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.