Collaboration Nation: The Todd Snyder For LL Bean Collection

The much anticipated Todd Snyder x LL Bean capsule collection was released this month, pairing an award-winning American designer with an iconic brand whose name is synonymous with traditional, American-made quality. Like Snyder’s past collaborations with heritage brands such as Thomas Mason and Alden Shoes, the TS x LLB collection reinterprets the classics with slimmer silhouettes, bold colors, and a considerable branding increase.

Overall, the collection left me conflicted.

As Ivy Style readers know, LL Bean itself needs little branding, and the Maine Hunting Boot is emblematic enough without knitting the image into a sweater and unexpectedly pairing it with pleated khakis. Some of the brighter colorways remind me of helping my mother fill out the catalog order form in the early nineties, when a traffic cone orange or electric teal anorak was the surest protection against being hit by a car while playing on a snowbank. That jacket lasted me through elementary school, and I’m less confident that the collection’s Scenic Print Puffer Jacket would do the same. 

Other products like the birds’-eye Norwegian knit are a reasonably sedate variation on the white-on-navy original. Despite their description quoting “The Official Preppy Handbook,” I wouldn’t recommend dirtying the shoulders with gatoring as the merino/cashmere blend will not stand up as well as the original lambswool/nylon blend. Unlike the Made in Norway Heritage sweater on the LL Bean site, this new version joins their ranks of Imported products with an additional $20 markup. The few made-in-Maine holdouts include boat tote and boots, and these are peppered throughout the collection page on Snyder’s site.

These are familiar comforts amongst the more Supreme-inspired clothing, and I wouldn’t bother to grumble into the wind about production origin if the New England Maple Syrup listing hadn’t stuck into my eye. Yes, style evolves and quality corners are cut, but ordering syrup ambiguously “tapped in New England” and only “bottled in Vermont” direct instead of deigning to pick up a local bottle at Whole Foods is a pronounced symbol of what irked me about the collection. Though drawn to some of the simpler new designs, the neo-prep sensibility of this collaboration has a hollow, hypebeast quality that curtails the authentic experience of wearing LL Bean for the street cred. 

Hashtag jockey though I am, one should remember that even the glossiest images fade, if not from use, then from saturation of the next twenty trends that pile on from the next exclusive collaboration. Menswear is swiftly catching up with womenswear in this regard, and as a fan of vintage clothing it would be a shame to see a men’s pile of low-quality discards as mammoth as the women’s in my local thrift store. Although the Todd Snyder x LL Bean collection hasn’t quite released Fair Isle crop tops under the legendary brand’s name yet, traditional menswear might want to brace itself for the years to come. — ZG BURNETT

50 Comments on "Collaboration Nation: The Todd Snyder For LL Bean Collection"

  1. I think it’s a fun collection, what’s wrong with taking a heritage brand and looking at it through an American designers eyes? I think it really reflects the current interest in high street fashion and vintage basics. When you look at their current catalog it seems rather generic, but if you look though ebay/etsy at Vintage Bean you can see a lot of what inspired this small curated collection. I enjoyed the small plug for the vintage seller Wooden Slippers who specialized in selling vintage bean and was mentioned on the VIP emails Synder sent out before the collection was released to the public. If Michael Bastian would have worked brand instead of Gant in the Mid 2010’s it would have been interesting to see what he would have done.

  2. This new collection is just a gimmick. The larger picture shows an American heritage company hemorrhaging jobs:

    Total job losses for 2020: 200
    Total job losses for 2021: 130 (when the Lewiston call center closes)
    New job(s) created: one (Todd Snyder)

    https://www.newscentermaine.com/mobile/article/life/llbean-cuts-200-jobs-will-close-lewiston-call-center-in-2021/97-a0b8f7c3-2acf-4eb5-a88b-62e3c5f393cc

  3. Mitchell
    I’m not disputing your assertion, but what is the scale of this reduction? What’s the total number of LLB employees before and after? It should have been in the news story for context, of course.

    Separately, this is less of a collaboration and more of a parody. I don’t think it did LLB a bit of good while Snyder can just move on to his next victim.

  4. I find this clear-eyed, well-informed review a tad too kind. Too judicious. Traditional doesn’t need “jazzing up” for the sake of trend-spotting. The “LLBEAN” sweater is grotesque, but I know what Snyder is up to. It’s a sop for the Asian market’s penchant for mega-logos. The closing vignette about maple syrup is an apt metaphor. This collection is “maple-flavored” syrup poured over “organic” frozen waffles. L.L. Bean lost its way a long time ago. I’ll bet none of the job losses listed above were in marketing or PR. They still have a ‘brand,” but there’s precious little product left.

