Person of Interest: Haggar Clothing Co. President Tim Lyons

Clear up something for me. You guys at Haggar claim to have coined the term “slacks” in 1938?

That is correct.

I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, and I have to tell you that there are quite a few references to “slacks” that predate 1938. The first one shows up in 1824. And nowhere is Haggar mentioned.

Hm. That’s interesting. I would say that JM Haggar, our founder, popularized the term. Obviously he didn’t invent the word. But invented the application of the word for pants you wear between when you’re dressed up at work and what you do in your slack time.

Then you’d best check your official Haggar company literature, because it says JM coined the term. 

Hey, marketing reports to me. As soon as we hang up, I’ll talk to them.

I spent some time on YouTube looking at old Haggar commercials. The one with John Travolta was spectacular.

Oh, gosh, yeah. Travolta was really a big deal. That was prior to his Vinnie Barbarino days, probably 1971.

Or here’s a free idea: you know the famous LBJ phone call to Joe Haggar from 1964, when he asks him to make some pants with more room for his balls? Turn that into a commercial. LBJ does say that Haggars are the best pants in America. You can’t beat that endorsement.

No, you can’t. Unless you didn’t like LBJ.

So with your spring line, Haggar is trying to get—what’s the word? Hipper? Younger?

We’ve got a bunch of younger guys that are going, “I trust the brand. I’m just not seeing stuff from you guys that I would wear.” So we’re making hipper, more relevant stuff for the guy in the age group 25 to 45. We’ve always said we make clothes for guys from 25 to 65, and they’re not a heck of a lot different, outside of silhouette. Those guys just wear them differently.

I like the way you use the word “silhouette” as a stand-in for “beer gut.” Is that the industry term?

[laughs] I’m really disappointed that you could read through that so easily. I usually disguise it better.

Is it true that millennials have been introduced to the brand through vintage stores?

Yes. Definitely. As we started going to the vintage stores ourselves and poking around on eBay, we found sellers saying, “Man, I wish I could get my hands on more of this stuff. I’m selling everything I can get in here.”

Your CEO, Michael Stitt, recently said, “We lost a bit of our culture for a few years.” Tell me what that means.

The Haggars always said that people are the priceless ingredient. Through ownership change back in 2005, the company culture got a little bit sterile. We wanted to get back to a culture of innovation, caring, sincerity.

How many pairs of pants do you own?

Oh, gosh. I try to do a regular purging because there are a whole lot of people living under viaducts who could use them.

What size are you?

I’m a 32-30.

What are you doing wearing a 32? How old are you?

Straight commission and a tape worm. I’m 61.

And you still wear a 32. That’s a silhouette.

I’ve always said I came into the industry a 32, and, by God, I’m going out a 32.

Can you go out in public in anything other than Haggar pants? No Italian suits for you, right?

When it comes to jeans and khakis and dress pants and suits, I try to make sure it’s almost 100 percent Haggar. That’s my greatest opportunity. Open up that jacket, have them see the label and go, “Oh, my God, that’s a Haggar suit?”

That’s why you have to stay trim. You’re like a walking mannequin.

[laughs] I’ve been called worse, but that ain’t too bad. I’ll take that.