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Are Long Johns Underwear?

Are Long Johns Underwear?

You delve into your closet for your favorite pair of long johns only to be struck by a question: are these underwear? After all, I wear them beneath my clothes. For all intents and purposes, long johns are underwear; however, there are some clarifications that should be made when deciding whether to use them as such. Let’s take a look.

What Exactly Are Long Johns?

Before getting to the main topic, let’s make sure we are all speaking the same language. Long johns are essentially a type of long underwear (think pants). They are typically thermal underwear and often come in sets that combine the long johns with a long sleeved top. They are very popular in cold temperatures and were historically worn by people who work outdoors in cold climates.

Why Not Just Call Them Long Underwear?

This is certainly a valid point, and the reality is that many people do call them long underwear. There are actually a number of stories about the source of the term long johns. While there is debate about which one actually resulted in the moniker, our favorite is that they were names after British bare knuckle boxer John Sullivan, who always boxed wearing nothing but his long underwear. 

So Can I Wear Them As Underwear?

Now we get down to the question. The answer here is it depends. If your long johns are made from 100% cotton, there is no problem wearing them as underwear. However, you should definitely add layers to them as cotton does not have good heat retention.

However, if your long johns are made from any other fabric, such as thermal long johns made from wool or synthetic materials, you will want to wear actual underwear beneath them. While this may sound redundant, long johns aren’t always as breathable as underwear and do not provide the same level of support.

Additionally, the seams in some pairs of long johns can cause uncomfortable or itchy rubbing near the crotch area, making underwear an important addition. There is also an important hygiene consideration. Wearing underwear beneath your long johns will keep them cleaner and fresher.

Final Thoughts

While long johns are underwear and often thermal underwear, you only want to wear them without underwear if they are 100% cotton. Since you probably want long johns to keep you warm, you’re also going to be avoiding cotton. Thus, it is pretty safe to have a general rule that you always wear underwear beneath long johns. While they may technically be underwear, they should not be your absolute bottom layer.

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