While we don’t often deal in absolutes, there are some things we are 100% certain about. The cover of a 1920s trade catalog with the title “This is Underwear Time” — complete with the illustration of a man getting dressed while his dog looks on — is one of those times where we can unequivocally proclaim to have found a truly (possibly unintentionally) brilliant piece of marketing.
The Hagley Museum & Library in Delaware — a Smithsonian affiliate — recently featured the below gem on its Hagley Vault Tumblr:“Now is the time and now is the place,” the cover reads, below a drawing of a man who appears to be in his long underwear, posing gravely in his dressing room, inexplicably accompanied by his dog.
However hilarious it may seem to us 21st century folk, suit underwear Time appears to be a literal time of the year when there was a push to sell underthings.
For clothiers Scott & Hunsicker, this undies season fell between October 27th to November 8th that year, which, for all we know, may have been the traditional Underwear Time for all haberdasheries. The catalog does urge customers to put in their orders for Christmas early, “while the assortments are at their best.”We got a peek inside the catalog with help from the fine folks at The Hagley, but alas, it didn’t include any more wonderful illustrations along with its selection of men’s underwear, men’s gloves, men’s hose, and ladies’ gloves. Clothing for canine companions who aid their owners in getting dressed was not among the offerings.
“The aim of this store is to sell everything wanted in the higher grades of haberdashery, and everything the best of its kind,” the catalog reads.
For example, the one-piece long underwear known as a “union suit” that the man on the cover is sporting? Everyone who was anyone wanted one back then.
“Union suits are giving satisfaction to the most discriminating wearers,” the clothiers note.
Worried about cleanliness during Underwear Time? Don’t be! Scott & Hunsicker have got you covered.
“Much hand labor is used in the making of our underwear; our wool is scoured and shrunk, and every garment laundered,” the catalog boasts. “Such cleanliness is appreciated by particular people, who come back to us year after year.”Anyone interested in purchasing new underwear in celebration of Underwear Time could order by mail — a service that “especially commended to the notice of patrons out of town,” and lovers of efficiency.As the catalog helpfully explains, “Shopping by mail, under modern conditions of efficiency, is an exact science, which relieves the shopper of every troublesome detail and practically places the store’s convenience at your door.”
And much like today’s retailers must be multi-platform, the undergarment experts at Scott & Hunsicker were ready to accept orders in every way possible at the time, noting that “a written or telephoned order will command prompt attention.”
Obviously, you are free to disagree that This is Underwear Time isn’t the best catalog cover of all time forever and ever, but we think Underwear Specialists Scott & Hunsicker of Philadelphia were a rare pair of geniuses, and we hope they sold enough underwear to retire in style and live happily ever after, wearing their union suits on a pile of money.
We might not know much about what happened to the company, but we do know what ended up in the space where the business was located during this particular Underwear Time: the Philadelphia branch of Consumerist took a walk to check out the address on the cover, and found that a store named Verde now occupies the street-level storefront.
We wrote to that shoppe’s proprietor to inquire as to their awareness — or possible lack thereof — regarding the establishment’s former occupants. Someone from the store wrote us back saying that she didn’t have any history on the building — but that it was very interesting to see the catalog in any case.
Consumerist reader Jo wrote in after seeing this story and pointed to a clue she found about Scott & Hunsicker dating to a post in an online forum in December 2004 looking for a tailor in Philadelphia. One commenter replied, “men’s retail in Philadelphia has converged a quite a bit over the years. Jacob Reed closed over ten years ago — maybe more like fifteen — with many of the tailors going to Boyd’s. Scott and Hunsicker closed before that.”
For now, we can look at the photo of the building as it stands now and imagine the incorporeal beings of Messrs. Scott & Hunsicker — and the unnamed dog on their catalog cover — busily sewing only the finest undergarments for the Philadelphia gentry.