The Overall Fad, 1920

I was out of town at the end of last week and when I got back I discovered that the Woodson had acquired a new scrapbook. For reasons that are too dull to go into I  don’t know right this minute who put it together (I’ll find out soon) but I believe it was made by Norman Hurd Ricker, ’16, ’17, ’20 when he was a Ph.D. student and an instructor in the Physics Department, roughly 1918 until 1920. In any event it clearly belonged to someone who was an instructor and it’s pulse-quickeningly good.

RI Scrapbook 20s cover

The images mostly record the campus in a careful documentary way but they also provide a wonderful glimpse into the activities of the youngest teachers on campus, the bachelor fellows and instructors who lived together in the Faculty Tower. Here’s a small taste, what looks to be quite a happy goof, the great Overall Fad of the Spring of 1920:

RI scrapbook overall fad

 

It might be time for an overall revival.

Much more to come.

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7 Responses to The Overall Fad, 1920

  1. mjthannisch says:

    PInce nez and flowers in the overalls. Does anyone know a story for the overall fad?

  2. almadenmike says:

    The April 23, 1920, issue of the Thresher has several stories on the overall fad. (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/64974/thr19200423.pdf?sequence=1)

    1) A front-page article on the upcoming May 12 Sophomore dance: “strictly an ‘overall’ dance.”.

    2) A front page editorial saying that the “overall craze” has caused a tremendous drop in sales at — and reduced Thresher advertising by — local clothing stores. “Shall the Thresher Live or Die?” screamed the headline.

    3) A page-2 article (Headline: “Overalls!! Rice Hit Hard By Rage”) seems to indicate that the fad’s origin may have been a protest against rising prices/shrinking availability of more formal/traditional attire. They expected that wearing their best clothes less often would reduce demand and lower prices. Class presidents set rules for men wearing overalls, with women’s use being optional.

    All this was going on as Rice was hosting former President William Howard Taft. I wonder what impression the overalled students made on him.

    I suspect that several other Thresher issues around this time may yield more definitive insights, but I don’t have the time this week or next to track them down. (It would also be interesting to count the number and size of the clothing-store ads to see if the reduction mentioned above was real.)

  3. Lou Ann Montana says:

    Melissa, I don’t know if there was much photographic documentation, but I was part of an informal group of Jones women in the ’75 to ’77 timeframe that called themselves the TRGLS and our ‘uniform’ was overalls. The EBLS and OWLS were still in existence and held a fall formal. The TRGLS (Typical Rice Girl Literary Society) reflected what we thought was a more genuine definition of the life of a Rice coed at that time. Both overalls and ‘painter’s pants’ were very popular!

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