NEW YORK — Danskin Inc. has named Howard Cooley, formerly president of Jockey International Inc., as chief executive officer.

He succeeds Byron A. Hero Jr., who resigned to devote full attention to his duties as chairman and president of Esmark Inc., a holding company that owns 33 percent of the common stock and 50 percent voting power in Danskin.

Hero, who remains chairman of Danskin, had been ceo since acquiring the firm in July 1986.

Cooley, 60, was president of Jockey from 1979 to 1992. From 1960 to 1979, he held various consultation posts at Kurt Salmon Associates. He was elected to Danskin’s board last year.

Hero said Cooley and Mary Ann Domuracki, Danskin’s president and chief operating officer, will handle the day-to-day manufacturing operations of Danskin, while Hero concentrates on reorganizing and refinancing Esmark and its subsidiaries, Fanatic and Nautech, two water sport companies. Esmark owes Danskin $4.5 million from a loan.

Hero said the moves have full support of its bank, First National Bank of North Carolina.

Danskin lost $7.1 million in its year ended March 26, largely reflecting weakness in hosiery as well as a $5.2 million reserve related to money owed to it by Esmark. Sales slid 2.2 percent to $131.5 million.

Sluggish sales at the Pennaco hosiery division led to a $926,000 loss in its fiscal first quarter ended June 25, with sales sliding 8.8 percent to $29 million.

Hero said Monday that hosiery continues to be difficult, but he is encouraged by seeing more skirts and dresses on fashion runways and an increased emphasis on sheer and mesh fabrics. He also said the Danskin activewear division, which makes exercise clothing and dancewear, continues to perform well.