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Aug 24, 2012

Vintage L.L. Bean Fashion Inspiration!



Readers, would you guess these men were dressed by designer Junya Watanabe of Comme des Garçons for the Paris Fall 2012 Mens Fashion Show?



They look like something out of Road to Utopia.





This Urban Lumberjack look has been around a while and it's quite popular in New York, a city not exactly teeming with lumber.  You see its influence today at the Gap and Barneys and everything in between.



Watanabe duck boot -- $525.

Even I have succumbed once in a while...


Last week I picked up a vintage 1960 L.L. Bean catalog on eBay and I wanted to share it with you.  It's a real inspiration to me, as an on-again/off-again fan of this look.  I especially love the Made in the USA authenticity -- and those 1960 prices.



















There's some great stuff in this old catalog and I'd wear most of it.  There's even some clothing for women -- weirdly, almost identical to the menswear.

You can view an entire folder of photos from my 1960 L.L. Bean catalog here.

It's interesting to me how many of these garments were originally intended for hunters and other outdoorsmen and constructed to meet their particular needs, while today your more likely to see this look on bearded hipsters swigging fair trade Guatemalan coffee in Greenpoint.  Hey, nothing wrong with that!

In closing, readers, is the L.L. Bean aesthetic one you like, for yourself or for your man?  Does it look fresh and fun or painfully contrived (especially at out-of-reach-for-most, designer prices)?

Any buffalo plaid wool coats or flannel shirts in your future?

Enjoy the photos and have a great day, everybody!

28 comments:

  1. I love the look the way my grandfather wore it- but he more likely shopped at Spag's than LLBean. Or it was sewn by my grandmother. Even better!

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  2. The backpacks with lifetime guarantees? Honestly, we can't afford LL Bean around here...

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  3. I grew up with a bearded dad who wore Pendleton overshirts (which I stole once the grunge era hit) and Redwing Irish Setter boots, and had the hiking and camping chops to deserve them. He did the fieldwork for his Ph.D. dissertation in the upper peninsula of Michigan . . . in the winter. No joke. I am a committed fan of the outdoorsman look, and I deeply resent that it can't be worn now by younger men without everybody thinking they're hipsters.

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  4. They look like Bob and Doug McKenzie, the characters in Great White North...The model with the suspenders looks particularly bad if you ask me.

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  5. My dad is finally going to be in style with his too big jeans and suspenders and flannel shirts! He's an engineer, though, so this look is usually accessorized with a pocket protector and New Balance walking sneakers.

    Also, I love that LL Bean still uses the same font 50+ years later!

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  6. You look like you live in Seattle. All you need to finish the look is a biodegradable cup full of Starbucks coffee in one hand.

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  7. Reminds me of living in the Ozark Mountains....

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  8. Back in 1981/82 I remember wearing those duck boots, but they were the more shoe version. I also remember dressing a tiny bit like L.L. Bean, since I lived in Humboldt County in the far north of California. It is rainy and very cold most of the time up there, so those garments really fit in. I however rebelled while there and tried to dress more urban. Some days the duck boots won out though I must say! Ah the college days. I'm actually heading up there this weekend, and I must admit, I'm feeling like you did when you went for your trip to the sea shore. I'll snap a few photos of the L.L. Bean hippies on the north coast, and hopefully post them on my blog.

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  9. I now live in Maine (close to the flagship store which is open 24 hours and is a tourist mecca). I find the rugged Bean look a lot more appealing here than when worn on clean-shaven dudes with fancy bikes in the big cities, where to me, it just looks fake and contrived - sort of like pairing Ugg boots with shorts in a beach city. I love it when my husband dons a flannel shirt and Bean boots - and actually carries firewood :-)

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  10. When did fit go out of style? These runway models look like they dug these clothes out of a dumpster. If I saw someone wearing these looks on the street I would assume he was mentally ill.

