Henry David Lee established the H.D. Lee Mercantile company in Kansas and started a business in making and selling fine goods. He quickly saw the need for reliable workwear. Unhappy with the quality and inconsistent delivery of workwear from Eastern suppliers, Lee started with his venture to do better and became one of the most successful garment companies in the world
Lee starts making overalls of high quality in 1911. The first one was called the Bib Overall and was originally made in 8oz denim and had a multi-function breast pocket and a button fly.
Invention of one-piece coveralls – the iconic Union-Alls was conceived. Inspired by seeing a chauffeur fixing the car, H.D. Lee develops an overall that will protect the wearer both below and above the waist. A jacket and dungarees are stitched together to a full jacket coveralls. It gained immediate national popularity.
The H.D.Lee Company created Buddy Lee as an advertising piece. The first Buddy Lee was dressed in a Lee overall and displayed in the window of the Dayton Company Department Store on Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, Minesota. Over the years, Buddy Lee has become hugely sucessful and a collector's item.
Introduction of the first Lee cowboy pants - 101 jeans with U-shape saddle crotch and button fly. It was designed to cater to the specific needs of cowboys and rodeo riders. This idea to focus on the cowboy proved to be crucial as it was the market that was to become the major promoter of jeanswear throughout the world.
The zipper technology was added to cowboy pants. The world's first ever zip fly jeans - 101Z went to the market, featuring tailored sizing that based on the rise and seat proportions as well as inseam measurements. The U-shaped crotch was introduced for added comfort.
Lee created 'hair-on-hide' leather label on the back of Lee jeans. The logo was branded directly onto the cowhide and appeal to the cowboy life-style.
Lazy S back pocket stitch was introduced. The stitches on both pockets are viewed together they resemble the shape of the famous 'Long Horn' comics. This is also the year when Lee's cowboy garments are put together under the label Lee Riders.
Lady Lee Riders were introduced and promoted as the best fitting jeans for women in the market.
James Dean appeared in 'Giant' and 'Rebel Without a Cause', wearing Lee jeans. This was the birth of the biker cult and the beginning of the transformation of denim from workwear to pop culture. In addition to dominating the workwear and western markets, Lee moved into leisure wear with Leesures: 'Comfort Clothes for Work and Play'.
Lee shifted completely from the workwear business and begins catering into fashion cycles, such as applying acid stone washing on jeans for the youth culture.
Lee moves to China and grows substantially in the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, taiwan, Thailand, etc, becoming one of the most important denim brands in the region.
Exactly 120 years have passed since H.D.Lee set his original aims and standards of 'quality & strength'.
The first Lee flagship store in Asia sets its foot in Hong Kong, which is deemed as the ultimate hub for bring denim passion in the city.
Now in the year of 125th anniversary, we are still developing jeans for different needs. And we are still curious. Still finding ways to make our products better and be more sophisticated for metropolitan life.
Lee joined Kontoor Brands, one of the top global lifestyle apparel company, enhancing Lee to design, manufacture and distribute superior high-quality products that look good and fit right, giving people around the world the freedom and confidence to express themselves.