Late 1960s – Lee opens plants in Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, Georgia and Louisiana. Thanks to decades of good advertising, Calvin Klein jeans are burned in our collective mind as the sexy denim ideal. 1982 – Robert Gregory runs Lee for a year, then is named president of VF Corp. 1983 – Lee’s softer, stronger Ultra Cord is introduced as “the Ultimate in Corduroy.” Other innovations include Dress Blues, which feature superior color retention; stretch jeans; and Denim Cable-stripes. Lee leads the H.D. "I still look at the Brooke Shields ads from the early ’80s as my style inspiration every fall," says Francis. 1943 – Recognizing the company’s increasing apparel production, “Mercantile” is cut from the company’s moniker, creating The H.D. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Kindred Black, Denim Refinery, your local thrift store, curated vintage shops. STEPS. 1986 – The tandem of Richard Lamm, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Executive Vice President Jim Huntington , team to lead Lee into its centennial as a company with 17 sewing plants, five laundries, nearly 10,000 employees and a daily production capacity of 200,000 jeans. Fit: Straight leg, relaxed fit. Note: 501s come in all sorts of washes; look for cool touches like paint splatters, rips, or whisker fades. Mark a straight line across the leg. This trend continued, with basics such as chinos being added to Lee… By 1965, teens would spend $3.5 billion on apparel. The gold standard of vintage Levi’s, 501s look great on every body type. One of its most popular pieces of clothing, the Lee … According to Sung, "they give my hips a tighter hug, making my boyish shape a little more curvy." It was therefore in 1947 that the first model of Wrangler Jeans Model 11MW (Mens Western) were made using 11oz. After the war, in an attempt to compete with the jeans makers Levi Strauss and Lee, they decided to develop a brand name they had acquired in 1943 when they bought the Casey Jones Company. Fit: Slim through the hip and thigh with a super straight or slightly flared leg; a great option for narrow hips. Rise: High-waisted (at the belly button) or low-slung (at or below the hips), depending on how much you do or don’t size up. Rise: High rise (at or just below the belly button). Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. Levi's Jeans labels can help identify the general date the jeans were made. Lee Co. is woven into America’s western expansion and the world events of the 20th Century. Innovation begins almost immediately with the production of Union-Alls, a unique, one-piece coverall originally created by sewing a coat and pants together. 1889 – H.D. The workwear classic is so comfortable you almost feel like you’re getting away with something by wearing them in public. ", While the pool may be wide, shopping for vintage jeans isn’t as simple as picking your typical size off the thrift store rack (the size on the tag basically means nothing), and not every pair is created equal: Some of these jeans are going to make your butt look good, and some of these jeans are going to make your butt look really good. Here, categorized by decades and featuring elements of business, leadership and style, is a history of the H.D. Lee Mercantile Co. becomes the major food distributor between Kansas City and Denver. 1910s – The H.D. Lee Mercantile Co. solves workwear supply problems by taking matters into its own factory. 1959 – Lee opens its international division in New York City and receives the U.S. president’s “E” award for its extraordinary export efforts. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here. 1979 – In its 90th year, Lee realizes its ambition to outfit the whole family with the formation of its Youthwear division, announcing the achievement with the slogan, “Lee Fits America.”. Breaking down the best brands, their fits, and where to shop them. Fit: Straight leg, classic fit (aka mom jeans). Original Lee Cowboy Jeans From The 1940’s. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Tictail, Denim Refinery, Urban Outfitters, your local thrift store, curated vintage shops. If that’s a look you can make sexy, more power to you. Lee Co. has led the way in innovation and style. After WWII, Lee began to market their jeans not just as work clothes, but as fashion items. 1913 – Lee’s tradition of product innovation swirls out of the dust enveloping Lee’s horse less carriage. With the telltale "W" and tan leather logo stitched on the back pockets, Wranglers do wonders for the booty — especially if you don’t have one. ... Lee … Rise: Super high (at or above the belly button). Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Kindred Black, curated vintage shops. Rise: High rise (at or just below the belly button) with a nipped-in waist. Lee … Look at the tag inside the jeans for the style number if the label is faded. It also improves the appearance of Lee’s chauffeur, who had tired of maintaining his clothes as he maintained the car. 1959 – Dressy white jeans and jackets arrive in the form of the Lee Westerner. 