While I was doing my Erasmus exchange in Amsterdam I had to constantly explain to my foreign friends what the deal was with the blue overalls I seem to be wearing in a lot of my facebook photos. I tried to explain that it's a Finnish university tradition. They just thought it was weird. Weird or not lets face it, students in Finland wear overalls.
As I'm going to an overall party today (hosted by my student organization each month's first Thirsday after the student grants are given out), I thought I'd dedicate this entry to the overall culture providing some facts about them and info on how to wear them.
Why the overalls
In each faculty each student organization has their own color. I study business at the university of Tampere and the color of my student organization Boomi is blue. It might happen that another student organization in Finland has the same color but never in the same university. For example the students of construction engineering in the Tampere university of technology have the same color as us. You can tell us apart from the back of the overall that states the name of the student organization.
The overalls are usually worn at student parties, excursions and events. We do not actively wear them at uni like at lectures but sometimes if the parties start very early you might attend a lecture already in your overalls. When you go to different student events you get different kinds of fabric patches with the name of the event. Once you get this patch you have to sew it onto your overralls. This basically funtions as a diary of your studies. You'll remember all the events and fun stuff you've gone to when you just look through your overalls. You can also tell apart the very active students from the not so active. Also you can pretty much guess if the person is a 1st year student or a 5th year student.
Some people really don't like the overalls. I do admit that they are pretty ugly but it's not the way they look but what they represent. The idea with the overalls is that it identifies you with your own faculty and especially your student organization. It's about belonging and being proud of what you study. I'm a very social person and I like the feeling of belonging to a group. That is why I really love the overalls. It's like a uniform. I do understan though that not everyone likes to be identified as a student.
The reasons I love the overalls:
1. They give you a sense of belonging
2. It helps if you want to look for a boy/girl who studies a particular subject. For example if you're fantasizing about a future doctor just look for the guys in white overalls with the ad "Burana" on their thigh. Simple, huh?
3. You can sit where ever you want. Students like to party on the go and sometimes it's nice to have a pit stop somewhere around town and have a beer with friends. Wearing the overall you can just sit on the ground anywhere you like.
4. If someone gets too drunk in a party and pours beer all over you it doesn't matter. Remember, according to the overall etiquette one is not allowed to ever wash the overall. Mine however were soaked in a hot tub in Iceland while I was there on a business students trip in 2008. But that was an accident so it doesn't count.
5. The overalls remove all responsibility from you. If you're in your regular clothes with your friends on a train drinking rhum and laughing people will get upset and the controller will confiscate your bottle. If you do the same wearing the overalls peoples reactions are more like: Nice they are just young students having fun.
How to wear them
Some faculties, for example those from the Tampere University of Technology, often wear the overall all the way up. The more common way however is to tie the sleeves of the overall to your waist making pants out of them. It's necessary to buy an overall belt to keep the pants from falling down. Also I would advice one to tie the leg of the overall with an elastic to prevent them from slipping under your heel when you walk.
Since the overralls are very colorful it's better to wear a simple top with them. I usually prefer to wear a simple basic top. This time I've chosen my favorite color pink. This is how I look like in my overall:
Notice that you can also attach other fun stuff to your overalls apart from the regular patches. I have for example this Carillo cap, a pair of handcuffs, a tutor pass, a glow in the dark stick etc.
Usually the name of the student organization is on the back of the overall. This is how ours look like. The idea is to tie the sleeves of the overall so that you can still see the whole name of the organization. However I only do this when leaving home. As soon as I go to the bathroom for the first time during the party I can't be bothered with laying this sign out again.
The big curiosity in our overalls is the so called "groping pocket" (Lääppimistasku) that we have on the sides. It's just a hole right next to the actual pocket and often people loose their phones etc because they accidentally put their stuff through the groping hole and not inside the real pocket. After a few beers you might not notice that your wallet falls down the leg of you overall and your that your stuff ends up on the dance floor. This is why I mentioned earlier that the legs of the pants should be tied up with elastics. This prevents you from loosing your stuff through the groping hole. The stuff just falls into your sleeve and you can then just pick it up when you notice it. The groping pocket looks like this:
I guess it is convenient for people who want to grope people randomly on the dance floos :P
Lonkerotasku, is the pocket on the side. You can see my pocket where there is a patch with the word "Tutor" on it. We call this the lonkerotasku (lonkero = a Finnish alcoholic beverage with the same amount of alcohol such as a beer) because it's a pocket where the lonkero can fits perfectly.
The overall is full of pockets so you don't need to carry a handbag with you. As I don't really like bags this is a life saver for me. That is actually a very masculine feature in me. Instead of carrying a bag I'd prefer to just put my stuff in my back pocket. With overalls this is possible. However, I often see girls at these student parties with handbags. Seriously, why? If you have to wear a bag at least wear a sling bag!
There are different ways how you can get patches. You can either buy them from student organizations, you can swap them with other students or you can get them from attending different parties and events. I always carry patches with me from my organization Boomi just in case I want to swap them with new friends or people I meet from different faculties.
The tricky part is to get the patches on to your overall. You can either sew them, glue them or pin them with safety pins. Officially you're supposed to attach them yourself but I must admit that the guy in charge of the lighting for our university musical has sewn at least 30 of my patches for me. My mum recently bought me a sewing machine which I don't know how to use but I think it might come in handy when attaching some patches..... As you can see from the picture I still have a few to sew on...
The overalls always have ads on them (in our overalls they're white. You can see them for example in my pic above with the "gouping hole"). The idea is to sell advertising spce on the overalls for companies wanting to promote themselves among students. The price of the ad depends on the size of the add and where it is located on the overall. In my overall we even have an ad on the inside. It's because the company wanted to sponsor us but didn't want to be openly a "student company". The reason to get the ads is because ordering the overalls is pretty expensive and selling ads is a way for the students to get them for free. In my student organization the first year students have to find the advertisers for their overalls themselves. This might take a while but usually they get their overalls already in November.
Exchanging a leg
Sometimes you see people with a different color sleeve, collar or leg. The tradition is that if you date someone from a different student organization (or at least are in an intimate relationship with the person) you can exchange a part of the leg. At least this is how the tradition was. Nowadays people often exchange parts of the overalls with friends leading to them having 8 different colors on their leg. I wouldn't advice on doing this if you don't want to seem like the village bicycle. But that's a choice one has to make for oneself.
The morning after
Sometimes the student parties take you until the morning light (or you hook up with someone and have to eventually return home). It has happened more than once that I've been at an after partys afterparty in my student organizations club and have had to walk home down the main street of Tampere at 8am while regular people are looking fresh and going to work. If you're still wearing your overall at that time it's clear to people that you haven't slept at home and they obviously think the worst of you. So how can you avoid this Hämeenkatu walk of shame? You could wear regular pants under your overalls and in the morning just take your overalls off, put them in a bag and walk home in normal clothes. However a true hard core student never weasrs anything underneath. So just do as I do. Keep your head up high and walk proudly in your overalls. Who cares what other people think?
As my friend Miikka would say you can't turn shit into marmelade. What it means is that no matter how hot you try to make your overalls look, they are still ugly. So just get over it and have fun. Don't take life to seriously and just learn to laugh at yourself. Life shouldn't be so serious.
As a final note always remember (this is a warning for all of you men out there) that the overall is deceptive. You can never know what a huge ass can be found from underneath.