Hanson got from the Los Angeles Angels to the kitchen at La Scala in only a little longer than it takes to play a doubleheader: a few years. With the money he made playing baseball, he opened a small shop on Balboa Island stocked with pants he had designed and that some kind ladies in the county had sewed for him. Unable to afford advertising, he began to con some of the better-built girls around town into becoming live shopwindow models. Well, you know California girls. They'll show off for you. They wore the pants in the window, and the crowds came. The crowds also started to buy—and Jack Hanson was on his way to immortality.
One of the girls who hung around the windows most often was Sally. Like Hanson, she had come out of Hollywood High, but a few years later, and she also thought she knew something about clothes; at least, she knew what she liked to wear. She liked to wear Jax pants, and she convinced Hanson that she could design them better than he. He hired her, and they built the business together. After seven years they got married. Sally is still the designer, but Hanson takes a hard look at every new item to make sure it is jazzy enough.
What the Hansons did to women's sportswear would undoubtedly have been done by somebody else sooner or later. But Hanson did it first, and thousands of affluent women will argue that he still does it best. The first revolutionary thing he did was move the zipper from the side to the back. Snugness began there. Next, to make the pants even tighter, he eliminated pockets; in a pair of Hanson pants there is no room to put anything in pockets, anyway. And, finally, he made the pants legs trim without making them skintight—they are lined and in consequence hold a crease and do not wrinkle around the backs of the knees.
While these simple innovations streamlined Hanson past everyone else in the industry, they do not suffice to explain the true secret of Jax pants, to explain why women marvel continuously over the fact that they seem to fit better than anyone else's. The basis of that secret is revealed very simply by Hanson.
"The fact is, we only sell to curvy broads."
Hanson's styles are designed for and made to the precise form of the niftiest size 8s and 10s and, to a lesser degree, size 12s.
"We don't try to do a volume business," he says, "so our sizes can be less general. A size 10 in most stores has to be able to fit a variety of size 10s. Our 10 is for the perfect 10."
Hanson deplores the idea of making special pants for the less-than-elegant figure, but he will. One supposes it will usually be for some princess or duchess who will pay a David Webb jewel for it, agree to have it delivered in the dead of night and promise to wear it only in front of a group of happy banana smokers on Sardinia.
"Even today, the only advertising we have is a turned-on broad walking down the street in a pair of pants," he says.
Neither Jack nor Sally frets much over the business anymore. Sally, a perfect size 10, creates the pants on herself with muslin and a mirror. She remembers when it dawned on her that they were, ahem, rich. "There was this sweater line that we wanted to carry, and they turned us down. All of a sudden we thought: Who needs it? We didn't, as a matter of fact," she says. For Jack the realization came in an altogether different way.