Tom Specht ’63

Super Bowl XXVII was the pinnacle of a trendsetting career for Tom Specht ’63.

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By Bob Cunningham

Haggar Clothing Co. was going to advertise wrinkle-free cotton pants for the first time on Jan. 31, 1993, and Specht knew it was going to be a colossal hit.

“I knew pretty much that was going to be it,” Specht said, who was a corporate salesman at the time for Haggar. He told retailers, “You’re going to be pretty embarrassed if people come in Monday morning after the Super Bowl and want to buy these pants and you don’t have them and your competition does.”

“It ended up, I sold them to everybody. When the ad ran, they just literally blew out of the store,” Specht said.

It’s no wonder that Specht was a four-time salesman of the year for Haggar. After his Super Bowl haul, Specht ‘63 was able to retire at age 52.

Specht, who now lives in Perrysburg, Ohio, credits Bowling Green State University for his successful career. He majored in business sales management and what was the equivalent of a speech major.

“I wanted to go to Bowling Green right from day one,” said Specht, who grew up on a dairy farm in Gibsonburg, Ohio. “My dad said, ‘You’re going to college, just decide which one it’s going to be.’ I picked Bowling Green and I never regretted it. I liked it then and I like it now.”

Speech classes were some of Specht’s favorite, and it led to him joining the debate team. He placed second in the conference debate team during his senior year.

“When I was in high school, I was afraid to stand up in front of a group of people and talk,” he said. “As an elective I took a speech course with Dr. Raymond Yeager and he taught me to overcome my fear. I took every course he offered because I thought he was a great professor and he also was coach of the debate team.”

Excelling on the debate team made Specht more confident and a better speaker -- skills that gave him the upper hand as a salesman.

Excelling on the debate team made Specht more confident and a better speaker -- skills that gave him the upper hand as a salesman.

“I thought before I spoke and I became a better listener,” he said. “Speech helped me in my sales career because it taught me when to talk and when to shut up. I always use the designation ABC: Always Be Closing. As I salesman, or even in life, you have to be a closer and when you’ve made the sale, you close your mouth, close your briefcase, and you get out of there before you talk yourself out of the order.

“It had a great effect on my career in that it taught how to make me work smarter.”

After college, Specht went to Macy’s and enrolled in its executive training program.

“It was basically to teach you how to be a good retailer, but specifically to be a men’s buyer,” he said. “I was always interested in men’s clothing. In fact, my father used to joke that if I wanted to dress in the manner in which I was accustomed, I better get into the men’s business. So, I took his advice.”

Specht then became Macy’s youngest men’s buyer at age 23. After three years of buying men’s sportswear, he took a job as a men’s clothing with Farah Manufacturing Co.

“I learned a lot with them,” Specht said. “I started out with small accounts and worked my way up to bigger accounts. That’s when double knits became very popular, but the only problem with double knits was, they never wore out. So, I saw that I needed to move on from there, because once you sold them, a person didn’t go back and buy them again.”

From there, Specht helped Levi’s -- just a jeans maker up until that point -- launch a casual pants line. Haggar saw what Specht did in just two years for Levi’s and hired him away.

“I sold Haggar’s casual pants and their dress pants,” he said. “Then Haggar came out with a suit line and then they invented wrinkle-free cotton pants. I was working back here in the Midwest at the time and I was very successful in placing them, but the West Coast stores didn’t have the same success.”

Levi’s headquarters is in San Francisco and it owned the casual pants market with its Dockers brand. That is until Haggar dispatched Specht to the West Coast.

“Docker’s at that point wrinkled, so Haggar sent me to launch wrinkle-free cotton pants on the West Coast,” he said. “I did that for three years and thus I was able to retire early because I worked on straight commission my entire life.

“I always felt that I was not an average salesman and when they pay you a salary, they pay you the average wage -- the good and the bad salesmen. By working straight commission, you are not limited by how much you can make, and when wrinkle pants took off, it was like hitting the lottery.”

After he retired, Specht traveled throughout the Unites States and abroad. He also was the caregiver for his father and mother when they each became ill.

Specht then turned his attention to his fraternity at BGSU, Alpha Tau Omega. He has been the CEO of the board of trustees for ATO at BGSU since 2009.

“At that point, I was looking for something different to do,” he said. “I wanted to find something where I could work with younger people and stay alert and stay up with the times.”

Before Specht got involved, his fraternity was in debt. He rounded up the alumni to raise enough funds to pay off the debt. He also spearheaded a campaign to reclaim and refurbish the ATO Victory Bell to ring at home football games.

Now, Specht is focused on getting the fraternity house ready for the campus’s new Greek Village, which will open for the 2016-17 school year.

“I hope the guys can have as good of an experience as I did and benefit from it as much as I did,” Specht said. “ I guess I am paying it forward. I enjoy working with the alumni and the kids, and I enjoy working with the University. President Mazey has been very cooperative and very encouraging and she has a great energy level -- she is such a positive force. She’s put a great team together and you can definitely see the positive impact she’s had on the University.”