LL Bean – Fall 1983
You could say 1983 is the year the 80s really started coming into its own.
Toto, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, and The Police were putting out #1 hits, while Return of the Jedi graces theater screens. East and West Germany aren’t on speaking terms. Nonetheless, LL Bean is in its 71st year of business, and is the de facto source for boots, flannels, corduroys, and outdoor gear.
The Official Preppy Handbook was now in it’s third year of publication, and its effects echoed through the production floors of Bean’s workshops in Freeport, Maine. L.L.Bean’s signature duck boots were in higher demand than ever before, and they were ready to ride the prep wave to one of their most successful years in company history. This wasn’t your father’s Bean of hunting ready chamois cloth and trapping equipment, but an 80s craze of gum shoes and Norwegian sweaters. A pivotal time in company history that set them up for the next 30 years of supplying the “weekend warriors” of camping, the OCBDs of 80s office desk jockeys, and the footwear of many a college freshman.
Were you around for this catalog arriving in the mailbox? See anything we missed? Let us know in the comments
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To convert to 2016 prices, multiply by 2.42
You know it’s the 80s when boldly colored turtlenecks made the front page.
The LL Bean flannel-lined jeans are still a winter staple over 30 years later.
Seen here is the “80/20” Norwegian, regarded to be the pinnacle of sweater technology. These sweaters made in Norway are warm, thick, and practically indestructible.
The trail model vests aren’t cut as slim as they are today but otherwise look identical to popular puff vests seen across college campuses everywhere.
Here we see something quite interesting, shirts from Patagonia, which was founded in 1973. At 10 years old, perhaps the now outdoor giant was small enough that they didn’t have their own distribution chain of stores, and instead relied on being sold through places like LL Bean and local hiking shops. Fast forward to 2016 and Patagonia is probably one of LL Bean’s largest competitors in the outdoor clothing space. How times have changed!
The Baxer State Parka is still at the forefront of LL Bean’s winter offerings, although the style has been slightly updated for smoother lines, more technical fabrics, and a more modern color pallet.
The Shetland crew-neck sweater is a real classic that has been adopted by preps for a good reason. The colorful corduroys (sans pleats!) pair well for a lived-in Fall look.
This model sums up 1980s office style fairly well.
A version of this same Tartan dress is currently offered in the LL Bean “Signature” line.
Men’s and women’s shirts were nearly identical, offering the same oxford cloth construction and button-down collars- a testament to the androgynous nature of 1980s prep.
I’m fairly certain that Hillary Clinton wore this jacket at a recent presidential debate.
Pre-internet, payments were made by mail or phone. The catalog WAS the website, so detailed descriptions and photos of every product offered was key to LL Bean’s success.
The styling of these handswen beefroll and tussled loafers hasn’t changed one bit, although it’s likely quality was a notch higher.
Those New Balance hiking shoes might be as 80s as you can get. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if they show up in a J.Crew catalog in the next 4 years as a wave of 80s nostalgia returns.
The venerable Bean Boot- offered in 4 different sizes, hasn’t really changed much at all in the past 30 years. Still made in the USA in Maine workshops, still as popular as ever on college campuses across the country.
LL mean mechanical field watches by Hamilton – offered on NATO straps. Seriously cool.
These Adirondack chairs graced more than a few family cabin retreats.
The colorful tote-bag is more or less synonymous with LL Bean, monogrammed to the owner’s liking and taken boating (packed with towels and snacks), to concerts at Tanglewood (with the corresponding picnic basket, of course), and anywhere else a family might venture.
More Patagonia, this time in the form of jackets. Before Patagonia and outdoor chic exploded in popularity, the brand was much relegated to the hardcore climbers and outdoors set. Polartec fleece had only been invented 4 years prior in 1979, and as evidenced by this catalog, hadn’t made its way into the mainstream yet.
The Anorak jacket is another item with a nearly cult-like following, which appeared in books like “Ivy Style” as the go-to rain jacket for college-aged folks.
I’ll let these shorts speak for themselves.
The LL Bean flannels are still a key item in the Fall/Winter lineup today, and the styling has remained more or less consistent as well, with many of the same tartan patterns offered year after year.
Lastly, the LL Bean backpack, still in high demand, was known all to well by kids waiting to hop in a yellow school bus in the morning, since the damn things lasted all twelve years of K-12, and were used for shuttling (unread) textbooks home for Winter break through college .
For more vintage catalogs, visit The Archives