I thought I’d found a vintage LL Bean catalog at the Goodwill last week, but a closer look revealed something a bit strange. A hound wearing a bra? Now that’s one product I’m pretty sure I’d never seen at LL Bean.
And I was right. This is not a catalog at all, but rather, is a parody of the famous Bean book. The early 1980s were good years for LL Bean. The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach had been published in 1980, and suddenly everyone, even those who could not even name an elite prep school, was wearing chinos and duck shoes. It must have been a very happy surprise for LL Bean, as they had been selling those products for years.
Items from Our Catalog, and its sequel, More Items from Our Catalog had a lot of fun making light of LL Bean. I guess not everyone was sold on the idea of actually appropriating prep style. Perhaps it was more fun to make fun of it. So sit back and enjoy how Alfred Gingold reimagined the world of the preppy.
The first photo in each set is from my 1977 LL Bean catalog, and the second one is from Items from Our Catalog.
Bean’s Links-Knit Cardigan became…
the Como (as in Perry, I assume) Sweater. Note the range of sizes.
The Bush Coat was a big seller among the LL Bean big game hunters.
The Our Catalog Bush Jackets were infinitely more creative.
Everyone need a drawer full of LL Bean turtlenecks in five different colors.
But how much more fun were the Invisible Print Turtlenecks of Our Catalog? “An extraordinarily tasteful item that can not possibly offend anyone.”
Ragg Sweaters were an early 1980s wardrobe staple…
and no one did it better than Our Catalog.
Bean’s GumShoe was the “Three eyelet version of our famous Maine Hunting Shoe – for canoeing, yard work and campus or after ski wear.”
Our Catalog warned that their Gum Shoe was “…not recommended for rapid travel, dancing or carpets.”
The Boating Moc was another LL Bean and preppy standard.
The Our Catalog version was a bit pricier, but much more useful on the water.
LL Bean Madras Slacks were guaranteed to bleed, as all good madras does.
The Our Catalog Jackass Slacks came in “Three offensive Madras patterns” and were nonbleeding.
LL Bean was selling the fanny pack years before it hit mainstream fashion.
Our Catalog saw that there was another use of the pack.
Of course I focused on the clothing offerings from LL Bean and Items from Our Catalog, but there were plenty of great products for the outdoor lifestyle. A favorite was the Field Litter Pan, a must-have for the camping cat.