Update: The LL Bean Suede Field Coat was too big for me is now on Ebay for 1p!
I used to post a regular feature called “What’s The Weejun been buying on eBay?” but in the last six months or so I’ve tried to steer clear of the obsession that trawling ebay can become. Sometimes, however things get the better of me.
Yesterday an LL Bean catalogue landed on my doorstep at Weejun Towers and after a cursory flick through, it ended up where they all end up these days – in the paper recycling box. Unlike days or yore (not that long ago either) there’s simply nothing to hold the interest.
It was always like that, so I went to the macbook and searched ‘Vintage LL Bean’ on eBay. A few pages of tat and distressed and grubby duck boots and then suddenly not one but two items that caught my eye, both vintage versions of the legendary Bean Field Jacket.
I last had on 20 years or so ago, and they were still fantastic. Iron hard dark tan cotton cavas duck with fir gree corduroy trim and a choice of button in or fixed wool linings. Bean would have you believe that they still sell the same jacket today, but having seen one in the flesh a few week ago (John Rushton bought one in US) they’ve fallen foul of that most 90s disease ‘garment washed for your comfort’. In other words artificially shortened lifespan resulting in fluffy lifeless clothing.
The LL Bean signature range that promised so much has also been a real disappointment. Mini collars, overly skinny cuts, two button jackets where they should be three, and so on. Everything ‘heritage, but we thought we’d screw it up for 2009 fashion’ (they are never current year fashion anyway!). I had noticed their cordurory car coat but there was something inherently wrong with the cut of it. The models on the signature pages all look extremely uncomfortable wearing these pieces.
Maybe I found what this jacket was based on? This is a 1960s (judging from the cursive LL Bean script) variation on the field jacket meets campus car coat. Wonderful red wool lining that is tabbed to keep clear of the cloth shell and deep dark chocolate cord with big safari style patch pockets and football buttons. Marked as a 40 it may well be a tad tiny for me in which case it will have to find another home, but I had visions of well used vintage Levis, Sero blue button down and a pair of soft desert boots giving a classic 1965 collegiate look.
The next piece is a little bit special. Based on the properly vintage LL Bean Field Coat cut that is snug to the shoulders and a spread collar, is this version in cowhide. It’s harder to date because the logo looks modern, but the cut and materials label are definitely old. Perhaps it’s an early 1970s hangover from the early models, before lifestyle clothing crept into their catalogue? Made in heavy suede cowhide with a pine green wool lining and beige cord collar this is a real find in this condition.
The WPL number relates to Slater and Sons of San Francisco, otherwise known as ‘Golden Bear’ (nothing to do with the Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear of course), the once great jacket maker who used to make suede G9 models and A2s for Bean.
This item wasn’t that cheap but I thought the condition warranted it and although marked 40 as well, the dimensions given were bigger and looks like it should definitely fit.
Both of these pieces remind me of why Bean was such a great company for so long. It’s not impossible for it to regain some of that stature – last year’s corduroy 3 button ivy jackets were amazing to turn up their Mumsy catalogue – but their pursuit of plastic non iron shirts and plastic looking loafers is a real shame.
Update 7th April 2011 : The cord jacket arrived a few days ago (and being cord with wool lining was immediately dispatched to the freezer for 72 hours to kill off any looming moth larvae). Great jacket and a perfect fit, rare enough as anyone knows who buys from eBay. The WPL no 6635 shows the jacket was made by Woolrich, so more good provenance there.
Can’t report on the suede jacket bought the same day. Despite me paying instantly and opting for the more expensive priority shipping, the seller took two and a half weeks to dispatch. When I contacted her to ask where it was she said ‘oh, I thought I’d sent it’ – as in ‘yeah whatever’.
I almost never leave negative feedback on eBay but I do feel one looming here…