LL Bean - Christmas 1984 Catalog

adoucett

Super Member
Since the Brooks Brothers 1947 Catalog was so well received here, I wanted to share another Christmas Catalog I have scanned myself and uploaded for you all to enjoy. I have provided some commentary on a select few of the items, but would be very interested to hear your thoughts, especially from those of you who were alive when this came out!



Original Article

It’s just before Christmas in 1984, and like clockwork, the Bean boots are brought down from their summer stay in the attic, sweaters unpacked from 25 gallon Rubbermaid tubs, and LL Bean needlepoint stockings are hung from the mantle. You’ve got the Footloose soundtrack playing on your Sanyo stereo dual tape cassette player, and a humming away in the home office.

A lot has changed both technologically and stylistically in the past 32 years, however thumbing through this catalog, you will find yourself perhaps even more surprised, by what hasn’t.


L.L. Bean had become a household name, and provider of all things warm and cozy, from sleeping bags, to fair isle sweaters, and the ubiquitous LL Bean parka. While snowboarding wouldn’t become an Olympic sport for another 14 years, skiing and snowboarding were steadily becoming more integrated into pop culture. As part of our Christmas lineup, we are delighted to share with you this Winter catalog from LL Bean, which carries on a 100+ year tradition of outdoor offerings and cold weather essentials.


To convert from 1984 prices to 2016 prices, multiply by 2.3


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Jackets, Vests and Shirts

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The LL Bean “Boat and Tote” bag is about as identifiable as the brand itself – and a favorite to have monogrammed.
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These puffy vests (Back to the Future, anyone?) were a very 80s style that might be seeing a comeback in more recent times. The Anorak jacket (with large front-center pocket) is also a classic item that had massive popularity in the prep world.



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The LL Bean Norwegian sweater is one of Bean’s most iconic items. The classic version was made from 20% rayon and 80% wool (now revered to as the 80/20) and was prominently featured in the 1980 best seller “The Official Preppy Handbook” by Lisa Birnbach.
LL Bean revived this item to their modern lineup, still made in Norway (except now 100% wool), and is one of their warmest sweater offerings. This is one item we sure are glad hasn’t changed all that much, and is certainly a contender for the LL Bean Hall of Fame.


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So much good stuff on one page… This dates back to when LL Bean still sold Patagonia products in their stores (now one of their biggest competitors, go figure!). The LL bean lined chinos, corduroys, and jeans are still a winter staple sold in stores today.


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Along with alpine skiing, Cross Country skiing saw a jump in popularity through the 80s and 90s as new technology made skis lighter and faster. Bill Koch, a nordic skier from Vermont, brought attention to the sport after becoming the first American to ever medal in the FIS World Championships in 1982. Bean still sells plenty of ski gear today, including full sets of skis, poles, bindings, and plenty of clothes to accompany them.



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Patents for Gore-Tex, the breathable yet waterproof fabric that outdoor enthusiasts have learned to love, were only issued in 1980 to founders Wilbert and Robert Gore, who were chemical engineers from Delaware. Gore-Tex came onto the scene as the new standard for waterproof tech fabrics, and has been widely used ever since by dozens of brands for rain jackets, ski apparel, windbreakers, and of course, snow pants.
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These turtlenecks are a remnant of 70s style. The heavy, tight neck would fall out of favor for a lighter, wider neck in later years.
The modern version of the crewneck finds a balance between these two approaches, with a snug fit neck that errs on the thinner side.


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These Pendleton wool shirts and robes were up to the challenge of keeping you warm even through cold New England nights.
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The crewneck Shetland wool sweater is a perennial classic, and has been continually sold by Bean for generations. This years offerings bring back the same grey, oatmeal, navy, and red were offered, in ever so slightly different shades to keep up with the color palate of 2016. While these were made in the British Isles, modern day versions are made in China.

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Women’s Outerwear and Shirts


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If the models look a little…well….odd….that’s because LL Bean used their own employees as catalog models for decades in lieu of professional modeling staff.



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Boots and Footwear

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Now this is really cool (if you are a Bean Boot fan, that is); the Bean Boot mocs (for women at least) were offered in a choice of 4 colors.


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It’s impossible to talk about LL Bean without talking about the classic Bean Boot and Maine Hunting Shoe. These are still made in Maine workshops by skilled craftsman to provide a level of quality that is hard to match. The lined insoles here provide a tad more warmth and comfort, and are a product still carried today.

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The camp moc is another LL Bean favorite in the footwear department, and stylistically almost nothing whatsoever has changed between the 1984 version and the 2016 version; The definition of a classic.


