Had you asked me a couple years ago if I thought I’d be answering questions about athletic union suits and men’s undershirts, I’d probably look at you a little weird. Then I’d check to see if your straight jacket was still on tight.
Here’s a question from a reader about a type of vintage undergarment:
Where can I find the short sleeved/short all in ones they used to make years ago?
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what an “all-in-one” was. So, I asked “D”. He said it was like a Union Suit, but with short arms and legs. However, I needed more info.
What is an Athletic Union Suit?
Not realizing what a Union Suit was really, I turned to my good friends Google and Wikipedia to refresh my memory:
A union suit is a type of one-piece long underwear.
Created in Utica, New York, United States, it originated as women’s wear during the 19th-century United States clothing reform efforts, as an alternative to constricting garments, and soon gained popularity among men as well.
Wikipedia further states that the initial patent for the first union suit in 1868 was “emancipation union under flannel.”
 Traditionally made of red flannel with long arms and long legs, it buttoned up the front and had a button-up flap in the rear covering the buttocks (colloquially known as the “access hatch”, “drop seat”, “fireman’s flap”, and other names), allowing the wearer to eliminate bodily waste without removing the garment.
Depending on the size, some union suits can have a dozen buttons on the front to be fastened through buttonholes from the neck down to the groin area.
Ah, now I knew what “D” was referring to. A short-sleeved and a short-legged onesie is actually known as Athletic Union Suit.
But where the hell would I find what he’s looking for?
Flashback to November 2008
Way back in 2008, a reader asked me about an undershirt that was worn in the Flyboys Movie of 2008. I realized I had a good lead.
This is what I sent back to “D”:
Ah, gotcha. Here’s a couple of options:
First, this is a great site with lots of vintage type products for men. Next, they’ve got some union suits and one that is very similar to what you are describing.
Here is the product I’m referring to – vintage style athletic one piece. However, it appears to be out of stock. You might want to call or email them to see if they have what you’re looking for.
Alternatively, you can buy a conventional onesie they carry in your size and then take them to a pro for cutting off and hemming it into an Athletic Union Suit.
Find something else online. Even if does have long arms and legs, you can take them to a tailor to shorten them as I described above. Any dry cleaner that does alterations should be able to help you.
If you prefer, find a local seamstress via a site like craigslist (or similar).
Hopefully, I’ll hear back from “D” and he’ll tell me he found what he was looking for.
Latest Product Updates
I found exactly what this reader was looking for. This Athletic Union Suit info is courtesy of another reader. Check out the Chock Sleeveless Style Union Suit (Style # 850us):
- Sleeveless knee length union suit.
- Featuring a reinforced collarette, rib knit cuffs and anklets to retain snug-fitted shape and seal in body heat.
- Crew neck button front.
100% combed cotton.
- Sizes: SM, SM, MD, LG, XL, 2XL. Made in the USA. Price: $24
Thanks to Rick for telling us about Vintageskivvies.com.
Found some great pictures of Athletic Union Suits on their website, and just emailed the company to see if they still got them.
36 thoughts on “Athletic Union Suit? Short Sleeved, Short Legged Onesies”
For anyone interested,
Today I received in the mail, 3 new white, mid-weight cotton, long union suits from Way out West in Montana (http://www.wow-mt.com) a website that sells both new and second-hand (yes that’s right – previously owned and worn) Western gear, including long johns of all styles and fabric weights. I should also add that this is an adult only site (over 18 yrs. & NSFW) so be fore-warned. I have dealt with W0W-Mt.com on several occasions however, and have always been happy with my purchases and their customer service. Yee-Haw
I bought tank top/union suits for my teenage boys back in the ’80’s. they were their favorite items of clothing until the wore them out. any chance anyone is still making these?
We’ve got them in stock at http://union.tictail.com/product/athletic-union-suit-by-unionathletic
The advertising and twitter feed on that link are extremely inappropriate.
We sell all around the world now under the SuperBody Brand. Our products ARE extremely high quality (our manufacturer works for Calvin Klein). I also personally inspect each one. It’s an amazingly rare and important piece of undershirt history in America.
Our suits are extremely sexy (i get really excited when I wear the Union Suit). I hope your readers can appreciate them as well. UnionAthletic is the official American distributor of our SuperBody vintage-wear, and UnionAthletic is the exclusive place to get our Athletic Union Suit.
I’ve done all the hard work, and my family has a history in fashion and design. Thanks for the shout out, Tug!
We’ve also got designer Athletic Union Suits on sale at http://union.tictail.com/product/athletic-union-suit-by-unionathletic
There is website called Intimo that sold shorty union suits. They don’t sell them anymore but I have been hoping they will again.
great stuff anthony. thanks for sharing!
I’ve been going crazy looking for tank top union suits without the trap door on the net with not much luck , then I googled men’s body suits and cotton body suits and found some with button down and zip down fronts with short cut legs. Try that and see. Can’t find the thermal kind though,alas.
it’s been a year… have you seen any better options out there? I bought the chock catalog sleeveless union suit last year, but would prefer to have a tank style…
sorry my friend. i have not heard of any newer tank-style athletic union suits other than possibly one from a canadian company called unico.
i heard about that item from another reader, but haven’t had the chance to do any more research on it.
maybe do some googling for unico union suits and let me know what you find out!
oh, did you check undergear.com by chance?
do a search for “onesie” and go to page #2. there is a product called ‘body tech aero step-in” that looks a lot like an athletic union suit.
