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Lee History

Lee Mercantile Company was founded by Henry David Lee in 1889, when Lee opened his first garment factory in Salina, Kansas, producing dungarees and jackets.

  • In 1913, the Union-All work jumpsuit was created, followed by the first-ever "Overall" in 1920 - laying the foundation for Lee's early growth. Also in 1920, the Buddy Lee doll was launched for promotional use, but quickly became a popular play doll.
  • Through the '20s, Lee introduced many new innovations to manufactured denim, most notably the zipper fly. Throughout the '30s and '40s Lee continued to build on their brand, becoming the nation's #1 manufacturer of work clothes.
  • The decade of the '50s was a time of intense expansion for Lee as the company ventured into casual wear. Lee expanded its presence throughout the '60s, spreading to 51 countries and consolidating with VF Corporation in 1969.
  • The company continued to expand its fashion lines throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s, launching Lee National Denim Day® in 1996. Today's Lee is all about bringing more fits, styles, finishes, features and choices than ever before to market.
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