Company Highlights

Fruit of the Loom® History

The first printed label ever used on a bolt of cotton cloth was originated by the daughter of Rufas Skeel, a merchant, and applied by her to muslins supplied to her father’s store by B.B. & R. Knight, Inc., Providence, R.I., a textile mill established in 1851, by two brothers Benjamin and Robert Knight.

To attract customers to some muslins she particularly admired, the young artist painted pictures of the swar apple, a favorite in her family, and pasted them on the cloth. Just as she hoped, the muslins to which the paintings were attached were the first to sell. More and more paintings were demanded, and Miss Skeel added to her original apple other fruits such as Ne Plus Ultra grapes, the Non Such pear, Non Pareil cherries and Seek No Further apple.

Robert Knight was very impressed with Miss Skeel’s pictures, which were copied and appeared as printed labels with the famous Fruit of the Loom name on cloths which came from the Knight mills in 1871. In 1875, a combination of three fruits was adopted for the label; the peach, the pear, and cluster of grapes and in 1883, for the participation of the label at the Chicago World’s Fair a new assortment was prepared; the apple and grapes and gooseberries which appear today.

The artistry and imagination of the young woman who thus initiated a label which stands today as one of the most brilliant ever achieved in consumer goods had a worthy application. For the concept of high quality rigidly maintained, which Robert Knight had in the production of the cloths so marked, was equally unusual for the times and, of course, equally important in establishing the value of the trademark. To him the label originated by the talented artist represented the perfect counterpart to his trade name, Fruit of the Loom, which he had adopted in 1856, and had registered with the United States Patent Office in August 8, 1871, just one year after the passing of the first trademark law by Congress. It’s interesting to note that Fruit of the Loom holds the low Patent number of 418.

Today, well-over 100 years after their birth, Fruit of the Loom products still maintain the same high standard of quality today. That’s why people all over the world recognize and buy with confidence products that bear the famous Fruit of the Loom label.

  • 1851

    In 1851, brothers Benjamin and Robert Knight attain full ownership of the

    Pontiac Mill in Warwick, RI. This is where Fruit of the Loom muslins are first produced and sold in 1856.

  • 1856

    BB&R Knight adopts the name “Fruit of the Loom” for textiles.

  • 1871

    The name “Fruit of the Loom” receives U.S. patent number 418, one of the first 500 ever created.

  • 1876

    Spalding introduces the first official Major League baseball. It remains the official ball of the league for the next 100 years.

  • 1891

    Fruit of the Loom introduces consumers to the Unconditional Guarantee.

  • 1894

    Spalding works with James W. Naismith* to produce the world’s first basketball.

    *The inventor of the game

  • 1899

    The Reading Glove and Mitten Company (Vanity Fair) is founded in Reading, PA.

  • 1902

    The Russell Manufacturing Company is incorporated with Benjamin Russell as President.

  • 1914

    Vanity Fair creates women’s lingerie for the first time from silk used in manufacturing gloves.

  • 1915

    Vanity Fair is established as the brand name for the Reading Glove and Mitten Company’s silk underwear line. The name was established through a naming contest and the winner received $25.

  • 1919

    The Vanity Fair® silk underwear line is so successful that the Company name is changed to Vanity Fair Silk Mills.

  • 1928

    Fruit of the Loom begins licensing the brand and logo to manufacturers of finished clothing lines.

  • 1932

    The first manufacturing facility is opened in Frankfort, KY.

  • 1940

    Union Underwear president Jack Goldfarb introduces the multi-pack boxer. This introduces America to a new way of buying underwear, jumpstarting a trend that becomes the industry standard.

  • 1941

    A second factory opened in Bowling Green KY to fulfill 50,000,000 of G.I. boxer shorts for the armed forces and provided T-shirts for the Navy World War II.

  • 1941

    During WWII, Vanity Fair was the first to make uniform slips for the Women’s Air Corp and silk parachutes for the Army.

  • 1941-1945

    Union Underwear becomes the #1 underwear manufacturer for the armed forces during WWII. 50,000,000 pairs of shorts were donated to the armed forces, and t-shirts were provided for the Navy.

  • 1950

    Vanity Fair receives a Coty Award for excellence in design, a first for a lingerie manufacturer.

  • 1952

    A third underwear manufacturing facility opened in Campbellsville, KY to meet increasing consumer demand.

  • 1959

    The first Fruit of the Loom commercial aired on NBC’s Today Show.

  • 1968

    Fruit of the Loom contracted celebrity sportscaster Howard Cosell for TV commercial appearances over the next three years.

  • 1975

    The Fruit of the Loom Fruit Guys became the Company’s first mascot spokespeople.

  • 1976

    The Company acquires the BVD trademark.

  • 1978

    Fruit of the Loom launches Underoos®, decorated underwear for boys and girls.

  • 1983

    Fruit of the Loom expands into women’s intimates.

  • 1987

    Russell is included in the Fortune 500.

  • 1988

    Fruit of the Loom is the first brand to feature a woman in her underwear on television with the “We Fit America” campaign.

  • 2002

    Berkshire Hathaway acquires Fruit of the Loom, Inc.

  • 2003

    Russell Corporation acquires Bike and Spalding.

  • 2004

    Russell Corporation acquires AAI (American Athletic), Huffy Sports and Brooks Sports.

  • 2006

    Fruit of the Loom acquires Russell Corp.* including the Spalding® brand.

    *(now Russell Brands, LLC)

  • 2007

    Fruit of the Loom acquires the Vanity Fair Brands intimates business.

  • 2016

    Melissa Burgess Taylor announced as new Chairman and CEO of Fruit of the Loom, Inc.

  • 2019

    Vanity Fair celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

  • 2019

    Fruit of the Loom, Inc. receives the Walmart Sustainability Award as part of participation in Walmart’s Project Gigaton program.

  • 2020

    Fruit of the Loom, Inc. converts production to create an essential item in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – reusable cotton cloth face coverings.

  • 2020

    Fruit of the Loom, Inc. releases its first-ever Sustainability Report and launches ‘Fruitful Futures’ Global Sustainability Plan. The new sustainability plan includes a commitment to set science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.