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Buyers’ Guide: Bib Overalls
Bib overalls can help fight the most frigid windchills that winter serves up. Yet, they offer flexibility when wide temperature ranges occur.
“Some bib overall wearers like to layer in terms of sweatshirts and coats,” says Heath Drummond, creative director for Berne Workwear. “Wearing bibs gives them flexibility if they are going in and out of a barn or shop,” he says.
Here are some things to consider when it comes down to choosing among the various types of bib overalls.
You need to remember that you’ll be wearing bib overalls over pants and at least one shirt. Thus, you’ll need to pick bigger-than-normal clothing sizes. Drummond advises adding 4 to 6 inches to an overall’s waist size above your normal waist line.
“So, if you have a 38-inch waist, you’ll want to get a bib with a waist of 42 to 44 inches,” he says.
One thing you’ll have to watch, though, is to make sure that waist size matches up with inseam length.
Drummond says Berne’s shoulder strap design was revamped nearly 20 years ago after the firm’s CEO shoveled his driveway while constantly having to adjust the shoulder straps on the bib overalls he was wearing.
“He was so frustrated that he sat down with product development and rethought the way the straps were designed,” says Drummond.
In Berne’s case, they reversed the strap design. “The elasticized part is on the backside of the shoulders, while the adjustment clasps are in front,” Drummond says. “This prevents your body movement from causing the straps’ clasps to come loose while you’re working.”
Bib overalls differ in the amount of insulation they have. Some have insulation all through the chest and back; other units have insulation that stops at the waist. There also are units with medium-weight insulation and unlined bibs for milder weather conditions.
Bib overall fabric comes in several types, such as rigid cotton duck and washed cotton duck.
In Berne’s case, its rigid cotton duck is water-repellent. One drawback is that this fabric tends to be stiffer, initially.
“Washed duck fabric is comfortable and soft to the touch,” says Drummond. “It is extremely durable, but not water-repellent. It is a personal preference. Some people would rather have comfort instead of the water repellency of a rigid bib.”
Features like triple needle stitching and reinforced bartacks at stress points can ensure coveralls last a long time. Zippers are also good indicators to watch for durability since a broken zipper can ruin use of the garment, Drummond says.
“The heavier duty the zipper, the bigger the teeth will be,” says Drummond. “They are tougher to zip up, but that is the trade-off for everlasting quality. A smooth-running zipper will zip quickly, but it will not last on a farm.”
Bib overalls differ in zipper length. Some have full-length zippers that go all the way past the hips; others go just to the calf.
Some units also feature outside storm flaps that cover zippers in order to block the wind. Another key feature if you do a lot of kneeling is reinforced knees.
Some bib overalls have utility pockets for tools and personal items. Others include hip pockets and hammer loops that can hold various tools.
Some versions feature pass-through pockets above where the zipper stops going upward, such as above the hip.
“If you have something to get out of your jean pocket, you don’t have to fumble with the zipper,” Drummond says. “You can just put your hand through the pass-through pocket.”