Underwear in the 19th and early 20th century was highly seasonal. Until the mid-20th century, homes were not very well heated. Thus underwear was a much more important garment than is the case today. Thus there were very destinctive styles of underwear for summer and winter. There is still winter (thermal) underwear available, but is now much less commonly worn. It is common only in the far north or for outdoor activities like winter camping.
There were destinctive styles of underwear for warm weather. The ad here is for Chalmers "Porosknit" boys' underwear appeared in
Boys Magazine in 1916 (figure 1). The boy is wearing 1916 summer underwear--short-
sleeved undershirt and knee-length drawers made of a mesh-like, porous
material for greater ventilation and coolness. Notice the tapes sewn onto the
sides of the drawers through which the fasteners at the ends
of suspenders can be passed. These were devices to keep the drawers from
slipping down since there is no elastic in the waist to hold them in place.
Many boys wore suspenders rather than belts to hold up their knee pants; the
side tapes would therefore have helped in the suspension not only of the
trousers but also of the underdrawers. The ad copy reads: "`Porosknit'
Summer Underwear. Comfort insurance for Hot Weather. Let the warm air out--
let the cool breeze in--absorb the perspiration. This Label makes you sure of
getting `quality' that wears. BOY'S, 25 c. Union Suits 50 c. MEN'S 50c.
Union Suits $1.00. Send for booklet on "Coolness, Comfort, and Economy.
Chalmers Knitting Company, 35 Washington Street, Amsterdam, N.Y."
According to the ad, union suits for boys and men were manufactured in the
same porous material and were an alternative to individual shirts and drawers
(25 cents each or 50 cents for the combination of shirts and drawers; 50 cents
for the union suit which combined shirts and drawers in a single garment). It
is interesting to notice that the price of boys' underwear, whether the buyer
chose shirts and drawers or a union suit, was exactly half the price of what
male adults would have to pay. Charles
Children used to have to dress much more warmly than is the case today. Now children bundle up in warm clothing when going outdoors, but may dress like it is the summer indoors thanks to central heating. Quite a bit of information is available on HBC on cold weather garments.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main underwear page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]