A fierce rivalry of fleece
When Cynthia Chatlos-Rothermel opened an e-mail thread bouncing around her group of friends, she gasped in horror at an invitation to a “Snuggie slumber party.” A dentist by day and Slanket wearer by night, Chatlos-Rothermel has been warding off the Pennsylvania cold in the maroon folds of her Slanket for three years now. The thought of bringing it into a roomful of Snuggies was intolerable.
“Absolutely not,” she wrote in reply. “There will be no Snuggies—only Slankets.”
“I am stressed out that people think the Snuggie is the original,” Chatlos-Rothermel said. “The Snuggie should just give credit to the Slanket and admit that they’re the cheaper, crappier version.”
To the naked eye, the two products may appear indistinguishable—oversize, amorphous garments that look like robes worn backward or cultish dressing gowns, depending on who’s wearing them. But a rivalry is building between devotees of the Snuggie, which is made by Allstar Products, a Connecticut company, and retails for $19.99 at GetSnuggie.com, Walgreens, and Bed Bath & Beyond, and the Slanket, which sells for $37.99 at Slanket.com and on the QVC network and is produced by Denver-based Slanket Loungin LLC.
Snuggie fans champion its affordability and free-with-purchase book light. The Slanket is “way too expensive for a blanket,” says Heath Brothers, who wears his royal blue Snuggie in and around Cincinnati. “It costs twice as much as my Snuggie, and it’s the same thing.”
By contrast, Slanket advocate Aaron Horner, a student in Richmond, Va., likes to wrap his 6-foot frame in one of the many Slankets strewn about his house. His mother bought a slew of them as Christmas gifts for her family on QVC. With the Snuggie’s lower price, Horner points out, comes less coverage.
“What’s the point of having a Snuggie if you’re lying down in your bed and your feet are sticking out at the bottom?” he says. “It should come with a free pair of slippers instead of a book light.”
The matter that most divides Snuggie and Slanket wearers, however, is sleeved-blanket use in public.
Snuggies, it seems, inspire a certain exhibitionism. After Brothers and five of his friends went barhopping in January in Cincinnati with their Snuggies on, their photos began circulating online.
After seeing them, Mike Wheeler, 38, a technical writer living in Franklin, Tenn., launched SnuggieSightings.com, even though he’d only had his blue Snuggie for a few weeks. The Web site showcases photos of people spotted out and about in Snuggies.
Wheeler says he receives anywhere from 10 to 100 pictures each day and often stays up late into the night uploading new content. He admits that he chooses the Snuggie over the Slanket in large part because of its name.
“‘Slanket’ sounds like you’re hacking phlegm,” he says. “‘Snuggie’ sounds warm and fuzzy and fun—as though no harm will incur when you’re wearing one.”
SnuggiePubCrawls.com, the Web site of a Snuggie group that plans charity Snuggie events, launched last month. It shows 4,300 individuals signed up for Bring Your Own Snuggie crawls in 15 cities.
So far the Slanket has inspired nothing like this kind of public pride. This may be because of its greater length, which can make any activity other than sitting or lying down difficult. Slanketeers generally seem hesitant to leave the house in their Slankets. “If I wanted to wear my Slanket around, I would have just bought a robe,” Chatlos-Rothermel says.
The Snuggie is also outpacing the Slanket in sales. Allstar claims that it has sold more 4 million Snuggies just since October. Only about 100,000 Slankets were sold in 2008.
But according to Slanket creator and chief executive Gary Clegg, he was the innovator who brought sleeved blankets to the market, a claim that Allstar management doesn’t dispute. Eleven years ago, as a freshman at the University of Maine, Clegg says, he was trying to watch TV while in a sleeping bag. Annoyed at having to emerge from the bag to use the remote control, he cut an armhole in it. He liked the result and cut another armhole. Then he added sleeves. The Slanket was born.
Clegg started selling the Slanket in 2006. The Snuggie went on the market last year.
Clegg says he intends to step up his marketing efforts in response to the Snuggie’s popularity and a television commercial that’s become a late-night cult favorite and boosted Snuggie sales. It shows Snuggie wearers lounging around while reading books, watching TV, holding babies, knitting and eating popcorn, and even more amazing, it shows Snuggies being worn outside by warm and contented-looking families roasting marshmallows and cheering at some kind of sporting event. Allstar is in the process of rolling out a child-size version, the Snugglette.
Clegg wouldn’t go into detail about his plans for the Slanket, but he sounded confident. “We’ve had a three-year head start, so I’m not too worried,” he says. “It’s not going to be a fight—it’s more of a gentleman’s duel.”