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    1. I had the same reaction - what is it with catwalk fashion that the clothes don't seem to fit properly? It is nice to see a bushy beard though - maybe the ill-fitting suit is a deliberate "I don't normally wear a suit and I feel uncomfortable in one" ploy?

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    2. I think the runway models look fantastic. Then again, I am into high-fashion and it is an acquired taste

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  11. We've always had this type of clothes in our closet for working around the yard, actually collecting and chopping wood (our main heat source), or going mud bogging on the trikes and quads in the back brush. This was normal wear for my Dad.

    I never really considered myself a hick until I wrote that. Cripes.

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  12. The vintage Bean look is great - the modern one not so much. Just look at their catalogs. Boring, conservative colors.

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  13. I like the look if it's done in moderation. If a city guy wears every piece of clothing of this type, it looks like he's in costume and on his way to a film set.

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  14. "There's even some clothing for women -- weirdly, almost identical to the menswear."
    No, not 'weirdly.' It was almost identical to the menswear because it was worn by women doing the same things as men - outdoor work, genuine backwoods hiking, etc.
    I grew up in Oregon; this was normal clothing during the winter. Altho even 50 years ago, Bean prices were a little steep for a lot of people.
    I still like the look, for me and my husband. It hasn't "gone out of style" because it was/is *beyond* style. Clothes designed to the work you're doing when you're wearing them.
    What surprises me, looking at the two catalogs, is that the prices should have gone up so dramatically, when production has moved offshore. My parents did buy LLBean (well, Dad was from New Hampshire, what do you expect) but I don't, because, in addition to not being able to afford their wares, I'm offended that they can go on nattering about life in the Great North Woods while selling stuff made in offshore sweatshops.

    Sandy in TX

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    1. Not all their stuff is made overseas - their iconic booth is still made in Maine as are their famous canvas bags. I wish more of their stuff was made here though, absolutely. But ulitmately it seems as if Americans (like other Western nations) care more about the price and branding rather than the origin of their clothes.

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    2. I'm from nearby the "flagship" store, so excuse me for being an LL apologist. I agree with Mad Maine Vintage- they have videos of their local factories online (though too much is still made offshore).

      However, part of the pricing is to offset their guarantee. They totally mean it- I take stuff back to them all of the time. Most recently, a 3-year-old raincoat started to fall apart, and I got a full refund.

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    3. price > where clothes are made. I used to manage for Levi Strauss, and I can tell you that none of Levi's 501s made in USA ($200) were any different than their 501s made overseas ($40).
      The 'Made in USA' "quality" is no different for nearly any company, and those to think it is are fools and naive. Give me a hefty price-cut, and I'll buy American, but corporations are far too greedy to do that.

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  15. We wore the flannels and buffalo check coats in cool/cold weather when I was a kid. My father even sported red suspenders. However, we would have bought our clothes at Penney's, Sears, or "Monkey" Wards. Bean's would have been too expensive.

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  16. I'm not sure this look has ever went out of style per se, as many of these clothes can have very utilitarian functions. In the one picture with the corduroy jacket, you can see the price of $29.60, shipping including, which equals out to about $215 and some change today. That's still pretty pricey, though I think it could be argued that if the item were still made to the same quality they were in the 1960's it is actually a reasonable price.


    I have only purchased one thing from LL Bean in my life, which is a book bag/backpack that I bough about 9 years ago when I was in middle school. Well, in actuality, I'm sure my parents paid for most, if not all, of it. However, it is still in prime condition and I am going to use it as my carry on for a flight this weekend. It may look a bit dorky, but I like my hands free when I'm running through an airport to make a flight. So, moral of the story, LL Bean books bags are some pretty great things. :]

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  17. A lot of the older generation men of my family had this type of gear for outdoor work. It had nothing to do with style. It was functional.

