Lee (jeans)

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FounderHenry David Lee
HeadquartersGreensboro, North Carolina, U.S.
Number of employees
400 people
ParentKontoor Brands

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.[1] Since 2019 its headquarters is in Greensboro, North Carolina,[2] relocated from Merriam, Kansas.[3] The company states that it is an international retailer and manufacturer of casual wear and work wear and that it has more than 400 employees in the United States.[4] In Australasia, the brand is owned by Pacific Brands since 2007, after it was acquired from Yakka.[5]


A Lee Jeans booth at a local 5k race in Kansas City.
A Lee Jeans booth at a local 5k race in Kansas City.
The identification patch on a set of Lee jeans.

The company was formed in 1889 by Henry David Lee as the HD Lee Mercantile Company at Salina, Kansas, producing dungarees and jackets. The growth of Lee was prompted by the introduction of the Union-All work jumpsuit in 1913 and their first overall in 1920.[4] Later in the 1920s Lee introduced a zipper fly and continued to expand. Around this time, the first children's overalls line was sold. In 1928 H.D. Lee, founder and president of The H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, died.[6] During the 1930s and 1940s the company became the leading manufacturer of work clothes in the US. In 1944, the Lazy "S" became the official Lee back pocket. A flood wiped out Lee's Kansas City distribution center. It ruined the entire stock of merchandise, except the Buddy Lee dolls, which floated. In 1954, Lee expanded into casual wear. During the 1960s the company expanded to 81 countries and in 1969 was acquired by VF Corporation, becoming a brand.[4] Lee aired its first television advertisement, which promoted Lee western wear.

In the 1970s Lee shifted its focus from the workwear business and began catering to fashion cycles. Lee created an all-new fit for women under the Ms. Lee label. A youth wear line for boys and girls was introduced. In 1996, the company launched Lee National Denim Day as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Working with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Lee National Denim Day has raised over $75 million to help fund breast cancer research programs.[7][8] In 2014, the brand was relaunched in Paris via the Citadium Paris store.[citation needed] In 2019, Lee, Wrangler, Rock & Republic, and VF Outlet were Separated from VF Corporation into Kontoor Brands.[1]


In 1981, 240 factory workers in Greenock, Scotland, staged a sit-in in protest against plans to move the factory to Northern Ireland. What was planned as a one-night protest continued for 7 months.[9] As of 2005, Lee Jeans have been manufactured by Arvind Mills in a number of small factories in Chamarajanagar, India. Around the world, about 60,000 workers produce 5,000 pairs of jeans a day.[10]


Within the United States, the company spends more than $40 million per year on advertising. In 2009, Olson was appointed as the lead interactive agency for the American brand and redesigned their website. Barkley Inc. had previously handled interactive advertising for the brand. Arnold Worldwide continues to provide offline advertising services for the brand.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "VF Corporation Completes Separation of Kontoor Brands, Inc". VF Corporation.
  2. ^ City, Kansas (July 7, 2003). "Lee Jeans parent will buy Nautica in $586M deal".
  3. ^ "Lee Through the Years". Lee. Retrieved March 7, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c "Lee History". Lee.com.
  5. ^ http://www.finz.co.nz/news%20-%20business%20-%20Yakka%20part%20of%20Pacific%20Brands%20-%2013%20April%202007.php
  6. ^ "Kansas State Historical Society". kshs.org. Archived from the original on 2009-08-21. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  7. ^ "Lee National Denim Day". denimday.com. Archived from the original on 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  8. ^ "Women's Cancer Programs". EIF.
  9. ^ I thought one-night demo would save our jobs.. seven months later we were still there; Lee jeans shop steward tells of sit-in to save jobs Daily Record (Scotland) March 8, 2005
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-21. Retrieved 2009-06-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/account-activity/e3i859557a801e205467f722f01fcc1f441 Lee Jeans Taps Olson for Interactive Adweek March 5, 2009

Further reading[edit]

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