1909 – A newspaper describes Lee as “head of the largest mercantile business in Kansas City and the biggest citizen of Salina, whose name is in every mouth and whose goods are on every shelf.” Lee evidently wears the pants in the Salina business community; he soon will be making them, too. Hoopes jumps at the chance to serve as president of Lee, which he does until his promotion to president of VF Corp. 1973 – Lee strengthens its commitment to the women’s market with the launch of a fitting tribute to women under the Ms. Lee label. In part, vintage jeans have never been so popular because there have never been so many options. And of the three, it straddles the middle between still-sorta-respected and sad-former … Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Tictail, your local thrift shop, curated vintage shops. 1900-1909 – A devastating warehouse fire and the challenge of transporting goods over undeveloped land, some of it settled less than 50 years before, cannot keep Lee and his associates from becoming a prominent financial force across the Central Plains and burgeoning Midwest. The super high waist nips everything in, while a little extra room (and sometimes stretch) through the thigh and its tapered leg make these jeans curve-friendly. 1956 – Leonard W. Staples, nephew of the company’s second chief executive, replaces Benjamin E. Kinney when Kinney replaces chairman C.A. Note: Look for ’90s pairs in baby blue washes; if you can find late ’70s Calvins (à la Brooke Shields), snag them. Sales of notions, furnishings, stationery and school supplies follow. 1920s – The Lee Co. breaks new ground with additional factories, innovative advertising and the first promotional appearance of the popular Buddy Lee doll. Fit: Look for pairs from the early ’80s, which have a slight flare that make them the ideal disco jean. 3 Jackets and 1 pair of jeans. 1925 – The lighter weight, unsurpassed durability and twisted yarns of Lee Jelt Denim propel the Lee story. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Jordache, Tictail, your local thrift shop. Free Shipping by Amazon. A bunch of different brands have made the style, including Oshkosh (yes, for grown-ups) and Gap, but Carhartt is definitely the easiest the brand to find in thrift stores. Edited to add: Forgot to say that except for one, these jackets and the jeans … To fully appreciate this development, speak with a man standing in an Iowa cornfield in late December, his gloved hands desperately fumbling at his buttoned fly. As Alice Wells from Kindred Black tells us, "I’ve had a pair since middle school that miraculously keep stretching and molding to my body as the years go by.". Experiments using shredded car tires, bottle caps, golf balls, rope and wood lead to positive results using pumice (a type of lava rock). If you choose to size up instead, they're the perfect comfy boyfriend jean — just roll the cuff or crop the bottom. 1971 – Former executive vice president D.F. To help you make sense of it all, we pulled together a guide to the brands and styles most commonly found at vintage and thrift stores. Denim becomes the material of choice, accounting for more than 77 percent of jeans sales in 1981. Look for Care Tags: Care tags began being added to Levi’s garments in the 1970s. Lee produces a jean befitting the female form with the introduction of Lady Lee Riders. Whether outfitting … As if the new color weren’t enough, center creases and narrower legs make the Lee Westerner a high note in styling. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. and the jeans were $175. Lee Jeans is a major international retailer and manufacturer of denim wear and casual wear. 1949 – Lee purchases Kansas manufacturer Bruce Co., sells the former Salina grocery warehouse. Nice reproduction jeans, like Levi’s Vintage Collection and Lee Retros, feel quality. Lee Mercantile company from its 1911 beginnings, and until his fatal heart attack March 15, 1928, in San Antonio, Texas, was the company’s clothing arm, legs and torso. 1928 – Founder H.D. Especially with vintage Levi’s denim jackets you can potentially make a big score, but there are … 1930s – Continued growth is a precursor to the cursing heard throughout the Great Depression. 1957 – Boys’ wear, and boys everywhere, receive a lift with the introduction of Lee’s “Double Knees,” patching relations between worn out moms and their “holy tearers.”. Lee dies of a heart attack in Texas. Racked is no longer publishing. The “Cowboy” jacket, as it came to be known, was much closer in style to a Levi’s … Fashion types are quick to gush over 501s, but 505s are even better. Lee is an American brand of denim jeans, first produced in 1889 in Salina, Kansas.The company is owned by Kontoor Brands, a spin-off of VF Corporation's Jeans wear Division. 1886 – A keen mind and poor health induce Lee to sell half his interest in Central Oil Co. to John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co. Lee stays on as manager until poor health forces him out two years later. Note: The long inseam makes them tall-girl friendly; alternatively, you can crop them for the perfect kick flare. This vintage pair of Lee Jeans is one of the many treasures from my personal denim archive. 1986 – Lee enters its centennial with 17 sewing plants, five laundries, nearly 10,000 employees and a daily production capacity of 200,000 jeans. Your guide to vintage Lee jeans. Lee taps the final frontier, producing infant and toddler apparel. Baggy, loose, low cut, boot cut, slim, skinny, super skinny. Other fitting improvements include the U-shaped saddle crotch and tailored sizing, in which rise and seat proportions are based on waist and inseam measurements. 