A Love Letter to the Onesie, Environmental Super-Garment

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Oh my one-piece fleece marvel of comfort and joy, how we misunderstood you. The media mocked you, fashion blogs despised you, but you stood tall through it all. You hung in the back of our wardrobes, hidden like a shameful secret, taken out only in times of dire need or when no other humans were around. We mistreated you, blind to your true worth. We saw you only as a cosy, slightly sexless blanket with limbs, rather than the environmental hero that you are. A soft nudge to step inside of you, turn the heating down and protect the planet.

You tried so hard to communicate with us your full potential. And when you saw we weren’t listening, you tried even harder. You mutated, took the form of endangered species. A penguin, a koala, a polar bear. “Darn it human, why don’t you get the hint !” your bright colours and hoods with ears called.

We didn’t realise a Onesie was more than a Onesie. We didn’t realise we could take a step towards saving the planet just by loving you. We continued to deride you. “Pyjamas are on the runways… … and they should turn around and march straight back to bed,” wrote fashion blog AskMen, while Fashion Victim led a veritable vendetta against you — a dozen articles describing the supposed “horrors” you conceal. New York Times said you were “the fashion equivalent of mashed peas and carrots, a retreat into toddlerhood for the style-sated”, and The Mirror wrote that the Onesie was “representative of an infantilised nation”: “babygro Britain”.

They didn’t realise you were carrying on the hard work of your illustrious ancestors. The humble Union Suit, long johns with a button down crap-flap, the hallmark of the stylish cowboy. The first of its kind was patented in 1868 as “emancipation union under flannel”. Right they were, Onesie, right they were. The Union Suit slipped from fashion but it gained a new lease of life in the UK during the Second-World-War in the form of a siren suit: a one-piece, throw-on garment ideal for when you had to rush to safety. It was hailed as a solution to the problems both of warmth and modesty in cramped town air-raid shelters. Winston Churchill, ever the Sex Symbol, was one keen wearer of the Siren Suit.

Churchill, almost as uncool as colonisation and women’s oppression

A world away from your draughty, infinitely inferior rival, the Dressing Gown, you were scientifically engineered to perform optimally against the cold, every slip of your fabric strategically thought out. Your elasticated sleeves prevented any cold air from slipping in, as did your inbuilt feet and hood. The ideal lover, you were neither too aloof nor too clingy, you left room for a layer of air between the body and the fabric, like a warm embrace, where our own body heat kept us comfortable.

You removed any need to remove one’s clothes, because, and I say this in the most positive way, your lack of sex-appeal took away any desire of copulation. You freed women from the steely shackles of having to look hot even when it is freezing. When women took to the streets in Onesies, it was a feminist fashion statement, a sign to the world saying “F*ck your patriarchal beauty norms, today I shall be warm! Sod your tights that magically tear in an instant, my sturdy Unicorn Onesie will never let me down!”

You set yourself the mission of getting us all to turn our thermostats down. You knew that 48% of all home energy consumption is for heating. You knew that if you could convince us to turn down the heating in a room just by one degree a year, you would prevent 310–360 kg of extra carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. You’d anxiously watched the average indoor temperatures of our homes creep up, average indoor temperatures have risen from 12C in 1970 to about 17.5C today. Some people even put their thermostats on 30C, longing for the sun. You watched people leave their heating on when they went out, and heat corridors and rooms that no one ever used. You watch them fall ill from the change in temperature from outside and cracked lips from the dry heated air and sleepy and lazy and annoyed at the number on their energy bills at the end of the month. You wanted us to fall in love with you and elope, leaving the heating behind.

And it worked, a little. You kept us so warm we could turn down the thermostat. When one is blessed with a Onesie one doesn’t feel the need to be living in tropical temperatures inside when the snow is falling outside.

Of course, you faced a hard battle. Some people weren’t ready for the change, not willing to change their lifestyles even minutely. Countless others didn’t have the means to do so. You looked on, helpless, at the 2.5 million people in Britain that suffer from fuel poverty, and that cling to Onesies because their house will never be warm enough. You tried your best but wished they could have better insulation and heating too, because you know that cold houses kill 3000 people a year in the UK, a vertiginous number, as many as prostate cancer or breast cancer.

You wished for a better world and wondered why no one seemed to be trying as hard as you. You’re strong, but you know you’re not strong enough. You’re just a slightly silly piece of clothing, after all.

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