Mister Freedom® SWABBIES dungarees, 10 Oz. selvedge “Snow” denim edition, mfsc SS2020 “Waterfront Surplus”. Made in Japan.

Mister Freedom® SWABBIES dungarees, 10 Oz. “Snow” denim edition.
mfsc SS2020 “WATERFRONT SURPLUS”, SURPLUS catalog.
Made in Japan.

It’s been “All Hands on Deck” lately. For us at the MF® HQ, but more-importantly nation-wide, as anyone who has access to electricity and a few brain cells must have noticed, unlike this fine group of our Country’s learning elite…
So here are the SWABBIES, the final installment of our “WATERFRONT SURPLUS” nautical capsule collection.

The term swabbie is military lingo for a low-rank bluejacket, referring to the sailor’s chore of mopping (swabbing) the deck, barefoot in the old days. This derogatory expression is typical of the healthy rivalry in different branches of the United States Armed Forces. US Marines might call sailors swabbies. A sailor who’d rather be referred to as squid, might call a Marine jungle bunny, or more recently crayon eater. Submariners are bubble heads… All in good humor. This insiders’ exchange quotes some other colorful examples.

The inspiration behind the Mister Freedom® SWABBIES came from a pair of rare 1940’s-50’s private-purchase naval dungarees from the “Portlite Uniform” maker. If these conformed to the general silhouette and specs of traditional US Navy-issued denim dungarees, they featured really fancy tailoring and intricate pattern work for a pair of work trousers, which we liked. The apparently-inconspicuous two front pockets are actually a very clever combination of two type of pocket patterns, slash and patch, a construction tour-de-force on a wrap leg that only make sense when studying the inside of the pants.
Fabric yield on that vintage specimen was definitely optimized by using the fabric selvedge on as many parts of the pants as possible, folded waist band, front pockets, watch pocket, and rear pockets. The rear pockets feature an horizontal warp, as the patch pockets of the denim Longshoreman do, a detail that will only start revealing itself with wear and patina.

The most striking feature of our SWABBIES however is the authentic navy bells. We didn’t spare fabric on this one, and went full-on 1940’s-style authentic bells. Unlike 1970’s hippy bell bottoms, traditional naval bells flare from the inseam, not outseam, as the trousers’ profile photo attests. This is due to the fact that traditional navy dungarees feature a wrap leg (one folded single piece of fabric per leg, no out seam), a pattern style we have often toyed with, from our 2007 7161 Utility Trousers to the more recent Topsiders multiple iterations.

The story behind the origin of naval flares seems to be lost to History, with many legends floating around. Bell bottom trousers might have been issued to US Navy sailors as early as 1813, with a denim model introduced in 1901. The wide leg opening allegedly allowed roll-ups above the knee, keeping the pants dry while swabbing, as regulations from Secretary of the Navy Crowninshield in 1817 suggest. (source)
The myth about tying up the legs and using the trousers as a life preserver for a man overboard is probably moonshine on the water.

We kept the fit of our SWABBIES authentic, and refused to compromise with modern fashion adjustments, ‘cause we craycray like that. These feature a high rise, fit top block, and flaring that starts at the knee, gradually reaching a whooping 11.5 inches at leg opening! Not everyone will pull that off, but we just love that unmistakable vintage naval silhouette so much that we had to add bells to the MF® catalog at some point. And since 2020 is nothing short of an unusual year so far, there it is.

The SWABBIES’ fabric, a dark and handsome 2×1 selvedge denim with a “snowy” neppy texture, matches that of the Dockyard and Longshoreman. For those into the total look, the set will soon be modeled for your viewing pleasure, as soon as things get a bit under control in the World. For less of a “Sand Pebbles” extra statement, pairing the SWABBIES with a solid Skivvy, a classic chambray shirt or pull-over Secoya might be the ticket. Vintage naval photos abound and could be a style inspiration for some. The fits are also a bit all over the place on period photos, as can be seen on the shots below from albums in our archives.

The fabric evo on the SWABBIES should be quite interesting with normal wear and occasional laundering, not unlike that of vintage US dungarees.

The mfsc SWABBIES are designed in California by Mister Freedom®, and manufactured in Japan by Sugar Cane Co., from denim fabric milled in Japan.

SPECS:
FABRIC:
10 Oz. dark indigo blue 2×1 denim, “snowy” neppy texture, white with yellow line selvedge ID. Milled in Japan.
DETAILS:
* An original mfsc pattern inspired by US Navy 1940’s-50’s private-purchase denim bell bottom trousers aka dungarees.
* Authentic traditional USN dungarees flared leg pattern, inseam bell shape with straight outseam.
* Wrap leg (no outseam.)
* Intricate use of the denim selvedge in construction (folded waist band, front pockets, watch pocket, and rear pockets.)
* Black 1940s-style laurel leaf starburst metal donut waist & fly buttons.
* Front pockets combining complex patch-type and slash-type pattern due to the challenge of the wrap leg. No open seams.
* Rear patch pockets cut using horizontal warp.
* Flat lock chainstitch construction.
* Black tonal all-cotton stitching.
* Bar-tacked stress points.
* Woven rayon mfsc “SURPLUS” label on inside waistband.
* Made in Japan.

SIZING:
The SWABBIES come UN-WASHED and are cut so that the measurements match the labeling AFTER an initial cold soak/line dry.
We recommend the usual protocol before wearing:

  • Cold soak for about 30-40mn, with occasional hand agitation.
  • Spin dry and line dry.
  • Wear briefly before fully-dry to set creases, then hang until fully dry.

I opted for a W32 in the Swabbies, for a fitted top block, comfortable thighs and period bell-bottoms. The waist might feel a bit tight after the cold soak, but with a bit of wear, the “snow” denim stretches back slightly to the tagged waist. After minimal wear, the fabric will naturally stretch at the stress points, like the waist, as opposed to, say, the ankles.
I opted for a no cuff silhouette, until swabbing duty. To facilitate sizing for wide range of frames, we cut limited odd sizes too (29, 31, 33).

Please refer to sizing chart for approximate raw/soaked measurements.
Soaked = 30-40mn cold soak, spin dry and line dry (ie. minimal shrinkage).

CARE:
Wash when necessary. We recommend turning garment inside-out to avoid potential marbling of the denim fabric.
Machine wash with cold water, gentle cycle, eco-friendly mild detergent and line dry.

Available RAW/unwashed.
Sizes (W is for Waist, measured in inches.)
W 28
29

30
31
32
33
34
36
W 38

Available from www.misterfreedom.com, our Los Angeles brick & mortar store, and fine retailers around the World.
Email sales@misterfreedom.com or call 323-653-2014 with any questions unanswered above.
Thank you for your support.

Christophe Loiron
Mister Freedom®
©2020