Saturday, August 18, 2018
Vintage Skivvies Underwear History


Patents & Branding — The Thirties

In the 1930s, Coopers Inc., who had been making men’s underwear for years in their Bennington, Vermont factory for Black Cat Textiles, discovered the magic of the word Jockey. They patented their Y-front with overlapping fly, produced it in both long and short length knitted drawers, and introduced what we now call briefs — all under the Jockey trademark. Before long, gentlemen everywhere were being cautioned not to even bother with the store unless the Jockey statue was standing in the window or on the counter.

The Jockey brief was introduced in Chicago in a Marshall Field and Company window on January 19, 1935. Store management thought it was ludicrous to be displaying such skimpy underwear on a day when the worst blizzard of the winter was hitting Chicago, a day for long johns if there ever was one, and ordered the display removed. Before the display could be taken down, six hundred packages of Jockey Shorts were sold. Thirty thousand pair sold in the next three months, and Jockey began "Changing the Underwear Habits of the Nation."

Big things were happening, too, in the world of drawers. Someone decided to eliminate all the buttons and put in a waist-encircling elastic band. The result: boxer shorts, like the shorts worn by prize fighters. Another milestone for those who preferred drawers over union suits or briefs was the introduction of Scovill Manufacturing's Gripper Fastener. This patented device was a flat snap closure that eliminated the bulk and propensity for breakage of a button. Soon all the major brands were advertising their shorts with Gripper Fasteners.

By the middle of the 20th century, electric-powered knitting machines took over from water-driven equipment to make more underwear even faster … and the giant mills went to war over brand names.
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