Johnny Long John is named after John Stanfield who, along with his brother Frank, developed Stanfield’s ever so loved Unshrinkable Underwear. In 1915 they introduced and patented an adjustable two-piece design, all here in Truro!
Charles E. Stanfield had no idea when he immigrated to Canada in 1855 that he would found the firm that would become recognized as Canada’s leading manufacturer of men’s underwear. In the beginning, Charles, along with his brother-in-law, Samuel E. Dawson, founded the Tyron Woolen Mills in Tyron, PEI in 1856. Ten years later he sold his interests to Samuel and moved to Nova Scotia. In 1870 he founded the Truro Woolen Mills, which at that time was located on Brunswick Street. It was believed to be the first factory of its kind in Canada.
Charles was a creative genius. He maintained a workshop in a barn behind his house where he spent the majority of his time creating new equipment and products. He developed and manufactured that first cardigan jackets and stockinettes in Canada. He introduced Canadians to heavy rib underwear and the famous “Drop Seat”. He also manufactured sweater cloth and knitting yarn.
In 1896, Charles sold his business to his two sons, John and Frank Stanfield who had their own vision for the company’s future. They believed the way to build a reputation was to build a stable product line in one specific field, despite their father’s advisement otherwise. Together, John and Frank developed the famous “Shrink-proof Process” which catapulted the little Truro underwear company to fame.
The Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 provided them with their first big break where some 100,000 people, spurred by rumours of gold, made their way north to the harsh terrain of the Yukon. The Stanfield’s “Unshrinkable” Underwear was pivotal to the would-be-prospectors and miners who could find no substitute for the warm, heavy, woolly underwear.
Stanfield’s Limited went on to incorporate in 1906. During World War 1, they manufactured wool blankets, knitting yarn and cloth that provided a major impetus for the expansion of the Firm. Stanfield’s also began carbonizing wool, a process the produced a much softer fabric. The late twenties saw the first line of cotton combinations and the use of synthetic rayon to produce ladies’ undergarments.
Stanfield’s entered the undershirt and brief field in the late thirties, two-piece winter underwear in the forties, and Thermal underwear in the fifties. The latter two gradually took over the winter underwear market, providing the building blocks for the company’s product growth over the many years to follow. Stanfield’s is also responsible for popularizing the t-shirt in Canada as well as men’s polo pyjamas.