1920 – The Lee Co.’s first consumer promotion introduces Buddy Lee, a ceramic figure first found loitering in storefront windows wearing Lee Overalls and a mischievous smile. Lee Mercantile Co., a wholesale grocery capitalized with $100,000 from Lee’s investment group and reportedly jumpstarted with $25,000 of Salina’s own money. Fit: Slim through the hip and thigh with a straight leg or slight flare. Go for a snug fit, because these stretch out kind of fast. Note: If you go for a pair that’s your actual waist size, you can crop these above the ankle for Jesse Kamm or Rachel Comey vibes. Cut a straight line across the leg about two inches farther down the leg from your … Whether outfitting cowboys in the twilight of the Wild West, supplying an American military entrenched in war, or producing the fashion and durability contemporary culture demands, the H.D. Lee is ministering to the whims of a fickle public, and should not be blamed for this trend. It was Reynolds who came up with the idea for Buddy Lee, past and present icon of Lee promotions and advertising. As Alice Wells and Jennifer Francis (co-founders of Kindred Black, a secret weapon source for vintage denim) tell us, "there is such variety right now — the beauty of vintage jeans is that they’re so versatile. Look for pairs from the ’80s and ’90s, and size up if you’re going by the number on the waist band. 1915 – A plant producing Lee’s innovative one-piece Union-Alls crops up in Kansas City, Kan.; two more pants plants soon follow. Early success in the oil business and a doctor’s admonition to go west, lead the tubercular Lee to settle in Salina, Kan., in 1889. The Union-All idea belongs either to Lee or his chauffeur, depending on whom you ask. Funny thing is, most of the CKs you"ll find at the vintage store are from the ’90s and fit like actual mom jeans: blouse-y thighs and tapered ankle. 1986 – Lee’s answer to a more casual lifestyle appears in a line featuring a frosted finish and relaxed fit. Surprisingly, Lee didn’t begin by making clothing—or manufacturing anything at all for that matter. Note: Look for dark or bright blue washes with cool whisker fades on the thighs. 1917 – Brigadier General Leonard Wood orders doughboys to be outfitted in Union-Alls, the fatigue the U.S. military couldn’t wear out during World War I. Lee also becomes the first national advertiser in the apparel industry. 2. 1927 – Textile technology takes a fashionable turn with the launching of color-fast herringbone twills. 1924 – A 13-ounce denim cowboy pant is introduced in 1924. These are the most accommodating Levi’s for curves thanks to that button fly, which gives more room through the hips and butt. All customers get FREE Shipping on orders over $25 shipped by Amazon. 1964 – Not since the onset of the zipper has such an innovation gripped the consumer: Lee presses on with a line of “no-iron” permanent press slacks, sold under the “Lee-Prest” banner. A nice alternative to Wranglers, Lee jeans have a similar fit without feeling so Western. These high-rise vintage jeans with a slim cut, straight or slightly flared legs are likely to throw you a curve, creating curves you have been dreaming of so long. Lee Co., Inc. 1946 – Lee acquires Eloesser-Heynemann Co., the San Francisco-based workwear producer of “Can’t Bust Em” work clothes, to address market growth spurred by returning servicemen. Gitanos were popular in the ’80s and early ’90s as a second-tier discount denim brand; if you couldn’t afford Calvin Klein or Guess but wanted the same look, you wore Gitano. Lee Jeans History – from the VCA board courtesy of e*happy The history of the H.D. 1981 – As jeans sales reach 502 million units industry wide, the five pocket Lee “Genuine Jeans” become the accepted dress standard across the country. Wrangler, like Lee initially used the arcuate stitch on … Save yourself the trouble in the dressing room if you have thicker thighs, butt, or a much slimmer waist than hip; these are better at creating curves than accommodating them. Call it a trend, call it a responsible environmental choice, but vintage denim is a "thing" any way you cut it. Lee Company. Note: Later versions often had some kind of pizzaz, like different colored stitching on the pockets, pink stripes, acid wash, or intense pleating. Department. 1928 – Leonard C. Staples, the husband of Lee’s niece, assumes the position of president until his death. Lee jeans usually come with several labels that show the size of the jeans, the material it is made out of, such as 100% Cotton, or other blends, and the country of manufacturing. Put on the jeans. Lee Co. is woven into America’s western expansion and the world events of the 20th Century. Lee now can upgrade its U.S. concerns and enter joint ventures in Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Australia, Brazil and Hong Kong. Note: These are great for an hourglass shape, or anyone looking for statement denim — acid wash is common, as are unexpected embellishments at the ankle like zippers, buttons, snaps, and/or denim bows. 1939 -Lee celebrates 50 years with – we couldn’t make this up – a Golden Jubi-Lee celebrating the company’s stance as the largest manufacturer of work clothes in the United States. 1889 – Lee settles in Salina, Kan., and starts the H.D. Wrangler is an American manufacturer of jeans and other clothing items, particularly workwear.The brand is owned by Kontoor Brands Inc., which also owns Lee.Its headquarters is in downtown Greensboro, … There, the H.D. Lee Jeans History – from the VCA board courtesy of e*happy. The history of the H.D. 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