Particular boilersuits or "student overalls" are widely used for specific events at universities and polytechnics in Sweden and Finland. Typically, the overalls are procured by the student associations of faculties or programmes. At the major Swedish universities (like Lund or Uppsala) the use of overalls is limited to engineering students, but their use has spread to students in other fields at some of the smaller university colleges. In Finland, overalls have been foremost identified with engineering students, but see extensive use in all of the student organizations of Finnish institutions of higher learning, such as University of Helsinki and Aalto University.
History and use
These overalls are not only seen in Europe. At McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, the McMaster Engineering faculty has had a group of representatives clad in red coveralls known as "redsuits" for decades. At University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering has a distinct group of student who wear overalls to demonstrate their school spirit. Numerous people throughout the city and campus recognize students in these coveralls as U of T engineers and members of Skule (TM). The University of Waterloo Engineering Students in Waterloo, Ontario, are also identified by their navy blue or grey coveralls, often decorated with significant patches from various interests and activities the student has accomplished over their time at school. Western University in London, Ontario awards coveralls, nicknamed 'covies,' to student leaders within the Faculty of Engineering (in white) and Medway-Sydenham Hall (in black). Likewise, Ottawa, Ontario's Carleton University has representatives in dark blue Air Force style coveralls, aptly named the "flightsuits".
Student overalls have become one of the most conspicuous academic traditions at some educational institutions, despite its short history. The use of overalls started in the Royal Institute of Technology in the late 1970s, and spread quickly around Sweden and Finland. Apparently protective clothing was needed in excursions to companies, which soon led to use at parties as a way to identify students of different fields and organizations. The height of the use of the overall was reached in the late 1990s. Due to quick rise in popularity, most student organizations now offer the students a chance to purchase their own overalls during the freshman year. Since the 1990s, the custom has remained popular although perhaps in slight decline as the overalls are sometimes viewed to signal a lifestyle bordering on alcoholism and drunken misbehavior, up to the point where some pubs and clubs even choose to ban the use of overall uniforms.
Design and appearance
Unlike overalls generally, the student overall isn't used for work, but mostly for parties. However, as the overalls are meant to endure years of abuse, the wearer often being under the influence of alcohol, the overalls are made of high quality fabric and usually at least somewhat waterproof. Practical additions such as zippered pockets of various sizes and belt loops are added by the manufacturer, and as a part of the manufacturing process the overalls are sometimes printed with the particular student organization's logo and ads of the various sponsoring companies, ranging from small local enterprises to national divisions of multinational corporations. Often, the large corporations choose to sponsor the overalls as a part of their recruitment campaign, ensuring that they have the attention of the graduating students when they enter the working life.
The colour of the overalls is usually determined by the faculty or programme, which — the subjects being many and colours few — leads to quite spectacular colour combinations such as purple, turquoise or pink. Multicolored variants exist, but typically the overalls are of one color. As it is customary to personalize the overalls, they are almost invariably decorated with various badges, souvenirs and inexpensive gadgets. Occasionally an overall will tell of its owner's interests, political views, personal history and even military experience. The time spent as a student can be seen from the amount of decorations one has added to his overalls, as all students start with blank overalls. There's also a practice of swapping a part of the overall with another person, typically with a partner or friend. Also badges are readily swapped, especially amongst friends who are of different organizations. Rarity of a certain badge can be considered a bonus.
Certain traditions relating to the use of overalls exist. Typically, a new student will be given permission to use his overalls during the later half of his first academic year, often after certain amount of "freshman points" have been collected by participating in various social events like parties and contests held by the organizations. During the first academic spring, the various engineering student organizations tend to host events during which the new students are officially taken as a members of their organization. During these events, the students often volunteer to go through a minor rite that often includes diving into a pool, lake or river with their newly issued overalls as a "student baptism". Typically in Finland these events are held around the largest student holiday of May 1 or Vappu, when thousands of students gather outdoors to celebrate. Lesser traditions can dictate that a student should sew his badges onto his overalls by hand, and that the overalls shouldn't be cleaned except either by swimming in the overalls or by hosing it down.
The overall may have local names at individual universities. The Swedish term is simply overall. In Finland, the Finland Swedish word for overall is halare and the Finnish word is haalari.