Jumpsuits seem to be everywhere at the moment, from recent seasons of Rick Owens, Comme des Garçons and Ralph Lauren, to the latest catalogue from Dickies. Workers, politicians and artists have all been photographed zipping up jumpsuits; they have a strangely universal appeal, simultaneously signifying hard labor, adventure, an old fashioned masculinity and a genderless future. But to understand how this garment has managed to communicate so many different ideas at once, it’s worth looking back on how it came to be, from the coal rooms of the early 20th century to the racetrack and the airstrip, to the catwalks of today.

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