“Facts should be like Sansabelt pants; adjustable to fit your needs.” Steven Colbert, The Colbert Report
Last night I was watching an old episode of Honey West, (circa 1965) scene after scene featured the ultra-attractive John Ericson, as Sam Bolt, wearing pairs and pairs of Sansabelts, and then I got thinking….hmmm…
Sansabelt is a brand of popular if not beloved men’s trousers that were introduced in 1957, first on network television, (which was still sort of new) and then perfected by 1959, by Jaymar-Ruby Inc., an Indiana-based clothing company. Their mid-west origins automatically positioned them as mainstreamers, far outside the tight knit designer circles of 7th Avenue.
Sansabelts came on the scene about the same time that Playboy Magazine and the pill were beginning to make a stir. The sexual revolution was just starting. As such, Sanabelts were heavily advertised as being the modern choice for menswear, since they resisted wrinkles (saving ironing), were proportioned for men of action, and had a streamlined look that was the perfect counterbalance to Nehru jackets. They were an overnight success.
The trousers work on this principle; they have an innovative wide elastic band sewn into the waist to enhance the appearance of the pelvic area, which is intended to make a belt or suspenders unnecessary, hence the name “sans a belt”. Male anatomy periodically has the drawback of having a little extra definition at the waist. This means that anything resembling slacks must have a fairly tight cinch to keep them from slipping, such as a belt. However, through a miracle of Hoosier engineering, Sansabelts stayed in place. This is because the Sansabelt waistband features not one, but three bands of elastic webbing, forming a girdle-like zone, allowing free movement with or without the use of a belt!
Throughout the 1960’s Sansabelts were heavily hyped. Nearly every TV figure wore a Sansabelts including, Fred McMurray, Dick Van Dyke, Johnny Carson and Dobie Gillis. They read as clean, modern, suburban chic, relaxed, hip, sharp, and comfortable. The style lasted for a full decade before waning in popularity.
Sansabelts initial success forebode ill for the future. Sansabelt despite the superiority of their design became associated with "kitch". The line was oriented to the older generation of male buyers, and to those who had waistline problems. It was the mainstay of "big and tall" men's stores. Sansabelt became identified with the older generation who did not mind their Dacron polyester material or gabardine twill. Its appeal was its adjustable waistband that could be let out an inch or two. Nevertheless, don’t loose heart, Sansabelt is still in business, and business is still good. Sansabelt has a devoted following, with a facebook page of over 100,000 friends. I don’t even have a facebook!