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February Photo of the Month: Men in Union Suits

February Photo of the Month: Men in Union Suits

This rare "Setsnug" Underwear for Men antique cardboard box originally contained ribbed Union Suits, with closed crotch and (I can’t get no) “Satis-fac-shon” seat. Patented April 13, 1915 and made by Avalon Knitwear Company, Utica, New York.

Six men and boys stand at attention, lined up by height or “trunk measurements.” Lest you focus on the crotch, the photographer has, for lack of a more accurate term, air-brushed any hint of genitals. 

But the resulting dark and mysterious pubic patches have the opposite effect, drawing attention to the crotch while simultaneously emasculating the guys. This may have been an attempt to protect the delicate sensibilities of women who purchased the underwear for their sons and husbands (though presumably if they had sons or husbands they’d already have a pretty good idea of male genitals).

Union suits originated as women's wear during the 19th-century as an alternative to constricting garments and quickly gained popularity among men. Traditionally made of flannel with long arms and long legs, they buttoned up the front and had a button-up rear flap (colloquially known as "access hatch", "drop seat", "fireman's flap" and "crap flap").


Vintage men’s underwear box in overall good condition for its age. 
16” x 11” x 4,” c. 1915.

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