This category covers those establishments primarily engaged in knitting underwear and nightwear from yarn or in manufacturing underwear and nightwear from knit fabrics produced in the same establishment. Companies primarily engaged in manufacturing underwear and nightwear from purchased knit fabrics are classified in the Major Industry Group 23 (apparel and other finished products made from fabrics and similar materials). Those establishments that produce knitted robes are classified in SIC 2253: Knit Outerwear Mills.
315192 (Underwear and Nightwear Knitting Mills)
Products manufactured by companies in this classification include underwear briefs and knitted underwear drawers, night gowns, negligees, knit pajamas, ladies' and girls' panties, undershirts, T-shirts used as undershirts (both V-neck and regular neck), slips, and union suits or long (winter) underwear.
Roughly 50 establishments were engaged in the production of underwear and nightwear at the turn of the
twenty-first century, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Those establishments shipped $591.7 million worth of products in 2000, down from $1.48 billion in 1995. This decline was in large part due to increased competition from imports. Total employees in 2000 numbered 3,982, less than half the number of employees in 1995. Average hourly wages among the industry's 3,460 production workers increased from $8.84 in 1995 to $10.24 in 2000.
Almost all products in this category are made on circular knitting machines. Most men's and boys' underwear is made from 100 percent cotton or cotton-polyester blends. Until recently, most women's and girls' underwear was produced from nylon, with silk used as somewhat of a luxury item. By the 1990s the trend in women's underwear was to use cotton. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, some companies began modeling women's lines after men's cotton briefs. Such products were successful.
According to the Census Bureau's 2002 Current Industrial Report on Apparel, underwear and nightwear accounted for a large portion of all women's and men's apparel production. There were 305 million units of men's underwear and nightwear produced and 891 million units of women's; however, the value of the underwear—$661.4 million for men's and $2.7 billion for women's—was far below that of all other apparel.
The early 1990's saw a healthy growth in underwear and nightwear exports. This trend was expected to continue, in part because trade restrictions were reduced by the 1994 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The entrance of China into the World Trade Commission was expected to boost exports to Asia in the early 2000s.
North Carolina accounts for the largest portion of the nation's total production of men's and junior boys' knit underwear and nightwear. North Carolina also leads in the manufacture of women's, misses', juniors', girls', little boys', and infants' knit underwear and nightwear. Georgia and Pennsylvania are other leading states in this category.
Among the leading underwear companies, Jockey International Inc., of Kenosha, Wisconsin, had revenues of approximately $525 million in 2002 and employed 5,000 workers. Fruit Of The Loom Inc. of Bowling Green, Kentucky, had revenues of more than $2 billion; the firm was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2002. Maidenform Worldwide, Inc., headquartered in Bayonne, New Jersey, had revenues of $300 million. Ares Management acquired Maidenform in 2004. Other industry leaders included VF Corp. of Greensboro, North Carolina; Sara Lee Knit Products of Winston Salem, North Carolina; Spring City Knitting Company Inc. of Cartersville, Georgia; and Cinderella Knitting Mills Inc., of New York.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Current Industrial Reports: Apparel 2002." August 2003. Available from http://www.census.gov/industry/1/mq315a025.pdf .
——. "Statistics for Industry Groups and Industries: 2000." February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/m00as-1.pdf .
——. "Value of Shipment for Product Classes: 2001 and Earlier Years." December 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/m01as-2.pdf .