Where can I find a union suit like this but with regular short sleeves and not a tank top type cut?
i dunno mike. maybe ebay? i did a lot of searching, and i don’t think i ran across a short sleeve, short legged union suit.
the only union suits i saw close to that were these athletic union suits.
You can try undergear.com. They had one in solid cotton with standard short sleeves though it has a zipper. They call them onesies.
just bought some of the knee length union suits
Hope this is helpful!
al, thanks for stopping by and letting me know! not sure you saw this, but at the top of this post, another reader told me about chock as well.
once you get your order, please come back here and let me know what you think of your union suit! would love to hear your feedback!
just an fyi to those looking for a union suit. American Essentials New York pretty cool ones. They now have a organic cotton one piece in solids and stripes.
thanks for the lead on findin athletic union suits in new york oliver! really appreciate you taking the time to post that info.
I have only one arm and cannot pull my underware up on the left side. I wear suspenders and by putting my stub arm through the loop, I can pull my pants up. My grandfather wore the short union suits, made out of cotton. I felt this would work so I bought a pair of long johns and hade them cut off. As they are not done, this will be continued after I wear them. I would still like to purchase some short versions of the suit.
thanks for sharing jim. hopefully you’ll find the athletic union suits you’re looking for in one of the links above! keep me posted.
You can still find unionsuits in all kinds of colors online – mostly cotton or cotton blend in the US. If you want wool (the best) you’ll have to buy a brand like Stanfields, made in Nova Scotia. No doubt Scandinavian countries, New Zealand also still make these. Stanfields has the good old heavy weight grey wool “combination” (i.e. unionsuit) – very, very warm – and coarse – takes some getting used to. If you buy any, remember that wool requires cold water and air drying. In fact, even cotton should be air dried because unfortunately, most manufacturers don’t seem to understand shrinkage. However, the Stanfields underwear I have is cut with great length in the arms and legs. I used to make trips to a logging outfitter in Ft Francis Ontario just to stock up on Stanfields longjohns. Coldmaster (Indera Mills) also makes unionsuits and other longjohns – they made a short sleeve summer weight unionsuit with full length legs – I see Amazon and another site still list it but its not in stock. I bought a dozen short sleeved unionsuits from them years ago with the idea that menswear would probably go steadily downhill and all my favorite stuff would be discontinued. Men’s anklet socks and those god awful “boxer briefs” seem to be proving me right.
great info! thanks a lot butch.
Actually, I wear union suits pretty much year round. Being in a profession where I wear suits to work everyday, the union suit really helps tp protect my suits and shirts from perspiration. I live in a humid area, and although I am wearing long underwear”, the union suits that I wear are white, t-shirt weight material, and extremely comfortable. I can not tell you how much money I save now from dry cleaning less often. ON the weekends, I still wear my union suit, throw on some jeans and a tee over it and I am off. I do have the athletic union suits for summers or when I am wearing shorts. It is a tank top style and goes to the knees. Kind of looks like a wrestling singlet with a fly and a flap in the back. Not too many men have the privilege of actually wearing a union suit, but if they could wear one, they would understand how incredibly comfortable they really are.I have since given to a men’s shelter all of my full cut boxer shorts and tank undershirts and have remained a committed union suit wearer. With over 40 pairs, I am still buying when I come across them. By the way, I live in California.
hey steve, great info! where do you get your union suits? can you give us the specifics of where you buy them and how much they cost?
Vintageskivvies.com had a show about 7 years ago where they displayed on the runway several varieties of athletic union suits. I understand Calvin does them now – maybe, but I have not been able to confirm. I agree, once you’ve worn them, it’s hard to wear anything else.
Hey man I love union suits and have about 5 of them that I wear often but with summer around the corner I was wondering if you could tell me how to find the light wait one you are talking about? Thanks
hey tom, i’ve emailed steve to see if he can help us with the answer! stay tuned.
I wanted to let you know that I also like to wear lightweight cotton unionsuits or two-piece longjohns as much as possible. I agree completely that unionsuits are the most comfortable underwear that I know of. I’m 65 y/o and was raised in rural Michigan. While my dad didn’t wear long underwear much (neither did my brothers or myself, as children), my grandfather wore them year around; long wool unionsuits during the cold months and the athletic, short suits in the summer. I started wearing them for economic reasons while in graduate school, to save money on heating bills and bus fares, although I have to admit that liked them for sensual reasons as well. That said, I got hooked on them early on and still prefer unionsuits for all but the hottest months of the summer. I live in central Illinois now where it can get pretty ******* hot in the summer. Finding lightweight long underwear for sale is getting to be more of a challenge. I generally purchase them mail order from Stanfields in Nova Scotia, Vermont Country Store, occasionally Chocks, and also from an acquaintance in Montana that sells them second-hand, on consignment (that’s a trip let me tell you!) I’m always happy to run across someone else that actually appreciates and wears long under and not just as a novelty. Keep your junk warm man!
love it! thanks for sharing bob (:
really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment here about lightweight union suits. also, thanks for confirmation on where you buy them (stanfields, vermont country store, and chocks).
Wear ’em proud and hard!
who would want to wear this bullshit?
i guess the saying “to each their own” would be appropriate in this situation!
Union suits are comfortable. Athletic union suits are supremely comfortable. Try one and you’ll be a believer. Not having to feel a waistband all day is worth a million. It’s too bad you can only find the athletic cut style mostly on eBay. Some manufacturer needs to step up, modernize the fabric and cut while maintaining the concept, and start selling these again.
Yes, I would wear athletic unionsuits if I could find them. i wear regular union suits from Oct. thru April.