The History of Stanfield's

About Stanfield's

Charles E. Stanfield had no idea when he immigrated to Canada in 1855 that he would found the firm 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 Tryon Woolen Mills in Tryon, P.E.I. 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.

 

Tryon Woolen Mills, Tryon, PEI - 1856
Tryon Woolen Mills, Tryon, Prince Edward Island - 1856

 

During this period, Charles was constantly looking to expand the operation. He purchased other mills around eastern Canada, including the Carding Mill in St. Croix, NS (1872) which he renamed the Ste. Croix Wool Factory. After a few years, Charles and family sold the Ste. Croix mill to Alxander Dunbar and returned to Truro to focus there. This marked the official renaming to the Stanfield Mill.


As the company grew, the factory was relocated from Brunswick Street to its current location on the south bank of the Salmon River (Logan Street) in 1882. These important events would be crucial to setting the company up for success in the coming decades and century.  

Stanfield’s annual stag picnic. August 17, 1935
Stanfield’s annual stag picnic. August 17, 1935

Building A Brand

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 the 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. They chose to specialize in knitted merchandise and renamed the company the Truro Knitting Mills Limited, accordingly. It was a good decision.

Illustrated historic advertisement for unshrinkable underwear

We Are Unshrinkable

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 rumors 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. After the war, John Stanfield was appointed to the Senate.

Table sculpture of the Stanfield's Unshrinkable Underwear advertising
Black and white photo of a billboard

The Building Block

The early 1920’s marked a turning point when a peroxide process was developed to bleach underwear, opposed to the sulphur process that left a distinct odour behind.

Stanfield’s also began carbonizing wool, a process that produced a much softer fabric. The late twenties saw the first line of cotton combinations and the use of synthetic rayon was used 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.

Historical newspaper ad for unshrinkable underwear
Historic photograph of the inside of the Stanfield's factory
Stanfield’s factory production

An Industry Leader

Today, Stanfield’s is a leader in its field, taking pride in its products and ability to adapt and stay ahead of consumer market needs and wants.

Whether it be introducing new fabrics, blends or styles, we’ve always stood by our basic policy of “the best product at reasonable prices,” and will continue to do so as we move forward. Fashion forward, technologically advanced, and when possible the majority of its products will be made in Canada. Stanfield’s is a specialist in underwear products and has rightfully earned its reputation as ‘the Underwear Company’.

Photo of an elastic waistband with the Stanfield's name