    The wool was warm and durable and the red plaid served a purpose when they would hunt (of which I’m not a fan unless it’s for true survival). Supposedly, deer see red as grey and the plaid breaks up the human form, providing a form of camouflage. Not sure why lumberjacks need camo, but maybe the plaid shirts were the warmest, most durable clothing around.

    The boots were needed to keep the feet warm and dry. When we have severe weather, I wear this type of thing and don’t care how I look.

    LL Bean would have been very expensive. I have just one item from LL Bean, a sweater that was expensive, but it has lasted many, many years.

    On guys in the city sipping latte’s, a plaid shirt and jeans are fine, but the whole ensemble looks like a costume, imho.

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  18. Having lived most of my life in Seattle it's a look that never went away. I remember when grunge suddenly became fashionable and people were amused to find themselves on trend. Even going to a private high school a guy was teased about his $70 flannel shirt. Going high end and designer completely went against the spirit of the look. That said when living in Miami I immediately knew it was a no go as a look. I think it really depends on the city if the look appears natural or a bit contrived. I am looking forward to fall so I can wear the red buffalo check tunic I'm finishing up!

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  19. What it looks to me like is "I am yet another designer completely out of inspiration so I will shamelessly glom onto the coattails of a look that has already been exploited as a 'fashion trend'and is now ripe for 'exploitation go-round' number two".

    I also agree that the way the models look in their absurd and ill-fitting clothing does resemble the way a mentally ill street person dresses; in fact,anyone who would actually pay hundreds of dollars for clothing like this would definitely have to have "a screw loose", so maybe this look is fitting in its way!

    I also find it somewhat offensive that good, honest, practical outdoor clothing has been appropriated and turned into a 'fashion trend" by city slickers who wouldn't even know how to use a match, much less be able to chop a piece of kindling!

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  20. I'm a big fan of Scotch & Soda's take on the urban lumberjack which seemed to be out in full force last fall/winter. The thing is that here in Ontario, Canada I sometimes trek out into 2 feet of snow in heavy boots and jackets, so it sort of fits. It's nice to have a bit more of a refined and fitted way of wearing that gear.

    I scooped up a great vintage plaid jacket recently for $10. I love it and I haven't even had a chance to wear it yet.

    I'll agree with those above that the models looks kinda dorky in the stuff that just hangs and bunches off of their figure, and I'm never a fan of clashing colours. It looks to me like they're just trying too hard, like the clothes are wearing them and not the other way around.

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  21. I’m sure there is an Aussie equivalent to LL Bean, but I’m out of the age and fashion demographic to know it offhand. I am, however, in the demographic where my partner says plaintively that he can’t find hard wearing cotton flannelette shirts that he can afford. The cheap ones are a) too skimpy in the belly and too short in the arms (he’s more obviously than most PhDs descended from gorillas) b) wear through in weeks (he skis, turns wood, fixes roofs etc, so gives shirts a fair old work out) and c) most likely made in sweatshops. So yes he wears this type of stuff, made to measure by his very own costumer. I’m just about to start on a shirt made out of flannelette sheeting, which seems to be more robust than clothing cotton flannelette and because much wider is overall a bargain. Me? I like to look at trees and snow through a window, so wood person wear is not for me. (Well I did make a cotton flannelette nighty in a faux tartan bought because it made me think of my school uniform. I wear it smug in the knowledge that I will never again have to attend an assembly and have my skirt length measured to ensure that it meet regulations.)

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  22. No one has ever accused me of being stylish but I LOVE LL Bean!! - and have for about the last 30 years lol. Their clothes are comfortable, classic and usually of high quality (although not as high as they used to be) It cracks me up that NYC hipsters are adopting this "look" - although the models in the Paris fashion show above look absolutely ridiculous.

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  23. My boyfriend adores plaid! He does spend a lot of time in the bush, and a good spring-fall jacket for the bushman generally only comes in varieties of plaid and... safety orange. He'd be right at home wearing classic LL Bean. I've tried to get him into more modern plaids, but he's picky.

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