#1 Great Grandpa Francis’ overalls

Posted on Jun 7, 2016 | 4 Comments

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When I saw these overalls on Eva I wanted to know more about them. They turned out to tell an interesting story. It made me think about how we can see clothing as ‘heirlooms’. This is the first story of hopefully many more to come. Enjoy!

Name: Eva Degenhardt
Biking through: Brooklyn, NYC
Studied: Design and Management at Parsons
Heirloom piece: denim overalls by Big Smith
Outfit: sandals by APC , blue shirt
by the little boys school uniform department at Walmart
Shops at: Bird, Beacon’s Closet and L Train Vintage


heir·loom
ˈerlo͞om/
noun
a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.

These overalls are just perfect! What’s the story behind them?
They came to me by way of my uncle Kevin.  He had somehow come across a few pairs of my Great Grandpa’s (his grandfather) old work clothes and these weren’t his size so I inherited them dirt and all. I got two pairs but these engineer striped ones are my favorite.  Anyway, my uncle brought them to me at my sister’s wedding in November 2014. In March of 2015 my Grandpa passed away and when I went to Oklahoma for the funeral I was digging through boxes and boxes of old photos to put on display at the funeral services out from a pile of pictures fell this tiny photo of my Great Grandpa Francis standing next to my Grandpa Max wearing the overalls.  We were all pretty shocked.

picture up-close

This is Great Grandpa Francis (right) and Grandpa Max (left) The photo was taken at Eva’s mom her childhood home in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  They are standing in front of Grandpa Max’ family car.

How old are these overalls?
Not sure exactly.  The date on the photo is March of 1969, which means my Great Grandpa Francis was 71 years old in this picture, but I’m pretty certain they weren’t brand new when the photo was taken.

What do you know about your Great Grandpa Francis’ life?
He was born in June 1898 in Soldier Kansas and became a farmer there.  He owned 160 acres where he raised cattle and grew corn, soy beans and wheat.  The farm is actually still in my family.  My parents went and visited it recently.  There is a big house on the property where my Grandpa was raised.  I’m told I may have met him once but he died in 1989 (when I was 2) so sadly I didn’t know him well.

Do you see this clothing piece as more valuable?
I definitely do.  My closet gets thinned out pretty regularly with selling and trading in pieces I don’t wear as frequently as I would like.  These two pairs of overalls though will be with me for as long as I have a closet to keep them in.  I love thinking about who owned all of my vintage clothes before me, where they went, how they ended up on the store’s racks.  Having these overalls with those questions answered and having them belong to a family member is such a special thing.  It makes me feel connected to this family member that I never really had the chance to know.

Eva in her great grandpa's big smith bib overalls

Big Smith overalls have been around since 1916. They were taken over by Walls (outdoor goods) in the 80s.

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Some general stuff about the denim bib-overalls in the U.S. 

  • Originally worn as protective work clothing by farmers and railway workers since the 1850s
  • Designed to be convenient, functional, comfortable and durable
  • Turned into a fashion icon worn by basically anyone who wants to
  • Trend peaks: 1960s and 1970s hippies and college students / 1990s 1 strap unbuckled; 2pac, DMX, Fresh Prince

How many pairs of overalls do you own?
Currently around 6.  I have to keep reminding myself of this every time I got to a vintage store.  There are just so many different styles and colors.  Something inside of me tells me I need them all.  I do not need them all.

To me they are just as easy to throw on and
dress up or down as jeans

And did you always wear them or only recently?
I would say the past five years or so they became a pretty steady closet fixture for me.  Right around when jumpsuits became as easy to find as a good dress.  To me they are just as easy to throw on and dress up or down as jeans.  Especially when it gets to be summer and all my jeans can just feel too tight it can be nice to have a comfy slouchier option.

Why do you love vintage / second hand?
It’s just so much more interesting.  I love designer clothing too but there is something about a weird vintage item that makes me so much more excited to get dressed.  Sometimes I buy vintage clothing that I know I will never wear just because it makes me smile when I open my closet.  For example, I have this incredibly strange pinafore dress in my closet that is farm themed.  It has a hand drawn cow on the front with a real ribbon bow sew onto its head.  It has chicken buttons on the shoulder and the name Daisy Mae written on the hemline.  I have no idea what the New York City occasion would be where a cow dress with chicken buttons would be appropriate but I don’t think I will ever get rid of it.  It brings me too much joy.

It makes me feel like I’m collecting history

Are there any pieces in your wardrobe you want to have forever and even want to be hand down to a daughter, niece or nephew?
So many! Most of them not particularly valuable in a monetary sense but I have some great vintage items that I won’t ever get rid of.  A crocodile purse that my grandma gave me comes to mind.  It’s so beautiful that I’m afraid to use it frequently.  I also have some designer pieces that I will have forever.  At Parsons I took pretty intensive Fashion History courses that really stuck with me.  I love it when I find a piece from an old fashion house that I studied. It makes me feel like I am collecting history.

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Photos by: Simone Larocca
Location: Brooklyn, Park Slope

4 Comments

  1. Margreet Sonneveld
    7 June 2016

    I looooove this piece! Being a history freak and a lover of vintage it brings it all together! I have a great urge suddenly to run out and get myself some nice historical vintage stuff…:)

    Reply
  2. Herman Baartman
    22 June 2016

    Hi Saskia, so good of you to pick up your Saskimoblogs again. They’re good, well worth to continue!
    And so good to put the overalls back up front.

    Reply
  3. Alberta Swartz-Harper
    30 June 2016

    Eva. your Grandmother copied your blog. My! Brought many memories back!! My dad was a bother to FH. I had two sisters & we wore overhalls to do chores & to show our calves as we belonged to 4H. My dad was called Deak. He was the baby of the family. Your grandpa Max was like a brother to me. My parents loved Max. Thank you for writing. At one time I had started writing about our life on the farm but never finished. My uncle FH farm sale will be July 16 I believe. It is sad to me as all I will have are memories. My husband Ken died June 11. I thought it was sad to lose both of them. I was sick & couldn’t attend Max’s funeral. Loved pics of the pictures. Alberta

    Reply
  4. Margreet
    1 July 2016

    How I would love to hear the memories of Alberta! Farmlife when you were young must have been so different and hard! Maybe someone could help you write!

    Reply

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