Thursday, December 15, 2016

Me and My Union Suit

Here's a photo my mom took of me in long winter underwear
back when I was in High School.
I wore this "costume" of long johns, boots, and cowboy hat
in a school play entitled "A Country Christmas Carol." 

I forgot all about this picture of me in my underwear until my sister, 
sorting through a bunch of old family photos, mailed this to me recently!

Merry Christmas Everybody!   .... Chris

This post of me in my Union Suit in high school received more emails than any other post I have done. Thanks to Paul, Ernie, Rich, and Sarah, among others. I appreciate all of you for responding! Sarah commented that me being tall, dark, and skinny I must have had the role of Slim Pickens. Well, no. Actually, "A Country Christmas Carol" was a take off on Charles Dickens' story about ole Scrooge. Ms. Dietrich, my English Literature teacher, had written an adaptation with a country bent. Instead of night shirts, she had us boys wear our long underwear! I was given the part of the "Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come" and wore the white Union Suit as shown in the post photo above. The boys that played Scrooge and the "Ghost of Christmas Present" wore red Union Suits and the boy that was the Ghost of Christmas Past" wore a grey Union Suit. All four of us, I believe, were at first reluctant to appear on stage in just our long underwear and boots. But we did and to our surprise the play was a big hit with fellow students, teachers, and our parents! An article and photos of us in our Union Suits made the student newspaper as well as the year book. I guess for awhile we were local "celebrities."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Union Suits - YesterYear

World War II Poster of Long Red Underwear urging
U.S. Citizens to dress warmly and turn down the heat!

Rationing and Energy Conservation Office of 
                        War Information 1943

The image shows long red underwear ("union suit") in position of a man lounging advocating everyone to wear their Long Johns for the war effort. 

This Entry Added March 7, 2017:

Richard of Traverse City, MI sent me this 1946 political cartoon drawn by John Collins. It is about the same era as the Long Underwear Poster above. It is entitled "Uncle Sam's Union Suit."  Thanks Richard.

Added December 22, 2016:

Ty of Odessa, Texas, a retired oil field worker and a Union Suit Fan, saw my recent post of button down long johns on a World War II poster urging U.S. citizens to pull on their long winter underwear and turn down the heat. He remembered his copy of an old 1974 Petroleum Independent magazine featuring this very poster on its front cover. Ty said that he was so inspired after receiving this issue of the magazine, he immediately went out and purchased a couple of red Union Suits for himself to wear! He reports that he has been wearing them ever since. His two boys and a grandson wear them too. Thanks Ty for forwarding this photo of your magazine's cover.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Manitou Springs, Colorado Firemen are Union Suit Fans !

Members of the Manitou Springs, Colorado Fire Department
participate wearing their long red underwear in the
Emma Crawford Coffin Race held every October


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Union Suits - YesterYear 
Astronaut Underwear 

Mercury 7 Astronauts in Union Suits
and Homemade Garments - Survival Training
 America's first astronauts: Walter M. Schirra Jr. , Donald K. "Deke" SlaytonJohn H. Glenn Jr.Scott Carpenter, Alan B. Shepard Jr.  (middle)Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper. Image credit: NASA 

Astronauts Made Outer Clothing Out of Parachutes 

The selected seven astronauts go through survival training in the Nevada desert. The astronauts were left there for four days in just their union suits and boots with a mock-up of a Mercury spacecraft, a parachute and a survival scenario. Image credit: NASA.

The Mercury Program was the beginning of United States’ manned, exploration of space. The seven men chosen to be the first astronauts came from many different backgrounds, but soon would become heroes of their country and the world. The men went through a meticulous selection process and a very vigorous and fast paced training program. All of the astronauts, except for one, flew in the Mercury missions and returned to Earth safely. These men were the first test subjects for flights to the Moon, and in the future, Mars and beyond.

On Monday April 27, 1959, the seven astronauts began their training. In 1960, the astronauts spent four days in desert survival training. This was incorporated into their training program because of the remote possibility they could land in Africa. This training was completed at Stead Air Force Base near Reno, Nevada. During this training, they were left in only their long underwear to learn how to “protect themselves from the sun, how to utilize the limited water supply, and to build clothing and shelter from their parachutes” 

To this day, astronauts wear a type of Union Suit under their space suits.

Thanks to Rich of Buffalo, NY, Union Suit Fan, for this topic contribution!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Richie Cunningham: 
                   Union Suit Fan  

In a 1975 Happy Days second season episode, entitled "Cruisin", Richie (Ron Howard) and his friends bet their nemesis that they can come up with dates by midnight. If not, they agree to run around Mel's Diner in just their underwear. In due course, the boys lose their wager. Richie figured that they would not win their bet. He strips down to his union suit which he had worn for the cool late night run. The other boys strip to their boxer shorts.

The Boys Strip to their Underwear

Notice the Boys' Argyle Socks

Richie Remembered to Button His Flap

The Boys Finish Their Underwear Run

Monday, November 14, 2016

             Our Gang - Union Suit Fans

Alfalfa loses his boxer shorts to Butch in a rip-roaring boxing match!  He must then finish the fight in just his long-handled Union Suit! Photos are from 1938's "Came the Brawn."

