Metzger’s Milkmen in Bermuda Shorts — 1955

by Paula Bosse

metzgers_bermuda_life_052355_fullMetzger’s milkmen on parade in Life magazine (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This was a big story in 1955: Metzger’s milkmen in Dallas announced that Bermuda shorts would become part of their summer uniform. It must have been a slow news month, because this story was picked up by the wire services and caught fire, running in newspapers all over the country. It even climbed to the pinnacle of mass media newsworthiness and found itself in the pages of Life magazine where the above photo was accompanied by the following caption:

MILKMEN’S CALVES
“Drivers for a Dallas dairy produced a new morning look by setting out in Bermuda shorts. The boss thought they would be cooler in them. The shorts were fine, but one driver was nipped by a dog of long acquaintance who didn’t recognize him.” (Life, May 23, 1955)

In 1955, Bermuda-shorts-fever had somehow gripped the nation. Some sort of marketing sadist was pushing the jacket-and-tie-and-Bermuda-shorts combo as appropriate and stylish summertime apparel for men in the boardroom — an unfortunate early version of “business casual.” The fad died out quickly.

But another more utilitarian idea for the new cool and comfortable shorts emerged here in Dallas. Jake Metzger, owner of the dairy that produced Metzger’s milk, decided to adopt the shorts as part of a new summer uniform for his milk delivery men. The Dallas Morning News suggested that this might be the first such uniform in the United States. Shorts were just not widely seen outside the gym in those days, and certainly not in the workplace. But it gets hot in Texas in the summer. Real hot. REAL hot. Metzger’s idea was a brilliant one, and I’m sure his drivers appreciated it. According to an AP article, the new uniform would consist of the following:

“The shorts are the black Bermuda type, often called walking shorts, with an elasticized maroon belt. They’re matched with a short-sleeve khaki shirt, over-the-calf cotton ribbed khaki socks and low black loafers. The outfit is topped with a black cotton golfers’ cap.” (AP, May 10, 1955)

If a milkman believed that the new uniform went against his “moral scruples” — or if he just didn’t like the way he looked in it — he could opt out and wear the regular uniform.

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“B.J Jackson, 22, one of Metzger Dairies’ progressive drivers, who will appear in new summer optional uniform.” (DMN staff photo, May 11, 1955)

bermuda-shorts_dmn_05115DMN, May 11, 1955

bermuda-shorts_dmn_051555abermuda-shorts_dmn_051555bbermuda-shorts_dmn_051555c

bermuda-shorts_dmn_051555d(DMN, May 15, 1955)

You know a fashion craze has gotten out of hand when you see San Antonio vice squad detectives looking like this:

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FORMER PLAINCLOTHESMEN
“Vice squad detectives Chesley Jones, left, and Frank Lombardino of San Antonio, Texas, Monday could be called anything but plainclothesmen. They appeared for work clad in the latest summer style for men — Bermuda shorts and knee-length socks. Reaction by superior officers had not been tested. Locally, this style has already been set by college boys and milkmen, but Jones and Lombardino are believed to be the first police officers in the nation to adopt the new cool style for men.” (DMN, May 24, 1955, with AP photo)

If Messrs. Jones and Lombardino are still amongst the living, I’m pretty sure they still haven’t lived that photo down.

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UPDATE: Another photo (from eBay) — this one made the rounds of the newswires. It shows deliveryman Cal Hager being eyed  by housewives Mrs. Tom Grimes and Mrs. F. F. Kennedy. (Pardon the watermark, and click to enlarge the images.)

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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