Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Nainsook Athletic Union Suite


Major Events of the 1920s

Prohibition and women's right to voteThe first year of the 20s saw the passage of two Constitutional Amendments (prohibition and women's right to vote), the dawn of the golden age of radio and the creation of the nation’s first federal highway system. Soon the number of automobiles on the road tripled, and the Imperial Underwear Company ran ads showing Dad squatting to change a flat tire, with the whole family looking on. The copy read "Ease of action. The crotch is always closed!" Comfort and convenience had never been more important to American gents.  The changing tastes of the returning servicemen weren't being ignored either. Swiss American Knitting Mills had a 1920 ad that promoted "navicloth" with a picture of Uncle Sam holding up a sleeveless, short legged union suit. The ad promised "specified government quality for US Army–U.S. Navy underwear."

Babe RuthWith Babe Ruth (pictured right) hitting 59 home runs in 1921 and 60 in 1927, American folk heroes became all the rage ... and the long-lived Saturday Evening Post with them. In 1926 the Allen A Company was using that venerable magazine to advertise. Sports became a natural for appealing to the masculine, and the Duofold and Rockinchair brands used football-themed ads to appeal to thrill seekers of all ages.

Knute RockneFootball legend Knute Rockne (pictured left) wears a winsome smile and a dapper hat. A star college player for Notre Dame, Rockne reached his greatest fame as the tough-talking coach at his alma mater from 1918 until his death in a 1931 airplane crash. Under his uniform — more likely under his civvies ... he might have been wearing Wright’s Health Underwear. Maybe he responded to the 1923 promo by the Associated Knit Underwear Manufacturers of America. It asked "Do you grow chilly after exercise?" It went on to claim there were 27 scientific reasons that the right pair of underwear could improve your health!

Charles LindberghIn 1927, Charles Lindbergh (pictured right) — perhaps in a Sealpax union suit or a pair of Topkis Brothers Athletic Underwear — completed the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight, landing in Paris after 33 hours in the air.

"Clothes may make the man but underwear makes him comfortable," wrote Edgar R. Clark in "Underwear Health," an article in the July, 1928 issue of Hygeia. "A good outward appearance is a business and a social asset, but so is inward comfort from unseen underwear. Worn next to the skin as it is, every detail about the underwear is important."

While jazz played on the radio in all the new art deco buildings in New York City and the flappers came to symbolize "the roaring twenties," many a man was scared out of his underpants on October 24, 1929 when the stock market crashed. As banks and businesses closed and the Great Depression began, Montgomery Ward touted "remarkable values" in the underwear section of its catalogs. Even the venerable Marshall Field department store in Chicago promised "a new suit free if it rips." Everybody was scurrying to find a way to sell shorts for 69 cents, undershirts for 49 cents and even the unique Reis athletic topped, mid-legged, tie-sided, buttoned-leg-opening Jimsuit for $1.50. It was an age when few had an extra dime for food, much less for a new pair of skivvies.
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