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Work clothes 101: What is the difference between dungarees and jeans?

January 13, 2019

If you are wondering what is the difference between dungarees and jeans, you’ll need to take a trip back to the history of work clothes – as far back as the 17th century!

Port at Dungri

Port at Dungri

What is the difference between dungarees and jeans evolution

To truly appreciate what is the difference between dungarees and jeans, we must understand how common work wardrobes, like denim pants, evolved over time. And as that evolution took place, names of popular work clothes evolved too – including the changing of the term dungaree into what we call jeans today.

Dungri Museum

Dungri Museum

Turning back the clocks in time

So, what really is the difference between dungarees and jeans – or are they really the same? Well, the answer is “yes”! Confused? Let’s explore and clarify.

 

Both jeans and dungarees are work clothes that have established themselves as the common persons choice for rugged wear. So, in that respect they are indeed the same. Way back in the 17th century, long before what we call jeans today were invented, Indian labourers in a village called Dongri wore rugged clothing made from thick, coarse cotton fabric called Dungri.

Visual record of the March of the 'Dungarees' in November 1915.

Visual record of the March of the ‘Dungarees’ in November 1915.

 

Like the ubiquitous denim pants worn today, dungri-cloth clothing was seen everywhere – in the streets, in factories, on the docks and in warehouses. Soon, because of its rugged and durable qualities, Dungri was exported from India to England, and later to the US and the rest of the world – and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Work clothes made from Dungri were used in the British Army, and soon those clothes earned a name of their own – Dungarees! Their dark blue colour meant they were dirt-resistant, and their ruggedness meant they didn’t wear off or tear easily.

 

Before what we call jeans today became common sight, the Dungaree had assured its place in the every-day working mans (and in some cases woman’s!)  wardrobe. Later – much later – the Dungaree would inherit additions, like shoulder straps to hold them up. But for many decades leading up to the designing of denim pants, the Dungaree held its position as the undisputed king of work clothes among common folks!

90s Cropped Dungarees

90s Cropped Dungarees

Cutting to the chase

So, for anyone wondering what is the difference between dungarees and jeans, let’s cut to the chase. Whichever way you slice it, both terms refer to work clothes that were popular (and still are!) among the masses. While the former (dungarees) is a name from 17th century India, it subsequently evolved into what we call jeans today.

 

However, the plot thickens – just a bit – as we fast-forward from the 17th and 18th century to today. Today, anyone wondering what is the difference between dungarees and jeans, will be confronted with an interesting twist in the evolution of the humble dungaree. Today, what many in England call the dungaree has shoulder straps and a bib attached to it. While still popular, like denim pants and khakis, as working outfits for the masses, today’s dungaree is very reminiscent of that hero among American work clothes: The Overall!

 

Links [i] [ii]

 

[i] https://www.word-detective.com/2008/12/dungarees-jeans/

 

[ii] https://www.historyofjeans.com/jeans-history/history-of-dungaree-fabric/

 

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