long johnsThanks to mild winters and associations with older generations it’s a garment that hasn’t been mentioned over the last few years, but dare I say, long johns in the UK are back? My anecdotal evidence for this is that I’ve heard the term used a few times over the last week in various circumstances, and of course it is rather cold.

But what evidence online can be found to back up this idea?

Type this garment into Google.co.uk and you instantly, and unexpectedly, find that the AdWord competition over this phrase is fierce. Who would have thought there were so many retailers of this long legged, close fitting item?

long johns

This doesn’t indicate a trend per se. However, trying to determine using other tools whether a trend is occurring beyond the typical seasonal interest and that an increase over previous years in the UK is occurring, is quite hard. Most free trend tools out there show global data and often only go back 3-12 months. In this situation it often helps if the term is unique to the country being analysed, but in this instance the term used across the English speaking world. Care also needs to be taken as the term could also be used in association with Long John Silver. Deeper search results also reveal a band using the name.

However, bearing these issues in mind there are a few tools that may help.

Google Trends is the obvious first contender, as filters can be placed on the data including geographical and time. The graph below shows searches for “long johns” compared with “thermal underwear” in the UK since 2004.

longs johns and thermal underwear

As can be seen, the searches for “long johns” have increased since the end of last year, after entering briefly (no pun intended) at the end of 2007.

Using Google AdSense Keyword tool we can see more exact figures for searches in the UK, how they compare against the annual average and the Cost Per Click for each term.

long johns

December 2008 saw almost a 85 percent rise in the number of searches against the average volume, for the search term “long johns”, and the CPC price is currently a not too unreasonable £0.71. By comparison “thermal underwear” saw an even more dramatic increase in December 2008, with roughly 74,000 searches against an average monthly volume of 33,100.

Facebook Lexicon also offers us some insights over time for phrases used by users, where we see a similar pattern:

long johns

However the tool doesn’t enable users to drill into geographical usage of the phrase.

Finally, can we learn anything from the blogging and microblogging world?

This is where things do get difficult, as I’ve yet to find free tools that
filter country data, however results from Nielsen’s BlogPulse service do show an increase in the term over the last six months:

long john

Interestingly, this trend does not correspond with the “thermal underwear” results, which does seem to go against findings elsewhere but does seem to slightly more reflect the results of Twist, a Twitter trending tool (below).

Twist results for long johns

Whilst this was partly a just-for-fun exercise, it does seem to indicate that long johns are on the rise in the UK. How many people will admit to buying and wearing them is quite another matter, hence this lovely poll:


  1. To really know if there’s a rising trend it has to be asked… While hearing about long johns and doing all the research, have you been persuaded to buy a pair yourself? :)

  2. Crikey Gregory – a trifle familiar, sir!

    Love your trend analysis Kathryn (slightly concerned you’re getting a little too good at it tho – might have to start looking over my shoulder soon!).

    Reckon you might be right. And if so, the big question is ‘why?’ I reckon that, as usual, it’s a combo of a coupla reasons. Firstly, us Brits are getting increasingly comfortable with wearing whatever we want, irrespective of whether it’s ‘cool’. Secondly, we’re in greater thrall than ever to costume dramas, from Pride & Prejudice to Pirates of the Caribbean (in both of which a pair of longjohns would not have been out of place) and the traditional in general. Ties in nicely with the current trend for beards (see my quote in last Saturday’s FT)

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