Carl Dean Switzer 
(August 7, 1927 – January 21, 1959) 
One of Our Gang's most popular characters

Poster Announcing the Big Contest
Thanks to Hal Roach Studios

Thanks to Russell of Hays, Kansas 
for sending me this poster:
(March 1, 2017)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

         Union Suits - YesterYear

Duofold of Mohawk, New York Ad:

Union Suits - Yesteryear is a new post category that I will be adding to this Blog from time to time. Articles, photographs, and advertisements from yesteryear. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Mike's Winter Underwear Hike

Mike, a native of Ohio and now a resident of Lakewood, Colorado, emailed me these photos of himself taken during a hike in the Rocky Mountain foothills southwest of Denver.

He had bet several of his buddies that the Cleveland Indians would defeat the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series. Having lost the wager, he was required to strip to his Union Suit for their five mile trek.

Hikers he met on the trail had various and humorous reactions to seeing a fellow pedestrian decked out in long, bright red, winter underwear! 

Thanks for the photos, Mike, a true Union Suit Fan. 

Be sure to send me your favorite Union Suit Photo along with your first name and hometown:  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Long Johns Weather In Nebraska

By Chuck Hinman *

These cool mornings we've been having remind me of dreaded winter weather when I was a teen-age boy growing up on a farm in Nebraska. It was dreaded by me for an unusual reason; cold weather was synonymous with "long johns weather."

Long Johns was the name for winter underwear, long with regard to the sleeves and legs. They were a one-piece "suit" of heavy cream-colored cotton knit material that buttoned up the front from the crotch to the neck. In addition, they had a vertical slit (trap door) in the back so you didn't have to totally undress to go to the bathroom. They were intended to keep you warm on cold days.

Boys' fashion and peer pressure!

So what's to be dreaded about being warm on a cold day? Well, I'll tell you. Teen-age boys in those days decided long johns made you look "hokey" what with your underwear creeping out from under your shirt sleeves or around the neck. How "rural"! I learned the power of peer-pressure (vs. parental pressure) before I learned anything academically at remote Liberty High. No teenage boy would be caught wearing long-johns. Isn't it interesting how fast boy's fashion news travels.

I learned what was keen (cool) and what wasn't keen the first time I undressed in the locker room before the other boys to put on my gym clothes. I was laughed at when everyone saw and pointed at my long-johns at a time in my life when I still enjoyed carrying bugs in my overall pockets.

Mom's "no option" changes Chuck's mind!

When I told Mom I wasn't going to wear long johns anymore, she changed my mind and said that it wasn't an option so "get used to it." Case closed!

Oh Lord, I didn't know which was worse, taking the scorn of the other boys in the locker room or facing the X-ray eyes of a Mom who sees and knows every thing! Do you know what I mean?

Solution to home versus school long underwear wearing!

So I decided on a solution and kept it from Mom, my best friend, all those cold, teeth chattering years. Here's how it worked. I rode a bicycle to school every day -- eight miles round trip. I wore the long johns around home, but on my way to school, I dropped by the outdoor toilet at the country-grade school where I went to elementary school the first eight years. I undressed in the outdoor toilet, took off my long johns, placed them in a paper bag and went to school without any underwear on. On the way home from school, I took a detour by way of the outdoor privy at New Hope grade school and put my winter underwear back on and appeared at home as if nothing had happened.

I was so cold from December until April each of those years I don't have much enamel left on my teeth from chattering. But it seemed worth it at the time. 

Chuck was a good friend of mine who wrote for a number of publications in the mid-west. The above story was one of my favorites. Rest in Peace, my friend.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Union Suit Fan: 

My buddy likes to strip to his Long Underwear
before beginning his Yoga Meditation

Union Suits are much more comfortable
than Yoga Pants

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gives Away Clothes; Goes Home in Union Suit

Sherman, Tex., Dec. 22, 1916,- Howard Brown is just the age to interpret everything literally. He recently heard a sermon on the text: "It is more blessed to give than receive." The words "even the coat on your back" stuck in his mind.
His mother was horrified when Howard returned from school in his union suit - minus his shirt and trousers. He had met a little boy in rags who was cold, he explained, and had put the sermon into practice.  


Thanks to Clay from Dallas, Tx who forwarded this article regarding his great grandfather who as a 12 year old boy generously stripped to his long johns to literally give away the clothes off his back to a less fortunate little boy. "Gives Away Clothes; Goes Home in Union Suit" read the headline accompanying this newspaper article which first appeared in the Sherman Texas Democrat. The story was carried in newspapers across the nation just in time for a heart-warming story at Christmas time. What a great kid young Howard was!

Have an article, story, or favorite photograph regarding union suits? Be sure to email those to me for publication in Union Suit Fan. Only your first name and home town will be referenced in this blog.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Attention Union Suit Wearers:
Before Stepping Out in Your Long Johns,
Do What He Does...
Check that Your Flap is Buttoned !

