Born in 2019, from founder Thomas Burke’s passion for denim, United Overalls aim to produce the highest quality pair of UK-made jeans.
Here he explains why being a 100% UK-made denim brand was the only way to go.
When was United Overalls founded and what is your background?
United Overalls has been going since 2019, but it took about two years to get the brand started. Before working on the brand I worked in retail so had to learn a lot about design and starting up a business before launching our first style of jeans.
Most of my denim knowledge comes from my time working in different clothing stores. The first was Levi’s where I was taught about the history of the brand and how the iconic 501 changed over time. I then worked at Son of a Stag and learned all of the details and construction methods that make Japanese and American made denim brands the highest quality jeans in the world. It was a great place to absorb a wealth of knowledge and meet with people in the industry who became valuable contacts later on.
Why do you choose to make your products in the UK?
For me, it was a combination of the environmental impacts of shipping fabrics halfway across the world. I was inspired to follow in the footsteps of the Japanese and American brands that could boast almost 100% domestically produced products.
A lot of the decisions we make as a UK-made denim brand are to reduce the impact of our company on the environment, for example, we only use unwashed denim and only 100% cotton.
So the decision to pick English woven selvedge denim and North London construction ticked the boxes for the smallest carbon footprint in terms of shipping plus we could deliver a level of quality not found anywhere else.
Who is the typical United Overalls customer?
Typically our customers have been people who are looking for unique, small run and top-quality products that are championing British craftsmanship. Often they are “Denim Heads” who avidly research the best quality jeans from around the world and see our ED-1 jeans as a true one-of-a-kind product.
They would have a lot of exposure to other brands on the market but stumble on our brand either through social media or by searching for any brands that make jeans in the UK. We have had customers from America and Europe as well as obviously the UK and we hope we have more customers around the world in the future!
Why would someone choose to invest in a pair of United Overalls jeans rather than another brand?
If someone is looking for the best pair of jeans they can buy then they should definitely come to us. Ours stand head and shoulders above others, mainly due to the construction methods that the folks at Blackhorse Lane Ateliers have the skill to execute. Just a few of these details include the lack of any over-locking, a one-piece selvedge line fly, and rivets on all areas of strain including at the bottom of the fly (a feature not seen on jeans since the ’30s).
I also took a lot of time finding problems with jeans I had owned previously and rectifying them for United Overalls. One of the biggest problems I had with raw denim jeans was that the front and back pockets were always too small for hands and my phone and wallet, plus the pocket bags were always made of thin material that would wear out so much quicker than the denim.
The ED-1 jeans have much bigger pockets and pocket openings to make them as comfortable to wear with a phone and wallet in them, and we use a thick, heavy-duty canvas for the pocket bags that lasts as long as the denim.
You aim to make your jeans as environmentally conscious as possible, can you tell us how you do this?
Outside of the previously mentioned UK sourcing, we make sure that there is no plastic used in the construction of our jeans to guarantee they won’t release micro-plastics into water systems. Many denim brands will still use polyester threads to construct their jeans so we even make sure that not only is our fabric 100% cotton but so is the thread used to sew it all together.
This means it will also be easier to fix the jeans in the future if you can manage to wear them out. As standard, we add in a spare patch of denim to orders so that you can use it as a patch to repair your jeans or just as a wash test swatch. The only piece of plastic we use is the recyclable plastic bag that we re-use from the factory to wrap the jeans in during transit to help protect them.
We will also start looking into alternative materials to cotton in future runs. The mill that produces our fabric also does some Linen and Wool mixed denim which we would love to get our hands on! We try and make every decision for the brand as considered as possible and we hope people can see that in our offerings. It means that it does take a lot of time to develop products but we think it is worth it in the long run.
You’re so obsessed about denim you even have a podcast about it! Tell us more…
Well for a while I have been part of a denim meet-up group (Jeans Anonymous) called Worn Out Global, started by two chaps called David and Kevin. These meetings usually involve just meeting after work near shops we like in London, drinking too much and talking briefly about jeans before getting onto other subjects.
Once lock-down came into effect David had the idea of taking the idea of these meetings and bringing them to a podcast! So we spend an hour or so just chatting about things we would chat about normally – hobbies, news, music and obviously giving opinions on denim, denim trends, and brands that we like or dislike.
We all come from different backgrounds so it gives a really rounded view on certain subjects, not all of us are bearded motorcyclists swigging craft Ales you know. One example would be our running joke about David’s obsession with neon and black in almost everything he wears. Shoes, jeans, jackets. Everything.
Hello, I'm Kate Hills
I’ve been passionate about UK manufacturing ever since I had my own recycled clothing company and micro-factory in the early '90s! After 20 years as a designer and buyer developing products all over the world, I launched Make it British to support creative small businesses that want to make sustainably and locally.
Over the last ten years, I've helped 1,000s of businesses to work with UK manufacturers. Now it's your turn!