My Never-Ending Quest for the Perfect Boiler Suit

Boiler suits are having an A-list moment, one I did not anticipate. I’ve seen the garment plenty around New York – on the subway, on the Lower East Side, on the Bowery — but now, I see it at Sweetgreen, on Instagram, on celebrities. I’m both pissed and pleased because, selfishly, I’ve been looking for a good boiler suit for literal YEARS, to no avail. Until recently, I’d likened them to Goldilocks porridge, but without the happy ending. No one does them right, I reasoned. This is not my fault! But now I realize great boiler suits not only exist, they’re abound. Abound! How is it that everyone beat me to the punch?

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I don’t resent the hype, seriously. I could write a poem about the way they hang, shoulder-to-ankle, at once all-consuming and humble. I wonder if anything else that’s so easy could look so cool, so comfy, so forgiving. And so utilitarian! The good ones are essentially storage lockers. Like dresses, they give you a whole look in one go, but unlike dresses, they’re utterly unisex. A more perfect garment possibly doesn’t exist. When I see one in the wild, my eyes follow it down the street like a thirsty Mona Lisa.

The first boiler suit I fell in love with hung all stiff and boxy off the shoulders of a lanky New York kid. He was perched on a wooden planter, smoking a cigarette on a roof and looking good enough to paint. It was 2013, my first time in New York, and I was at a party unlike anything I’d ever seen. New York’s bustling city streets and dumb sparkling lights were no doubt charming, but I swear it was the baggy, shapeless clothing that really wooed me. It’s like tangible confidence.

I’ve poked through the onesie rack of every thrift store I’ve been in since. I’ve ordered, tried on and returned countless iterations. When Leandra styled one three ways for Man Repeller back in August 2015, I saved the images on my phone in an obsessive sort of panic. When I moved to New York a year later and my friend Steph wore a red one to dinner, I made her send me the link right then and there. It interrupted our meal! It was Caron Callahan and it was sold out. Same for the pink one Madewell put out this spring – the very one I’m convinced catapulted the boiler suit to the front row of my feeds. Racked wrote a whole story about it! It really is perfect, fuck. It sold out in days.

Last month, while walking down the street with the MR edit team, I commented to Harling that I loved Leandra’s AG jumpsuit. She said she agreed, that she’d worn the same one for a shoot last year and hadn’t stopped thinking about it. But that one was gone, too. We spent the rest of the walk lamenting how curiously hard it was to find something that seems so, well, easy to make.

Maybe that’s changing, though. Maybe their recent proliferation will mean that soon, the hunt won’t be arduous. I’m mostly overjoyed by the prospect. Only my most selfish, unlikable sliver wishes it weren’t true, like a teen who wants her favorite band to succeed but not too much. I think the hunt has given me such pointed shopping purpose that I’ve almost grown attached to my boiler suit dissatisfaction. When I donned the Caron Callahan one I’m wearing above, it was like all my hard work was realized! I felt complete!

I’m the worst. Maybe just ignore me and get in on this:

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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