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders:
                         Union Suit Fan

Actor Norm Macdonald in a Union Suit
KFC Commercial

Colonel Sanders, southern gentleman, no doubt
wore long-handled Union Suits under his
Famous White Suit

Humorous Commercial Featuring
Long Underwear

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Presidential Underwear

Abe Lincoln's Union Suit?

Contrary to the image depicted here, Honest Abe and his four boys most likely did not wear Union Suits but rather two-piece long underwear. Like most men and boys in the early to mid 19th century, Abe and his sons probably wore separate long-handled, ankle length "drawers" and long sleeved undershirts. Although Union Suits could have been made by wives and mothers on an individual basis in Lincoln's time, Mary Todd Lincoln probably did not have or take time to sew Union Suits for the five males in her famous family.

Some believe that "Union Suits" became popular and got the name because Union soldiers, from drummer boys to generals, wore this type of long underwear in Civil War times. But not likely. Union Suits, drawers and undershirts combined into one garment, were not mass manufactured in the United States until the 1870's, after Lincoln's time. 

The one-piece underwear which buttons up the entire front of the suit and with a buttoned flap in the rear became very popular with men and boys beginning in about 1880. Union Suits, of course, are still popularly worn by men and boys today including me.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jack and the Beanstalk 
           See Previous Blog

Jack confronts the Giant's Wife in a scene from Fairie Tale Theatre, 1983

As reported in my previous blog Ryan posed the question as to whether I had seen a televised theatre presentation of "Jack and the Beanstalk" wherein Jack, a poor boy, climbed the stalk and had adventures in his red Union Suit. You know the story which scholars date back (in some fashion) 5,000 years. Thanks to the emails sent to me by Shane, Gary, and others, I was able to identify this play presented by Fairie Tale Theatre in 1983. It was shown September 8, 1983, Season 2, Episode 4. It starred Elliott Gould as the boy-eating giant and his wife, Jean Stapleton. The boy, Jack, was played by Dennis Christopher. Jack did indeed climb the beanstalk in his long underwear having been awaken by its growth in to the sky. Following are photo clips of Jack and his adventure courtesy of Fairie Tale Theatre:

Jack Awakens and Climbs the Beanstalk
in His Long Underwear

Jack Wearing Only His Union Suit
Wonders To Where He Has Climbed

A Fairy Warns Jack About the Boy-Eating Giant

Unfazed and Seeminly Unaware that He Is In His Underwear,
 Jack Approaches the Giant's Home
 and Speaks to His Wife

Jack Tells the Giant's Wife He is Hungry
and is Allowed to Enter

Jack Steals the Sleeping Giant's Gold

Jack, Still in His Union Suit,
Arrives Back Home and Describes
His Adventures to His Mother

Jack is Triumphant! He and Mother are Rich!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Jack and the Beanstalk

Ryan of Brighton, NY emailed me to ask if I remembered or knew of a "Jack and the Beanstalk" episode shown on TV in the 1980's that he watched when he was a boy. He remembers that this Saturday morning show utilized live actors including, he thinks, Elliot Gould as the giant who cobbled up little boys.

In this show according to Ryan, Jack woke up in the night and saw an extremely large bean stalk growing outside his bedroom window. He jumped out of bed clad in just a red Union Suit and climbed the stalk up into the clouds. He had various adventures in his long underwear. 

I do not remember seeing this show but will check to see if I can identify this production for Ryan. If any of you Union Suit Fans can shed light on this program email me at Thanks, Chris. 

          When reporting your emails on my blog, I only use first names and towns.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The city of Cedar Springs, Michigan holds an annual Red Flannel Festival in October of each year. My family visited there when I was a teenager. Dad bought my brothers and me red Union Suits from the Red Flannel Factory. We put them on and got to run around town the entire week-end in just our underwear! Where else can you do that?  We boys had a great time. So did mom and dad.

Back then and from early on nearly everyone who attended the Festival wore their long, red one-piece underwear. Now days few people attend in their underwear. Most just wear red shirts, hoodies, socks, etc. If you don't, the Keystone Kops will toss you in jail. 

The first Red Flannel Day was held Nov. 11, 1939 and Carleton Cady wrote in that issue of the Grand Rapids Press:  “Lurid lingerie adorned the limbs of nearly every citizen. Scarlet certificates of knighthood were issued to members of the Order of Knights of the Red Flannel Drawers, who proudly wore the badge, which, in miniature, reproduced the article that on winter  Monday’s flies from Cedar Springs’ clotheslines.”

Their password was “itch”. Dr. C. W. Brayman, James H. Cook and Jack Pollock were some of the first members in good standing, crowning the first Red Flannel Queen, Maxine Smith.

In more recent days since few attendees appear in their Long Red Underwear, the Festival is not as fun or amusing as back in the day. 

The last time we attended the festival the boy
playing the guitar had donned a bright red Union Suit