February 10, 2007

Haggar

And the man behind the brand is...
Joseph Haggar

Joseph Marion Hajjar was born into hardscrabble circumstances on a Lebanese farm in 1892. His father died in a fall from a horse when he was just two putting further hardship on the family to cull a living from the sparse soil. At 13 Joseph fled the impoverished village to join a sister in Mexico. He stayed three years, peddling on the streets until he left for the United States, paying a $2 border tax to cross into Laredo.

Penniless and speaking no English, Haggar, as he would now be known,
got work on a railroad, then a cotton farm and eventually migrated to the Little Lebanon region of St. Louis where he made his first real money brokering an oil lease. He further homed his business skills as a salesman for Ely & Walker, a dry goods wholesaler, where he closed deals in his native Arabic, acquired Spanish and adopted English.

Having earned enough to marry and start a family and supremely confident in his sales ability, Haggar went out on the road selling Oberman work pants on straight commission. By 1926 he was ready to open his own business, making menswear in Dallas. He sold only on a one-price policy, unique for the industry, which he hit upon while selling on the road.

Haggar’s pants were unlabeled and just a cut above work pants.
He sold enough to weather the Great Depression and in 1939 he became the first manufacturer to nationally advertise branded slacks. At the time the only men’s clothing identifiable by name was Arrow shirts. Haggar was always ahead of the industry: first to offer two pairs of pants for a reduced price, first to sell pre-packaged ready-to-wear slacks, first to manufacture double knit pants. Legend had it that the “Slacks King” could handle a piece of fabric and tell what mill it came from.

In 1976, on the occasion of his company’s 50th anniversary, Joseph Haggar was presented with the Horatio Alger Award, in recognition of how far he had come from the rocky Lebanese desert. In the same year he received an honorary doctorate of law from Notre Dame University, an ironic tribute to a man who always crossed out the legalese on the back of contracts and scribble in his own personal guarantee.

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