The ballad of Jack Mahoney
Mähöne Brothers was founded in 2010 to continue the legacy of Jack Mahoney. Here is his story, The Ballad of Jack Mahoney.
“Cause sometimes there is a man who lives how he makes his underwear – and Jack Mahoney was that man.”
Jack Mahoney, also known as Jock Mahoney or Jack Mähöne (December 1917, Michigan – September 17th, 1969, Bangkok) was a Finnish-American businessman who helped develop modern men’s underwear with color and pattern in the 1950s.
Mahoney, a son of Finnish immigrant parents Martti and Alma Mähönen, was born in the upper peninsula of Michigan where many Finnish immigrants settled in the 1870-1930s. The exact place remains unknown due to the fact that the family was poor and moved often. He spent a part of his childhood in Michigan. In 1922 the family moved to Lake worth, Florida where Jack grew up.
Officially Jack’s father Martti -a carpenter- was working for a local shipping company but there have been many stories about the family actually working for William McCoy – the infamous bootlegger. This would also explain the streetsmart ways and rebellious character Jack grew into. Young Mahoney had trouble in adaptation and was constantly battling with the law. After many fines and warnings at the age of 19 he was briefly imprisoned. After the sentence in 1937 he was drafted to the US army. At the Second World War (WWII) Mahoney served in the maintenance troops in Europe, where he quickly learned the opportunities of undergarment fashion. Until the war, men’s underwear were merely white necessities produced by industry leaders such as Jockey and Hanes. Inspired by the army’s drab-olive briefs Mahoney started to design underwear with color and pattern. After WWII Mahoney came back to the US and started up his own underwear manufacturing business. The model development was helped by the introduction of nylon tricot in 1947. At the beginning of the 1950s Mahoneys designer underwear was introduced to consumers across the US and Europe.
The Mahoney design was a complete failure in the US market and Jack felt that “a prophet hath no honour in his own country”. Due to the business failure, narrow-minded atmosphere and political witch hunt in the US, Mahoney moved back to Europe, where he felt “people were less paranoid and more laid-back”.
During the late fifties Jack Mahoney spent most of his time travelling around Europe. The Mahoney design gained some popularity among exclusive groups, which made his careless life possible. In the early sixties he led a bohemian lifestyle in Southern Europe with other adventurous playboys and was a familiar guest in upper class parties in Biarritz and at the Marbella Club. In 1965 – at the age of 47 – Mahoney married Giorgia Russo, a 19-year old Italian artist but shortly after the wedding they got separated. Two years later they were legally divorced. After the marriage Mahoney travelled between Europe and South-East Asia, where he spent more and more of his time. On September 17th, 1969, Mahoney was found dead in his hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand. The circumstances of his death became a topic of fascination and debate for a short while in Europe, but virtually all memories of Mahoney and his fashion business were quickly erased. He had no family or known living relatives, when he died.