How mills made Knoxville the World Underwear Capital

[Music] their services thanks for watching and good and finally knock CIL's history includes nicknames like the marble city scruffy city and so on ten News reporter Jim Athenians another nickname in the drawers of history that made Knoxville the underwear capital of the world it was incredible the number

of things not well made for the whole nation reflect on the vacant mill just beside downtown Knoxville and historian Jack Neely can spin a yarn about the past where for more than a century textiles told the tale of the city's economy hey one time there were thirteen textile

mills and not school it was enormous we're looking at the old standard knitting mill this is actually a later addition to knitting mill which has been here since about 1900 or so it was the single biggest employer in Knoxville at one time 3500 people work here claim to

be the biggest textile manufacturing plant in America for standard knitting and many other mills in town the long and short of it was underwear yeah well that's what was the underwear capital and it was because of all the underwear manufacturers they made mainly undergarments t-shirts underwear long johns

Union suits they'd call them in those days socks three different hosiery mills at one time they made I think 43 million garments a year just some incredible Ward number Knoxville had the workforce and the railroads to stitch and ship the latest styles across the country in the 1930s

that included the latest bombshell design of jockey shorts that could make every man resemble the brawny Tarzan well that's emboldened broidery on the benefits of briefs it's no fabrication to say Knoxville Mills truly supported the troops they ramped up production during Wars especially during World War two Knoxville

plants landed huge government contracts to cover the military by weaving thermal underwear for warmth and millions of white cotton t-shirts and boxer shorts especially appreciated by those trying to keep cool in the South Pacific the physical Depression of the tropics this air crew member recommends t-shirts under the

regulation shirt out of garments by themselves it's likely that anybody that was in the world war two was wearing something manufactured there nothing now after the war some of the mills here in Knoxville kept cranking out products for the military but by the mid 1950s many of the

mills here were just hanging on by a thread and some of the biggest operations including Appalachian Mills which was located right here on 17th Street had to shut down in 1956 yeah and that's why she lost ten percent of his population in the 1950s while most of the

mills unraveled standard Knitting Mills saw success by stitching one of the nation's most popular brands the help knit brand which you saw all over the country was all manufactured right here sales for standards soared during an era when men could double their comfort with cigarettes and health knit

tighty whities then the brand threaded its way into a new market of colorful expression in the 1960s and 70s we forget the t-shirts were just underwear for a long time there were all white until about the late 1960s and he started seeing pictures on t-shirts and a lot

of the cool new t-shirts with like keep on truckin and Mickey Mouse and all these things the hippies were wearing they made those here there's a hip side to underwear many fashion while most industries are forced to lay off workers standard has been lucky but even a behemoth

like standard knitting mill could not avoid the seismic shift unfolding overseas after a series of layoffs in the mid 1980s new ownership took over the mill in 1988 standard Knitting Mills sold out to Delta apparel workers were hoping Delta would save their jobs it only took a few

months for Delta to go from talking about new expansions in Knoxville to hanging hundreds of employees out to dry these employees were told just this morning that in 60 days they would be out of work it's reprehensible the way this company has behaved I think it stinks we

spent and raise their kids in this meal that's the saddest part leaving all your friends behind workers at the old standard knitting mill sewed their last stitches on August 11th 1989 since then many of the other old mills in town have become home to new businesses but standard

has struggled to find suitors for this sprawling space a place that still offers a reflection of the past when Mills intertwined to support the nation and made Knoxville the underwear capital of the world yeah and that might be funny to anybody that doesn't wear underwear but but I

everybody who does wear underwear it's it's an important time in Knoxville Jim Matheny WBAI our 10:00 news will leave the box or a brief discussion to you and yours Knoxville may have another claim to fame in the history of underwear yeah the website for bike athletics says the

very first jock straps were made in Knoxville back in 1874 they were made to protect people riding bicycles on cobblestone street soon oh yeah for what it's worth Jack Neely says he is still looking through old articles to insure that fable is true we learned so much about

Knoxville through gym Athena and Jack Neely and that's gonna do it for us thanks so much for watching