The History of Long Johns
The setting: a smoke-filled ring in Boston, MA circa 1879
The bell announced round three. Two antagonists rose from opposing corners, carefully calculating their next moves. Big John Sullivan, also called “The Boston Strong Boy,” made the first move: a blazing uppercut blow from the left. His deceived opponent fell hard, eyelids wavering.
Big John swaggered over his fallen victim, bragging, “I can lick anybody, anywhere, anytime.”
Modesty may not have been Big John’s forté, as John became known not only for his fighting style but for the mark he left upon the world of fashion. Unlike other fighters of his time, Big John wore one-piece thermals in the ring, otherwise known as the Union suit.
As his notoriety grew, John’s wardrobe took on the identity of the man, himself. Thus creating “long johns” as the character’s article of choice to wear.