Joe Haggar, Jr., the pants tycoon who famously took LBJ’s order for slacks, died Friday in Dallas at 87.
Haggar spent 25 years at the helm of the Dallas-based menswear company that brought the world wrinkle-free cotton slacks, according to Matthew Haag of the Dallas Morning News. But perhaps another epitaph for his headstone could be “Here lies the man from whom LBJ ordered pants.”
In 1964, LBJ phoned Haggar from the White House to order some slacks ( transcript here). Haggar Sr., a Lebanese immigrant who founded Haggar Clothing Co., had previously sent over some pants that LBJ loved so much he declared them the finest in all the land. “These are the best [pants] I’ve had anywhere in the United States,” the 36th president said.
During the nine-minute phone call, LBJ, in his famously salty language, described in meticulous detail exactly the kind of pants he wanted:
LBJ: I want them half a inch larger in the waist than they were before except I want two or three inches of stuff left back in there so I can take them up. I vary ten or 15 pounds a month.
Joe Haggar Jr. : Alright sir.
LBJ: So leave me at least two and a half, three inches in the back where I can let them out or take them up. And make these a half an inch bigger in the waist. … The pockets, when you sit down, everything falls out, your money, your knife, everything, so I need at least another inch in the pockets. And another thing—the crotch, down where your nuts hang—is always a little too tight, so when you make them up, give me an inch that I can let out there, uh because they cut me, it’s just like riding a wire fence. These are almost, these are the best I’ve had anywhere in the United States.
Joe Haggar Jr. : Fine.
LBJ: But, uh when I gain a little weight they cut me under there. So, leave me , you never do have much of margin there. See if you can’t leave me an inch from where the zipper (burps) ends, round, under my, back to my bunghole, so I can let it out there if I need to.
While is not every day the leader of the free world calls you to order pants, Haggar handled the conversation with grace (and perhaps a tinge of disbelief).
When the tape was aired on Nightline in 1997, the company sent out a press release to mark the occasion:
It seems as if President Johnson, who was never known to give a hoot about fashion, was just crazy about Haggar. … “We’ve had many high-profile men, including sports stars like Joe Namath and Paul Azinger endorse our brand,” says Haggar, Jr. “Although we knew that our pants held the ultimate Seat of Power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re excited for the world to hear the LBJ/Haggar conversation. It’s definitely a classic.
In recent years, the recording of the phone call has become a YouTube hit. Haggar, who retired from the family business in 1995, just last year served as treasurer for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings during his campaign.
Listen as LBJ talks to Haggar about his pants: