And who could forget Kate Moss with Marky Mark? The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. The FIT of jeans is probably one of the fastest changing fashion trends. Baggy, loose, low cut, boot cut, slim, skinny, super skinny. The spelling of the Levi's logo will date the jeans either before or after 1971.To asses more specific dates, you will … 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. It was Reynolds who came up with the idea for Buddy Lee, past and present icon of Lee promotions and advertising. Your guide to vintage Lee jeans. Rise: High rise (at or just below the belly button). Free Shipping by Amazon. They’ve got a similar fit, but the zip fly holds everything in if you want to go more fitted, and the thigh is slightly slimmer. Fit: Usually a cinched waist with a loose, relaxed fit through the thigh and a tapered ankle. 1949 – The developing women’s market evolves from factories worked by women during World War II. I found some at the salvation army. Lee taps the final frontier, producing infant and toddler apparel. 1974 – William McKenna leads Lee into the ’80s. Especially with vintage Levi’s denim jackets you can potentially make a big score, but there are … These are the most accommodating Levi’s for curves thanks to that button fly, which gives more room through the hips and butt. Take a trip down Lee’s memory lane and witness over 100 years of jeans history. 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. Racked is no longer publishing. Look for Care Tags: Care tags began being added to Levi’s garments in the 1970s. Lee … 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. 1960s – The first overseas Lee factory goes into production as baby boomers explode onto the clothing scene. 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. This article provides an overall guide to the eight details you should be looking out for when putting a production date to vintage Levi’s 501 jeans… The Tab with LEVI’S (also known as “Big E”) means the jeans are from before 1971. 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. Go for a snug fit, because these stretch out kind of fast. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Jordache, Tictail, your local thrift shop. 2. The workwear classic is so comfortable you almost feel like you’re getting away with something by wearing them in public. Fit: Look for pairs from the early ’80s, which have a slight flare that make them the ideal disco jean. The Hair-on-Hide Lee patch is first attached to pants’ backs along the belt line. Edited to add: Forgot to say that except for one, these jackets and the jeans … Nice reproduction jeans, like Levi’s Vintage Collection and Lee Retros, feel quality. 1913 – Lee’s tradition of product innovation swirls out of the dust enveloping Lee’s horse less carriage. 1889 – Lee settles in Salina, Kan., and starts the H.D. Mark on the outer hem where you want the shorts to fall. 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. Reynolds. Mark a straight line across the leg. 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. ... Lee … Here, categorized by decades and featuring elements of business, leadership and style, is a history of the H.D. We also occasionally accept products for research and reviewing purposes. Note: The long inseam makes them tall-girl friendly; alternatively, you can crop them for the perfect kick flare. The H.D. The presence of a care tag can also help you date your jeans… In part, vintage jeans have never been so popular because there have never been so many options. 1889 – H.D. 1936 – The Lee organization forecasts its highest sales since 1930 and opens a Lee Riders plant in San Francisco to supply the cowboy and rodeo trade. 1971 – Former executive vice president D.F. Costs are further clipped by the use of computer technology. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Kindred Black, curated vintage shops. Cut a straight line across the leg about two inches farther down the leg from your … You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here. 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. 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.". 1989 – The jeans manufacturer spends about $2 million annually for rocks from the United States, Turkey, Greece and Mexico used in treating fabric. Lee Co. is woven into America’s western expansion and the world events of the 20th Century. 1950s – Lee acquires more companies and opens more new plants. Corporate suitors begin ogling as the clothing company bursts at the seams. Note: Look for ’90s pairs in baby blue washes; if you can find late ’70s Calvins (à la Brooke Shields), snag them. Leg: Slim fit with a tapered ankle on pairs from the ’80s; late ’70s pairs have a slight flare. The history of the H.D. Contrary to what you might … The Lee Union-All unites a jacket and dungarees to cover farm and factory workers from neck to ankles. It was at this time also that the back martingale was removed from the jeans. Fit: Slim through the hip and thigh with a super straight or slightly flared leg; a great option for narrow hips. 1990 – A 200,000 square-foot distribution center opens in Mocksville, N.C., adding efficiency and speed to Lee’s customer service efforts. Sales of notions, furnishings, stationery and school supplies follow. 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 gold standard of vintage Levi’s, 501s look great on every body type. 1946 – Color coordinated work shirts and pants are introduced. Put on the jeans. The “Cowboy” jacket, as it came to be known, was much closer in style to a Levi’s … Rise: Super high (at or above the belly button). Thanks to decades of good advertising, Calvin Klein jeans are burned in our collective mind as the sexy denim ideal. 1986 – Lee’s answer to a more casual lifestyle appears in a line featuring a frosted finish and relaxed fit. They made a jeans just for women, the Lady Lee Rider. Different brands are also geared toward different bodies. Lee Jeans is a major international retailer and manufacturer of denim wear and casual wear. 1919-21 – Lee roars into the 20s with a Kansas City, Mo., replacement for the smaller plant in Kansas City, Kan., a new plant and office in Minneapolis, an upgraded plant in Trenton, N.J., and warehouses in San Francisco and Los Angeles. 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. 