Lee denim brand from the United States of America. Lee (full name Lee Mercantile Company) was founded in 1889 in a town called Salina, found in Kansas. The first Lee denim created was workwear – dungarees and shirts, which was typical of the time.
1913 saw the arrival of the Union-All Work Jumpsuit, a major step forward in work clothing technology and the first in a stream of innovations that Lee was to be responsible for bringing to the world.
In 1920, Lee introduced two very important parts of what is now its heritage. First, there was the Lee Buddy Doll. Secondly, there was the World’s first work Overall. The Lee Buddy Doll was intended to be a promotional gimmick, but was embraced as a very popular play toy. Eventually, the Lee Buddy Doll would go on to become the second most sold doll in America of its time.
Throughout the 20s, Lee worked on making its denim products more innovative and useful to their customers. They were still very firmly a workwear company and so worked to increase the strength and versatility of their jeans and overalls. They were also the first to incorporate a zip fly onto their jeans. The modern zip had only been around for about 10 years at this time, and was not to find commercial success for many decades yet.
In the 30s and 40s, Lee became the USA’s largest work wear brand overtaking its competitors due to its superior product and focus on delivering what the large manufacturing workers demanded from their clothing.
The 1950s saw the world’s taste in casual clothing and fashion change and move away from the traditional evening dress. Lee felt that there was space in the casual clothing market for denim and launched its first collections there. While take up was initially quite slow, it soon picked up as people began donning denim as their primary choice for their casual clothing.
Seeing the success of both their traditional work clothing and their successful new entrance in to casual clothing, the company decided to take Lee Jeans worldwide to many different countries. Mens Lee Jeans UK appeared through a chain of independent distributors, and both their durable work gear as well as the newer, more casual Lee clothing. By the end of the 1960s, Lee had a presence in over 50 countries.
In 1996, Lee launched their National Denim Day – an American nationwide-event where participants would wear denim to work and give $5. This $5 would then be given towards helping Breast Cancer research and prevention efforts.
Throughout their life, Lee has also added women’s styles to many of their men’s jean ranges. These have come under a variety of names, such as Ms. Lee and Lady Lee. The most popular was the women’s counterpart to the men’s Lee Riders jeans, one of the earlier of Lee 101’s forays into casual clothing.