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Ski Gear
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Smith Optics is still one of the largest players in the ski goggle game. Those rose colored lenses are also distinctly 80s
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Home Goods and Accessories

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Here we see L.L. Bean’s field watch in collaboration with Hamilton. Hamilton worked with Bean on many collaborations including a chronograph and quartz options. The one pictured here is based on a quartz movement that is today still very popular among Hamilton collectors. The LL Bean book pack has also barely changed in well over 30 years.




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A warm place for puppers and doggos alike

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Here’s something you won’t see in the 2016 LL Bean Christmas catalog, fresh apples from Maine, shipped by mail. The waxed wood carrier can still be found in catalogs today, with a few updates to the design.


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The Victorinox Swiss Army Pocket Knife is still sold by LL Bean to this day and is a popular stocking stuffer.

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More Patagonia x LL Bean garb. These warm-up suits look real warm.
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I would be overcome with joy if Bean brought back these wool tartan slacks.

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The old Federal Express logo (the modern FedEx version didn’t debut until 1994).


For more vintage catalogs, visit Our Archives.
 
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Front Porch Life

New Member
Oh to have those prices again! I scored a scarlet red LLB rag wool sweater just like the one shown here for a mere $10 on evay. I never did anything more right. Looking at these makes us realize how even LLB'S quality has declined since the heydays, if you will.

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Southwick

New Member
Fantastic. Just wonderful. Not only was I around in 1984, I did pretty much all of my Christmas shopping from this very catalog. The prices may seem low by today's standards, but the Bean image was of substantial quality at above department store prices.

I also have to comment on the sourcing of the products. If not made in USA, the items were made in GB or Ireland or some other country traditionally known for a particular product.

Plus, using the crew neck sweaters as an example, today's quality is somewhat inferior, as are the the style features. Best example is the saddle shoulders, also seen on vnecks and cardigans, which are all but vanished today.

As much as I loved your posting of the Brooks catalog, I think I enjoy this more, because of the great memories it evoked. Thank you for a great early Christmas present.


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Elmer Zilch

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
1984, just a smidge past the peak of the Bean-mania that crested after the OPH. Scotch plaid shirts delightfully free of button-down collars. No logos on the parkas. Nothing (probably) made in China. I was in college at the time and had 10 or 12 things from this catalog, although $136 for a cashmere sweater would have seemed crazily extravagant to me then.
 
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Danny

Super Member
I love it! The saddle oxfords would be nice to have back. I got a similar [the same?] pair of those from Bean in the 90s and wore them til they fell apart [which took many years]. They were so comfortable. I think I resoled them 4 times.

This is just before my earliest memories of the Bean catalog. First ones I would have seen as a child would be like 1987, 1988, sometime around then.

I save a Bean catalog every year or two just to be able to go back and look at it years later like this...but I have not seen complete ones of this vintage.

Anyway, this is so great, I love looking through these. Thanks adoucett!

Interesting that the price on the rugby shirts is pretty high [compared to the other items here].

I am curious when Bean would have started labeling things 'imported' or 'USA'. My guess is sometime in the mid-late 90s. Back in the 80s it would have just been assumed everything was USA made...or nobody was concerned about it anyway [because most items were domestic] so it did not need to be stated where an item was made.
 

Danny

Super Member
Though I do not have first-hand experience buying new Bean items before the late 80s...I might beg to differ re: the quality going down from the old days. It's my understanding that Bean has always been a solid 'mid quality' retailer.

They do still offer saddle shoulders on the lambswool cardigans....AFAIK. [I think this feature is a bit of a straw-man metric for quality anyway. For example, J Press has never had saddle shoulders on the Shaggy Dogs. They are still good sweaters.]

They do not, nor have they ever, made the majority of their items. They are an excellent curator and commissioner of other manufacturers' goods. The book 'In Search of LL Bean' is very informative regarding this subject. They always considered the return policy to be the ultimate arbiter of an item's value/quality. They expect to have things returned.

Anyway, I still find plenty of things to love about LL Bean. Long live Bean!
 
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LIer

New Member
Those were college days for me, too. Always coveted the Maine hunting shoe, but never got a pair. Maybe one day...

More interesting, though, is that old essential, the Regular Chino Pant, in a blend of 65 poly/35 cotton. How we howl for 100% cotton today. And only in khaki and navy! But wait, available in waist sizes down to 26. 26?! It's a rare company that offers anything below a 30 these days; many start at 32. What a sad commentary that alone is as to the state of America's health and fitness.

Ahh, I now see that it is one cut for both men and women, hence the smaller waist sizes. But I believe my previous point still stands...

