Saturday, March 24, 2018

Union Suit Fan: "I don't need a heated cab, I'm wearing Stanfield's!"

Sam sits atop his John Deere warm as toast in his
Stanfield's Combination Underwear 

When Sam of northern lower Michigan drives around on his tractor clearing snow in 25F degree weather he dresses head to toe for warmth...just what you would expect from someone who lives in cold country. Reportedly, his Michigan winter wardrobe consists of:

A knit cap from Carhartt,
Gloves from Custom Leather Craft,
Boots from Muck,
And Combinations manufactured by Stanfield's: 2 layer cotton/poly/wool.
Not seen are his white Foxriver socks.

Does this guy know quality or what?! Sam wanted me to know that “the legs of the union suit were tucked inside my white socks which are not noticeable inside the 15 inch boots.” So noted.

Upon receiving his photo I replied, “Glad you're wearing a grey union suit as your white ones would have blended in with the snow and we couldn't have seen you!” And added, “You should send this photo to Stanfield's along with the motto: "I don't need a heated cab, I'm wearing Stanfield's!"

He replied, “Chris, Stanfields might appreciate the photo and motto but I might be in trouble with John Deere because the majority of compacts they sell around here are sold with cabs.” Yep, ok.

Sam tells me, “For almost all of my many years I was attracted to the union suit. My oldest brother wore unions (16 years my senior) but the next three brothers wouldn’t be caught in one, next two sisters, and by the time I came along my mother figured it wasn’t worth the fight so I put on what was there and it wasn’t a union suit. 
Most of the boys that attended my two room school (K through 7th grade) were union suited and I couldn’t see why they complained. I finally took the plunge in 1962 while stationed in the Tucson, Arizona area. It could get might nippy at night out on the flight line and I got tired of crawling under an MD3 power unit to stay warm so off to Sears and there began the journey.” 

(So many of us began with Sears Union Suits!  I did...Chris)

Sam is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to one-piece underwear. And so, he is my “go to guy” when it comes to union suits. After he read my posting of April 27, 2017 entitled Union Suits – YesterYear Stanfield's Canadian Union Suits, Sam emailed to correct my faux pas: “Canadian one-piece underwear, including Stanfield's, are called “Combinations” not “Union Suits!” He informed me that in Canada you don't ask for “union suits” you ask for “combinations” or “combinaisons” if you are French speaking. He emailed me copies of Canadian underwear catalogues to prove it. Furthermore, this fact is supported by two new email buddies of mine, Mario, who resides in Montreal, and Michael who hails from England. Those boys wear "combinations." I thanked Sam for setting me straight and immediately changed the posting to reflect “Combinations” rather than “Union Suits.”

Sam has over the past months tried to get me to quit wearing boxer shorts under my union suits and to stuff the legs of my long underwear into my socks. Dang, if I am having a hard time following his suggestions. Oh, yeah, he has a disdain for red union suits (my favorite). He wouldn't be caught dead in them! But Sam, grandpa told me red union suits are the warmest a man can wear. He swore, “They keep my gout from getting worse! You wear red, my boy!” I know Sam ain't gonna buy that one. He says, “I get the impression that I am alone preferring anything but red, although I am not throwing rocks.” Don't tell Sam but I hear from plenty of you who prefer “anything but red.”

Sam also has warned those of us who wear two union suits at a time (or a combination of combinations) on those coldest winter days to take care to wear the same type of long johns. In other words, don't wear a drop seat union suit over one that has the one-button vertical flap or you could be in deep trouble. Good advice if nature calls in a hurry.

Since Sam wears union suits year around like a number of you, long sleeved, long leg union suits don't work for him as summer underwear. For the warmer months, he turns to short leg, sleeveless Athletic Union Suits. But that is a story for another, warmer day.

Sam observes, “Now as to the State of the Union Suit. So much of life I find is like public transportation, if the ridership is down common thinking says reduce the service and raise the price, so it is with union suits. As it was until the mid-1970s most union suits for adults were sized by chest measurements 32, 34, 36, ... 52, and the standard trunk* link was chest 34 trunk 60 inches, chest 36 trunk 62 and so on. There were also allowances for exceptionally tall or stout persons. The standard also had a vertical wide lapped seat which allowed for all to hang out without fouling the suit. The above design allowed for a comfortable well-fitting garment. The five sizes we have today leave a lot to be desired along with the vertical button holes, the split seat, and the shortage of white suits. If I remember correctly, Duofold was one of the last to leave the chest measurements and that happened when it was bought out by J E Morgan which was a division of Sara Lee baking company. So you can say a cookie baker put the last nail in the US Union Suit coffin.”

Amen, brother. I told you Sam is my “go to guy.” Thanks for your comments and emails this past year, pal.

