How to tell if Lee is vintage


How to tell if Lee is vintage

Founder Henry David Lee initially setup shop producing dungarees and jackets. The company really took off in the 1920s with the introduction of the work jumpsuit and overalls. This propelled them to becoming the USA’s leading manufacturer of workwear throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Like many denim brands of this time, the 1950s saw a shift towards pop culture fashion for Lee, and classic brand partnerships with stars of the day such as James Dean and Marlon Brando. Since then, Lee has been a popular brand in the world of pop culture fashion.

Vintage Lee Advert - OneOff Vintage

How to tell if Lee is vintage from the logo

The Lee logo has stayed very consistent, and whilst variations have been introduced over the years, the simple L-e-e has been a mainstay in workwear and fashion for a long time. Lee has updated its logo and branding strategy a few times, most notably in the 1970s and 1980s as it pivoted more towards consumer fashion. Bearing this in mind the logo can help us narrow down the era of an item of clothing.

 Vintage Lee Logos through the years - OneOff Vintage

1899 to 1960s logo

  • This logo was designed when Lee produced workwear for labourers
  • It includes the Union Made logo and reference to the quality to appeal to its customers
  • The brand name Lee in black and red is set off against a yellow square background

Vintage 1899 to 1960s Lee Logo - OneOff Vintage

1940s to now

  • The logo made in the 1940s is still present to this day
  • It has an uneven wordmark with all the letters connected to each other

Vintage 1940s to today Lee Logo - OneOff Vintage

1960s to 1970s

  • In the 1960s a blockier Sans Serif font was used
  • The letters are placed very close to each other

Vintage 1960s to 1970s Lee Logo - OneOff Vintage

2000s to 2016

  • The 2000s saw a new slightly softer font with the letters once again being connected
  • It could easily be seen as a combination of the previous two logos
  • This logo was set against a brown palette

Vintage 2000s to 2016 Lee Logo - OneOff Vintage

2016 to today

  • The new logo is a slightly refined version of its 1940s logo
  • It is almost indistinguishable, however is slightly thinner and more delicate

Vintage 2016 to today Lee Logo - OneOff Vintage

How to tell if Lee is vintage from the tags

Considering how long Lee has been manufacturing clothing, it should come as no surprise that over the years many different tags have been used. It can be difficult to find production dates on Lee clothing, so they are usually the best bet for working out what era a piece is from. In the 70s and 80s Lee became was becoming viewed more as a fashion brand than the workwear brand it was initially seen as. This era probably signifies the most significant shift in Lee’s designs. 

1930s vintage Lee tags

  • The first tags used the brand logo and always included the term Union Made
  • Many of these early tags used a clean Sans Serif font, some of which had the trademark squiggly design from its early logo
  • Some early tags also mentioned that Lee’s were patented

Vintage 1930s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage


1940s vintage Lee tags

  • Lee tags were mostly made on black labels in the 1940s
  • They also more frequently included the term ‘Sanforized’ indicating that the fabric had been pre-shrunk and is therefore more resilient to washes

Vintage 1940s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

Vintage 1940s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

1950s vintage Lee tags

  • The tags from this time can be seen as a combination of the 1930s and 1940s tags
  • They are typically on black labels
  • These tags include the term ‘Sanforized’ and the design patent information
  • They also started to include sizing information on the 1950s tags

Vintage 1950s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

Vintage 1950s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

1960s vintage Lee tags

  • The tags remained similar in design to the 1950s in the 1960s
  • They started to include information about the materials used (100% cotton)
  • Made in the USA can be found on some of the tags from this time
  • They were either black or white labels, with the same font and typography

Vintage 1960s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

Vintage 1960s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

Vintage 1960s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

1970s vintage Lee tags

  • The tags mostly stayed the same in the 1970s
  • However, some of the tags from the late 1970s stopped using the term Union Made, as it became less of a selling point to its customers

Vintage 1970s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

Vintage 1970s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

1980s vintage Lee tags

  • The tag designs from the 1980s were the biggest update in a while
  • They simply had the Lee logo, Made in USA and a product code
  • All the other information such as material and sizing can be found on wash tags on vintage Lee from the 1980s

Vintage 1980s Lee Tags - OneOff Vintage

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