Wednesday, August 23, 2017
 
Vintage Skivvies Underwear History

 

War Shortages & New Fabrics — The Forties


With the real war engulfing Europe and the Pacific and swing dancing sweeping across America, the early years of the 1940s brought shortages of everything. The patriotic ads of the war era —

"Uncle Sam needs rubber so Jockey waistbands are no longer all-elastic," announced one advertisement that reintroduced the woven waistband with two side buttons. But the pushers of underwear kept up their pressure. Ads urged men to "keep asking until your dealer has the brand that you want." "Uncle Sam needs us, too" and "The Marines come first" encouraged the men left at home to be understanding about the difficulty of finding the under shirts, shorts or suits they wanted. Otis, Healthknit and Robert Reis as well as the old standbys, Jockey and Hanes continued to wage their own wars in the ad columns during the 1940s. Knit briefs, broadcloth shorts with buttons, Gripper fasteners, French backs, tie-sides and the relentless union suit all continued to vie for the well dressed man’s attention.

American troops discovered during World War II that freshly washed white underwear hung out to dry attracted enemy fire. A wartime ad for Jockey headlined: "Target: White Underwear" and explained why the army changed to OD (Olive Drab):

A spot of white against coral sand or tropic green makes a bull's eye for the enemy. Patches of white draw gunfire; they show troops are there. Olive drab blends with its background ...

After the war, the underwear business wasn't what it had been.

By the late 1940s, Cluett, Peabody and Company, who had been making men’s shirts and other accessories under the Arrow label, made a big splash in the undergarment field. First, they introduced Arrow Underwear — soon to be called "first in fashion." And, second, the clever Cluett, Peabody patented the process of preshrinking called "Sanforized" and then licensed the process and the name to others. Almost instantly, everyone was advertising their own "Sanforized" underwear.

Everyone wanted to have their own brand recognition by now. Carter’s called their briefs Carter’s Trigs. Hanes had Givvies, made of bias cut broadcloth that "gave" with every movement. Healthknit paired MacDee bottoms with matching Kut-Ups shirts, which had an inverted V-notch to fit snugly around the brief's pouch with the shirt tucked in. Knothe Brothers had Expanso Shorts, while Bauer & Black urged you to avoid "midsection sag" with its Bracer made of two-way stretch Lastex. And most notably, there were the briefs with the risqué name — Reis Scandals. We were moving into the modern world as we know it.
 
 
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