Tap to Enlarge

* Here's a mother measuring her son for a new union suit. Notice the tape is wrapped around the boy vertically. This measured his trunk to ensure a well fitting union suit of which Sam speaks.

Added May 14, 2018   More outdoor long underwear pursuits:
Is this counterintuitive or is it just me? .....

Just Received and added March 28, 2018: Ben of Frewsburg, NY sporting a red union suit in, of all places, the box of his Gehl Scaventer manure spreader. Courtesy of Duluth Trading Company, Duluth, MN. Another hard-working farmer!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Union Suit Fan:  Southern Comfort 

San Antonio John in his
Jockey Drop-Seat Union Suit 
Before initiating my blog some twenty months ago, I assumed that long underwear was purchased and worn by men and boys north of the Mason-Dixon line and points north of and including Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Utah. So, it has been surprising to say the least that I have heard from so many Union Suit wearers from the south and southwest part of the country including Florida, Louisiana, Arizona and, most recently, from Texas.

Some time ago Evan, my best friend since junior high school, dropped out of college and moved to the panhandle of Texas to live with his grandparents in the little community of Perryton. His grandpa got him a job as a roustabout in the oil fields. Since then I have known that cold winds sweep across flat and treeless west Texas, an unforgiving region in the winter time. Back in Idaho Evan had worn two-piece thermal underwear and loved to poke fun of me in my union suits! Yet, later on that same boy himself purchased and wore union suits which he eventually favored and always donned for work out on the rigs.

That's right, after the first cold Texas November day, that kid purchased himself two pairs of insulated coveralls, a heavy Carhartt stocking cap, wool socks, and a couple of bright red union suits. He was bound and determined to stay warm out there in the prairie on those oil rigs. By the way it was Evan who introduced me to red long johns on his visit back home to Idaho when we were both about twenty years old. Up until that time I had worn only white and grey unions.

But this posting is not about Evan. I mention him only to illustrate that I do recall guys (at least oil field workers, farmers and ranchers) in the northern part of Texas wore long underwear. However, it was still a bit of surprise when I recently heard from John of San Antonio, a Union Suit Fan, from “deep in the heart of Texas.”

In an email John reported to me that he has been wearing union suits since he was a little boy growing up in south Texas. Like several of us his dad had always bought him two-piece thermal long johns. John pulled these on to wear while hunting and running around ranch land with his dad.

He told me that while trudging along on hunting trips as a twelve year old, he would complain to his dad about how uncomfortable his underwear was. “The elastic waistband bothered me and the bottoms would eventually start creeping down making it uncomfortable for any extended period of time. Man was I surprised when dad came home one day with a supply of Sears union suits for me. I started laughing and told him there was 'no way I was wearing old man underwear!'
His only comment to me was, 'Oh you will wear them alright.'

Of course I knew what that really meant. I started wearing those union suits when hunting and working with him outside and discovered, wow, they were really comfortable. Since that time I have only worn the one-piece style.

I live in San Antonio, Texas, and if you know anything about Texas weather, we can get all four seasons in one day.  Temperature swings of 30 degrees or more are not unusual.”

John went on to say, “We are so use to our warm / hot weather here that anytime the temps drop below 70F it’s time to pull on our long handles. I think my initial resistance to union suits was the early age they were bought for me. They were always comical in the movies and on TV. I’m happy that my dad required me to wear them because I discovered how comfortable and practical they are.

I grew up with cowboys since we had a ranch in north San Antonio. So I think I wore the correct underwear. I liked the picture of you in your boots and hat. It reminds me of when I was that age. (See USF posting, “Me and My Union Suit,” dated December 15, 2016.) Unbelievable, I starting out resisting wearing union suits and was embarrassed if anyone knew I had one on."

So there you have it. Southern Comfort. Not embarrassed anymore.

What ?! Guys Down South 
Wear Union Suits ?! 

Yes, Sir! Temperatures in the south turn down right chilly. 
So, guys there demand the same comfort and warmth in their long underwear as we boys up north. 
Can you blame them? Union Suits fit the bill. And, if they can have a little fun along the way, so much the better!

Thanks, John. Stay warm down there and welcome to our fraternity.

Added March 26, 2018:

Another Union Suit Selfie Just Received 


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Olympian Union Suit Fan 

With the 2018 Olympics having concluded, I was reminded of this 2014 NyQuil magazine advertisement featuring Ted Ligety. Posing in bed asleep atop his bed covers wearing a red Union Suit, age about 26 at the time.

The great U.S. Alpine Olympian Skier won two gold metals. He in his long johns prove once again that you find Union Suit Fans among the famous and the regular Joes like you and me. Keep 'em buttoned!    ...Chris