Thanks for an interesting read, Adoucett.
 

adoucett

Super Member
Thanks for all the complements, for those who enjoyed these, I have good news, there are more coming! Next up is a 1979 Orvis Catalog. I didn't even realize until now this marked my 1,000th post here, but I'm glad I got to pass that milestone with a quality submission.


Getting insights from the experts (I defer to you here) is so helpful in both contextualizing the products in their original era, but also tracking changes in the styling and manufacturing processes which is one of the main reasons I'm interested in the older catalogs. I'm especially interested in tracking the different "trends" that drove consumer wants (such as the Official Preppy Handbook phase of the 80s) which are not so well documented online.
 

greyflannel

New Member
bought my first pair of Bluchers in 1982 with after school job money- wish they were the same quality now. Looking at this catalog- they were a pretty penny when the wages for us kids were 3.35/hr.
 

katon

Super Member
Since the Brooks Brothers 1947 Catalog was so well received here, I wanted to share another Christmas Catalog I have scanned myself and uploaded for you all to enjoy.


Amazing! Thank you.



You can still get those raccoon knit driving gloves today through Newberry Knitting, although it looks like they only sell the plain variety that used to be at Brooks Brothers rather than the cabled L.L. Bean version.



Was anyone other than Dickies making all those tunnel-loop khakis? I think that L.L. Bean was sourcing them through Dickies, but some of the more unique ones, like the flannel lined and corduroy versions I've never seen anywhere else but in L.L. Bean catalogs. For whatever reason, I always associated L.L. Bean style khakis with the double rear flap pockets, though, like on their dress chino rather than with Dickies-style belt loops. I guess the two house styles existed at the same time?



I notice there's no Patagonia purple -- L.L. Bean putting their foot down? :)



Classic Bean recycling! Take the top halves of an old model of Duofold underwear, give them a new name and some custom twists, then market them as a Bean outerwear original. :)



Interesting to see the two sides of Chinese experimentation -- on the one, heading to China intentionally for the quality of the silk, on the other, heading to Chinese quietly for the cheapness of the hand-knitting.




Columbiaknit would occasionally offer a tan collar rugby shirt in their factory store, but I don't think they do anymore... I guess the number of people hunting for Bean replacements of that particular style slowly dried up.
 
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Danny

Super Member




Columbiaknit would occasionally offer a tan collar rugby shirt in their factory store, but I don't think they do anymore... I guess the number of people hunting for Bean replacements of that particular style slowly dried up.[/FONT]

I have very faint memories of people wearing these tan collar rugbys back in the day. It is interesting. What is the source of this shirt style? I know perhaps it comes from rugby-wear itself...but the casual 'rugby shirt' is basically its own thing. Did it exist in this way [two rubber buttons, elastic cuffs, heavy fabric, etc] prior to the 1980s?
 

katon

Super Member
I have very faint memories of people wearing these tan collar rugbys back in the day. It is interesting. What is the source of this shirt style? I know perhaps it comes from rugby-wear itself...but the casual 'rugby shirt' is basically its own thing. Did it exist in this way [two rubber buttons, elastic cuffs, heavy fabric, etc] prior to the 1980s?

According to Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, the trend started in the 70s (he takes credit for it himself, naturally):

In the late sixties men did not wear bright, colorful clothes. "Active sportswear" consisted of your basic gray sweatshirt and pants, and the standard issue for climbing in Yosemite was tan cutoff chinos and white dress shirts bought from the thrift store. Then, on a winter climbing trip to Scotland in 1970, I bought myself a regulation team rugby shirt to wear, thinking it would make a great shirt for rock climbing. Overbuilt to withstand the rigors of rugby, it had a collar that would keep the hardware slings from cutting into my neck.

He also tells the more general story, too.

The rugby shirts had become a burgeoning underground fashion in the mountain shops... Originally they had found unexpected growth from the college fad of wearing Vibram-soled mountain boots to class and down jackets around the city.
 

greyflannel

New Member
In the mid 80's the best rugby shirts IMHO were from Lands' End. I had both LLB and LE and both style and quality were better with LE. I still have a few LE- although fitting into them is just a memory..........
 

ouinon

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
How wonderful! Thanks for scanning and sharing your commentary. I love that the models are regular employees -- adds a bit of charm I think.

Warm wool underwear "made in England where central heating is a rarity" might be my favourite bit of copy.

I wasn't around back when this catalogue was issued, but it is enjoyable to pick out items nearly identical to ones I've bought in this century.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
What a wonderful trip down memory lane. I very possibly shopped from that original catalogue, LOL, and as was mentioned by other posters earlier in this thread, I sure do miss those prices! Thanks for posting this.
 
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