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. Whether outfitting … Lee Jeans History – from the VCA board courtesy of e*happy. Find a Good Knockoff Levi’s is the most significant denim company in the world; Lee's comes after that. Look for pairs from the ’80s and ’90s, and size up if you’re going by the number on the waist band. 1952 – Named after its Chetopa, Kan., facility, Lee develops Chetopa Twill, a tough, sharp-looking new workwear fabric that rubs workers the right way. 1928 – Founder H.D. Fit: Straight leg, relaxed fit. Lee initiates a strong succession of company presidents and management that carry Lee successfully through the remaining decades of the 20th Century. According to Sung, "they give my hips a tighter hug, making my boyish shape a little more curvy." 1954 – Lee demonstrates its concern for the welfare of its workers with a pension plan, believed to be the first company-funded program covering all employees. 1849-1899 – Henry David Lee is born Dec. 9, 1849, in Vermont. 1925 – The lighter weight, unsurpassed durability and twisted yarns of Lee Jelt Denim propel the Lee story. In modern Levi’s, the style number is often included on the care tag inside the jeans. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Denim Refinery, Urban Outfitters, curated vintage shops. Fit: Straight leg, classic fit (aka mom jeans). 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. Its headquarters is currently in … 1915 – A plant producing Lee’s innovative one-piece Union-Alls crops up in Kansas City, Kan.; two more pants plants soon follow. The death of founder H.D. The Union-All idea belongs either to Lee or his chauffeur, depending on whom you ask. 1980s – The computer age and automated production hit home. 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. 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. The jackets were priced at $225 ea. Reynolds, a former Lee sales manager and founder of the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Western Heritage Center, helps Lee lasso the western market as Lee Co. chairman. Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. 1949 – Lee purchases Kansas manufacturer Bruce Co., sells the former Salina grocery warehouse. Lee Flour Mills Co., Lee Hardware Co. and Kansas Ice and Storage. Note: Look for dark or bright blue washes with cool whisker fades on the thighs. 1862 – Lee settles in Galion, Ohio, saves $1,200 in three years as a hotel clerk, and parlays livery and real estate investments into the purchase of Central Oil Co. of Galion. Denim becomes the material of choice, accounting for more than 77 percent of jeans sales in 1981. It was therefore in 1947 that the first model of Wrangler Jeans Model 11MW (Mens Western) were made using 11oz. 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. 1928 – Leonard C. Staples, the husband of Lee’s niece, assumes the position of president until his death. Lee produces a jean befitting the female form with the introduction of Lady Lee Riders. Staples is president during Lee’s acquisition by VF Corp., makers of Vanity Fair intimate apparel. Note: Later versions often had some kind of pizzaz, like different colored stitching on the pockets, pink stripes, acid wash, or intense pleating. FIND THE CODE Now look for either a 5-digit STYLE code … 1981 – As jeans sales reach 502 million units industry wide, the five pocket Lee “Genuine Jeans” become the accepted dress standard across the country. 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. A nice alternative to Wranglers, Lee jeans have a similar fit without feeling so Western. Levi's Jeans labels can help identify the general date the jeans were made. According to Janet Sung from Denim Refinery, "Wrangler and Lee have less discrepancy between the waist and hip size, so they’re better brands for ladies with less hip." Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Kindred Black, Denim Refinery, your local thrift store, curated vintage shops. 1969 – Lee’s shareholders agree to an acquisition by Wyomissing, Penn.-based VF Corp., producer of Vanity Fair intimate apparel. 1920s – The Lee Co. breaks new ground with additional factories, innovative advertising and the first promotional appearance of the popular Buddy Lee doll. Lee Co. has led the way in innovation and style. As if the new color weren’t enough, center creases and narrower legs make the Lee Westerner a high note in styling. Lee dies of a heart attack in Texas. 1970s – Advances in technology and the fundamentals of style induce advances that streamline and speed up production without sacrificing quality. 3. 1959 – Lee opens its international division in New York City and receives the U.S. president’s “E” award for its extraordinary export efforts. Custom designs for seamen and loggers also arrive as a precursor to customer-specific designs for people who need to impress while cruising a shopping mall or sliding behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle. 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. And of the three, it straddles the middle between still-sorta-respected and sad-former … Department. The mercantile’s success spawns the Salina-based H.D. 1964 – Lee opens its first overseas factory in Belgium. Established in 1889 as a wholesale mercantile of groceries & goods to the West, The H.D. 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. Wide-leg cut short and worn with ankle boots, long and skinny, slouchy boyfriend, flares... there isn’t a way to go wrong. Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Tictail, your local thrift shop, curated vintage shops. Lee leads the H.D. 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. Innovation begins almost immediately with the production of Union-Alls, a unique, one-piece coverall originally created by sewing a coat and pants together. Rise: High (at or above the belly button). Where to Buy: eBay, Etsy, Tictail, Denim Refinery, Urban Outfitters, your local thrift store, curated vintage shops. Plus, the bright blue indigo and slight flare give off a nice ’70s cowgirl vibe. 1974 – A 1974 Gentlemen’s Quarterly contains an ad for Lee’s double-knit leisure suit, made of Dupont’s 100 percent Dacron¨ polyester. 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, … Lee Co. Inc. is acquired by VF Corp. in 1969. According to Karyn Hillman, chief product officer of Levi’s, "the fit of the 501 has evolved over the decades in keeping with style of the time — legs get narrower or wider and rises fluctuate slightly depending upon the year.". This vintage pair of Lee Jeans is one of the many treasures from my personal denim archive. One of its most popular pieces of clothing, the Lee … 1927 – Textile technology takes a fashionable turn with the launching of color-fast herringbone twills. 3 Jackets and 1 pair of jeans. 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.