Last night, a national news channel ran a piece on a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a product called the RompHim that’s been getting a lot of media attention. As the caption on the Kickstarter page states “Is it a romper designed for men? Sure. But it’s also pretty damn comfortable, and it may just be the start of a fashion revolution.”
A fashion revolution or a sign of the end of civilization as we know it--you be the judge. But either way, some credit should be given to the RompHim's precursor, Winston Churchill’s World War II siren suit. Is it a coincidence that Churchill usually referred to his siren suits as “romper suits”?
Churchill was a soldier, an author, a statesman, a horseman, a bricklayer, and a painter. He was also very fashion conscious. If you don’t agree, notice the python slippers he’s wearing above, not to be outdone by the exquisite monogrammed slippers in the photo below. Inspired by the boiler suits sported by his fellow members of the bricklayers union, Churchill devised his romper as a roomy, one piece ensemble to pull on over whatever he was—or was not—wearing when the air raid sirens went off. When Hitler’s Luftwaffe arrived, one had to look presentable in the shelter.
But Churchill had too much style to look just presentable. His rompers were tailor made to his demanding specifications by Turnbull & Asser in London, where today his plush green velvet romper, a cigar jutting out of the breast pocket, is on display. Much as the RompHim comes in a variety of patterns and fabrics—red chambray, blue chambray, splatter print cotton and even a Fourth of July “special edition”—Churchill had his siren suit custom made in a variety of styles. Powder blue serge, denim, pinstriped grey wool, black velvet for special occasions. It’s said he had at least twelve of them.
They were so comfortable, he took to wearing them even when the sirens weren’t blaring. He wore one at the White House visiting FDR, in a meeting with Eisenhower plotting the D-Day invasion, in his studio when he painted, and whenever he pretty much felt like it.
Churchill’s siren suit caught on with the general public in England during World War II. It was common for wives and mothers to make them of plain cloth with no decoration for their family members to keep close by in case of air raids, which were often in the middle of the night, catching Londoners in their pajamas. But after the war, the popularity of Churchill’s romper with those other than Churchill quickly faded.
Now, thanks to RompHims, the spirit of Churchill’s siren suit is revived, albeit in short-short form. And the best part is, it’s not too late to participate. For a pledge of $95 or more, you can get an original RompHim. Given one of Churchill’s rompers went for almost £30,000 at Sotheby’s London in 2002, that’s a pretty good deal.