4.5 stars
This is an updated version of the Carhartt workwear classic, the R01, which the company still offers. But this has features that Carhartt says arose from user feedback, such as a large cell phone pocket in the bib secured with a hearty brass zipper. And there’s an elastic gusset where the legs and back panel meet to provide stretch where you tuck in an unruly sweatshirt, and the already-heavy material is doubled at the cuffs for wear-through resistance. Our take is that this is a primary garment; the cut is true to size (same as your pants size). A base layer is about the only thing that will fit under these. If you prefer to wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt, you’ll need to size up. Their workmanship is outstanding, almost as good as Round House, which served as the workmanship demarcation line for this test.
—SOFT AND COMFY—
Berne Cobblestone Unlined Washed Blue Denim Bib Overall
Fabric: 100% Cotton pre-washed indigo denim, 10 ounce | Cut: Contemporary | Workmanship: 4 stars
Berne’s overalls were the only ones that we could describe as being more contemporary in their design and cut. They are pre-washed and very soft. They are also slightly slimmer and not quite as wide through the hips. The bib’s large pockets are sized to fit a phone or a wallet, or both at the same time; the largest of the two pockets is zipped to keep a cell phone from falling out. It was also the only overalls in the test to have an extra pocket below the hammer strap. Whether you find that useful or superfluous is up to you.
—ULTIMATE OLD SCHOOL—
Ben Davis Carpenter Overalls
Fabric: 60% cotton 40% polyester rigid brown duck, 12 ounce | Cut: traditional | Workmanship: 4 stars
Ben Davis is the last company that still makes a bib overall with an attached nail apron, and we were very pleasantly surprised by what we found in this China-made garment. First, it’s fashioned from perhaps the toughest form of brown duck we’ve ever seen, a 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester blend. I’m a stickler for all-cotton duck, but this stuff made a believer out of me. Its post-laundry color retention is excellent, and it came out of the dryer almost as nicely as pre-washed denim. Second, since this is traditional workwear and meant to be worn over clothing, its cut is generous. Even with that, Ben Davis recommends sizing up one or even two sizes, which I did. You can slip these on right over chunky workboots; however, you’ll need to take your boots off to take the bibs off. Other notable features: The Integral knee padding is nice and might even add a little warmth in the winter. We suspect it will flatten with use, but it’s nice while it lasts. Its 12 pockets should see the average carpenter through a day’s work.
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