What is a Dungaree?

What is a Dungaree?
What is a Dungaree? (Image: Petr Kratochvil: PublicDomainPictures.net)

Dungaree is a type of cloth woven from cotton. It is a thick, durable twill that is almost always dyed blue. Another word for dungaree is blue denim. In its plural form, dungarees refer to clothing made from blue denim, i.e. blue jeans. In the United Kingdom, dungarees may be used to refer specifically to overalls, while in the United States, dungarees are a somewhat antiquated name for blue jeans, although the term is also associated with jeans worn while doing manual labor, such as carpenter jeans.


Jeans have a complicated history---they seem to have arisen in a number of locations. In the 16th century, sailors from Genoa wore blue pants made out of cotton, wool and linen. Not only were these long-lasting trousers the precursor of modern jeans, but they may have given jeans their name, since it is thought that the word "jeans" comes from the word "Genoese," which was used to refer to these sailors. Denim was invented both in France and in India. The word denim comes from the term for the French version of the fabric, which was invented in the 17th century and called "Serge de Nimes." In India, denim was invented in the 18th century in Dongari Killa, an area near Mumbai. This coarse fabric, which was used for making sails, was sometimes also used by the poorer classes to make clothing. The word "dungaree" derives from the name Dongari.


In their early history, dungarees were worn in order to perform manual labor. Because dungaree cloth was inexpensive and resistant to wear, dungarees were popular with sailors and workers. Dungaree cloth was also used to make sail cloth. Over time, dungarees became popular with youth, as they symbolized rebellion. Today, dungarees are worn by people of all ages and socioeconomic levels. While dungarees are still used for their original purposes, they have also become a fashion statement.


Today dungarees come in a huge range of sizes, colors, fits and forms. While the bulk of dungarees are still blue, they are also available in other colors. Dungarees may be tight or loose-fitting, stone-washed or deep indigo, and frayed or formal. Dungaree material may also be used to make shirts, skirts, purses, jackets, scarves and many other types of clothing. Designer dungarees cost hundreds of dollars, while other brands are extremely affordable.


Dungarees can be considered a universal garment, because they are worn by millions of people all over the world. Dungarees are especially associated with the United States, however, perhaps because their popularization is so closely tied to the youth culture revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s.


Recycled dungarees have started to be used in insulating homes. Green builders like using dungaree material because it contains few chemicals and is less harmful than fiberglass insulation.

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