Open Letter: in which I terminate a 20+ year relationship

Dear Lee Jeans:

I discovered “Relaxed Riders” back in graduate school. Up until that point, shopping for jeans was a nightmare of multiple sizes and styles, me heading into the changing room with armloads of jeans while I tried to find something, anything, that would fit. But one day I pulled on the Relaxed Riders, and they were perfect.  Lee knew I had hips. Lee knew I had a butt. Perfect.

From then on, whenever I wanted jeans, I went to the shelf, pulled out my size, paid, and went home. No try-ons. Always perfect.

I changed sizes a few times due to having five babies (up, down, up, way down, back to normal) but nothing changed. Every couple of years the old ones wore out and I’d replace them, but I have been brand-loyal for two decades.

Last year, I had to replace two pairs of jeans, and the new ones wore out within six months. The inseams pulled apart, and so help me, the denim got pilled. One of the belt loops pulled out of the waist (and I never wear a belt.)

What was going on? Had you changed my favorite jeans? Made the fabric thinner? Decided to sew the seams with lousy thread? No! Say it isn’t so!

Ah, but it is so, because I still have some of your jeans from back before I got married (never in high rotation because of their colors) as well as a pair from three pregnancies ago (will I ever fit in them again?) and guess what? Those seams are double-stitched.

The current jeans? Single-stitched.

So not only have you made the fabric thinner, but you’ve also eliminated the reinforcing on the part of the pants which gets the most wear.

Did you lower the price now that you’re saving money by using crap materials? Hahahaha, no, of course not. You just expect me to buy new jeans every few months. You have invented disposable pants.

I tried one more pair, three months ago. It had cute studs on the back pockets, and I thought maybe it woudl be stronger. Nope. The studs started falling off the next week (they’re all gone now) and the fabric is pilled (since when does denim pill?) and the inner seams are pulling apart.

Last week, I was putting away my husband’s jeans when I saw how sturdy they were, and I missed the good old days, the days when I could rely on you.

I checked the brand name. LL Bean.

I went to their website. The same price as your jeans, but with a lifetime guarantee. Two pairs were at my door in three days. They’re double-stitched and the denim is thick. They fit great.

Goodbye, Lee Jeans. I hate to go, but I’m not buying your disposable pants.




  1. Lorraine E. Castro

    Loved your post! Walmart is responsible for lots of the inferior products we’re seeing now. My sweetheart has a western store and his Wrangler and Levi products cost more than they do at Walmart because, guess what, those products are sewen with less stitches, cheaper materials etc. The demand for cheap products has resulted in cheaply made products. Good for you for taking a stand against this!

  2. Normandie

    I’ve had to do that with Lands End, which used to make jeans/pants to fit. I’d send my measurements, they’d make the jeans. Loved them. Now they don’t even sell tall in the ones I like. Sad. Very, very sad. We’ve also always bought turtle necks from them. What’s this odd fabric in the new ones I just bought? What’s going on with that fit? Someone’s outsourcing and it’s not working out well for us, is it?

    1. Pat

      Lands’ End, which I used to love, was bought out by Sears several years ago and promptly went down the sewer. Very sad. It is getting harder and harder to get good stuff.

  3. Mary Nicewarner

    I have noticed this too and it frustrates me to no end! I feel like I’m always buying jeans (and my tops don’t last either) while my husband rarely has to replace his. Same with my daughter’s clothes 🙁

  4. cricketB

    It used to depend on the store. Mom always bought at the middle-to-pricy stores, at least by the time I was old enough to analyze her shopping habits, and I always felt guilty for blindly doing the same.

    So, with my first kid I went to the pricy store a few times, then decided to try the cheap store. Same brand of diaper shirts (Baby’s Own), for two dollars less. Proud Mommy, for breaking out of the generation-long habit of spending without researching.

    Once home, I realized they were thinner material and had only one set of snaps. The good ones had a second set so they fit twice as long.

    Now, though? You can’t rely on price or brand. You can’t save time by ignoring a brand, either, since other stores might have a better line. Sometimes you can rely on the store.

    Sometimes what you lose is intangible. If you buy a Yamaha keyboard from a good music store, you get a great warranty. The same keyboard from Walmart has one more letter on the product code and no warranty.

    Sigh. Too much choice.

    (PS I almost cried when the local Tabbi closed, but have rediscovered Northern Reflections. Most pants, I fit from hips down, then take to the tailor to take in the back of the waist and shorten. Yep, lazy, but if I’m already there… NR fit me off the rack, except for length.)