Why Brexit’s Making Us All Wear Boiler Suits Again

In times of political disruption and huge change - out comes the boiler suit...

Boiler suit

by Sofia Tindall |

If there's one thing that we learned from last night's Brexit vote (391 to 242 voted against May's new deal - parliament will now vote on whether we will proceed with no deal) it's that nobody can decide exactly what we're going to do. And it's not just the MPs that are stumped: a Yougov poll suggests we're just as conflicted about how we should proceed with a third of people who wanted MPs to reject May's deal, a third who wanted them to accept it and a third who don't know what they want.

Yes: it seems we've reached a political catch-22, a time where you may suddenly be feeling the inexplicable desire to discard the flimsier items in your wardrobe for something functional, easy to run in and well-suited to operating heavy machinery. Enter: the Brexit boiler suit.

Let us explain: you've probably already seen the Brexit boiler suit gracing your Instagram feed or swanning through the office and wanted one because you're easily seduced by influencers telling you it's a must-have item (although I haven't yet reached the point where I've figured out the logistics of going to the loo).

Boiler suit black
©Getty

So what does the emergence of the boiler suit trend in 2019 mean? In the same way that hemlines fluctuate with the economy (down = bad, up = good), have you ever noticed that the most functional of fashion all-in-ones has remerged at a time when we're all feeling...well, a little politically adrift?

The boiler suit has historically made it's way out when big things are happening politically. In the 1940's the boiler suit was the item of clothing that represented a seismic shift in a woman's role in society. The Second World War galvanised new roles for women that had previously been assigned as 'a man's job' - as labourers, mechanics and farmworkers so we needed something functional and utilitarian to reflect that. In the same way (although slightly differently) the boiler suit re-emerged in the 1970's as another political maelstrom saw gender norms experiencing a makeover and the birth of transgressive, gender fluid fashion.

And if things are ever 'happening' politically, it's now. It would make sense for us to all be feeling a little anxious - given MPs will vote tonight at 7pm as to whether we go crashing out of the EU with no deal.

But perhaps the emergence of the boiler suit also demonstrate a turning point: after all, the last year has seen some big social changes, including Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the 8th amendment allowing safe, legal access to abortion, the #MeToo movement took gathered momentum and parliament passed a new law to make upskirting a criminal sexual offence after years of campaign work. And in a newly energized generation of female political changemakers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the boiler suit is arguably the great gender-leveller that reflects the shift in women's rights and our place in the conversation.

The conclusion? If it represents us rolling up our sleeves getting dug into our political futures, then bring on the Brexit boiler suit. As far as we're concerned: it's the only item you need in your wardrobe.

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ASOS Design, £48

ASOS Design, £48

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