Long Johns: Underwear Becomes Outerwear

From Winter Underwear issued to American Soldiers in World War Two, to Unisex Metropolitan Street wear in 2006 – Your Grandpa’s Underclothes have come a long way.

What was once worn to bed only when winters chill was too much to bear, has transformed into a favorite daytime garment layered up with funky patterns, prints and accessories worn by urban hipsters, comfort-seekers, fashionistas and celebrities alike. Mischa Barton has been photographed strolling through the city in daylight hours, pairing long underwear with a cropped denim jacket and Gwen Stefani has recently added colorfully screen printed thermal separates to her new “Harajuku Lovers” clothing line.

Long Johns, also known as thermals, long underwear, underlayers or woolies, first appeared as a two piece design created by a man named Frank Stanfield in 1915. Previously, they were only available as an unattractive and ill-fitting one piece option useful only for warmth and insulation underneath the trousers of a man.

The Long Johns of today come in a variety of options for both men and women. Just like jeans, thermal pants come in many different cuts and rises. Tops are available in all necklines from crew to scoop with sleeves that are anything from long to capped. Some designers even offer hooded thermals complete with rhinestone or studded embellishments. You can purchase long johns almost anywhere these days; Fred Segal has some great pieces that range in price anywhere from $200-400 per set and American Apparel has a great selection of thermal shirts and leggings all under $30.00 each. Or you can always ask to raid your Grandpas winter storage for free.

Imagine traipsing around town wearing a Christian Joy hooded dress, pink long john leggings and colorful high heels. I tried it and its was not only cozy, but fashionable and fun! Who knew that being comfortable could look so darn cute?

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