  5. Just hideous…

  6. What? Is that sweater created to win an ugly sweater competition? Scenic Print Puffer Jacket? I guess it is now Clown World at LL Bean. The maple syrup excepted. Enough said…

  7. @PocketSquare: Nothing wrong with it at all, my suspicion and criticism come from Snyder’s pattern of collaborating with brands (as @whiskeydent puts it, “victims”), updating them for better or worse, and then jacking up prices without adding to the items’ quality and in some cases, diminishing it. This happened with Gap and J. Crew to the point where they alienated their existing customer base who suddenly didn’t recognize the brand they’d bought for years. LL Bean proper has been on the downswing even before they revoked the lifetime warranty on boots, it’s just sad that many buyers my age and younger don’t even notice or seem to care that much anymore. I too was pleased to see Brian boosted in conjunction with the collab’s release, and I sincerely hope that it drives customers seeking the good stuff to Wooden Sleepers.

  8. Am I the only one who would like to have five minutes in the ring with the doofus in the pics? No pads?

    Just saying. Hope I didn’t trigger anybody.

    Will

  9. Nauseating. Repellent.

  10. Keep the limp-wristed Fashionistas away from
    traditional clothing. They only pollute it.

  11. Charlottesville | November 11, 2020 at 4:34 pm |

    I am with the naysayers, I’m afraid. And I agree that the model makes a lousy impression; lighten up, dude. Another once great brand going down the road to overpriced, and yet disposable “fashion” merchandise.

    On a more positive note, I just spent an hour, and some money, at local menswear mainstay Eljo’s, which started in 1950 and still offers a 3/2 sack with a hook vent and natural shoulders along with more updated but still traditional clothing. They also offer Bill’s khakis, Berle pants, Alden shoes, Pantherella and Byford socks, lots of terrific sweaters and ties and much else to tempt those of us who prefer well-made traditional clothing.

    Also on a positive note, the owner of Eljo’s told me that he heard that a couple of former Southwick guys hope to revive a US clothing factory (I think in upstate NY) intending to produce tailored clothing based on the Southwick models, hopefully including the Douglas 3/2 sack. I don’t have any details and do not know how far along they have gotten, but I hope it’s true and I wish them well.

  12. 2020 is a tough audience.

  13. Charlottesville- speaking of Bill’s Khakis, what’s up with them? When I try to buy the M2 plain front on their website, they are only available in size 44. Are they going out of business?

  14. In the 1980s I was in college, less than 20 minutes away from the L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine. I didn’t have my own car, and so I visited the Freeport store only a few times, but the catalog made shopping easy and there was a lot of Bean worn on our coastal Maine campus: blucher mocs, camp mocs, Bean boots, chamois shirts, and of course the Norwegian sweater were all popular.

    I also had Bean’s blue rock sweater, a couple of oxford shirts, a shetland sweater, an Icelandic sweater, an embroidered belt, a pair of grey flannel trousers, and the trail model down vest. L.L. Bean was a different animal in those days. Of the items pictured above, really only the syrup appeals to me.

  15. A most unfortunate choice of the male model for the images above. Either he doesn’t give a damn about how he looks or there might be a substance issue here. Also, I concur with the comments above on traditional men’s clothing needing ‘updating’. L.L. Bean of all people!

  16. @elder prep
    Finally, a comment on the model.
    Did other readers of this post think it wasn’t politically correct to comment on the appearance of a model who looks like a moron, a drug addict, or an alcoholic, if not all three.
    And just think of customers who don’t even notice this.

  17. Somewhat on the topic of collaborations (and timely), I have been wondering who produced the infamous green jacket for Augusta National. It seems that not too long ago the jackets were undarted with a 3/2 roll, but at some point darts were added and the third button was dropped. Perhaps I need to do some research on my own, but thought I’d mention the topic as a potential post.

  18. This post got me remembering  a  debate a while ago on this site about slim-fit shirts versus the Brooks Brothers classic. It was spread across several posts and inspired a lot of heated debate. A few deeply incorrect thoughts follow.

    I remember being about 13 (early 1970s) and hearing my mother say of some then-new fashion, “What’s wrong with these designers? Don’t they understand that most women would look ridiculous in that?” And I thought, but didn’t say out loud, this was my mother after all, “I think that’s exactly why the designers have done this. They’re not selling the product to women in general; they’re selling to women who have power and status and want to rub it in other women’s faces.”

    This summer I was listening to a friend’s teenage daughter in high dudgeon about how any woman should be allowed to wear whatever the hell she wants and only haters would say otherwise and I thought to myself, “You know, if I was a super-hot, skinny white girl like you I’d be encouraging other women to think that way too.”

    1. The thing about preppy circa 1980 is that, although the obesity explosion had started, most people were still relatively slim. Being slim didn’t make you stand out in the 1980s.
    2. Here is where I get controversial and deeply insensitive: being slim today does make you stand out and, rightly or wrongly, it suggests you have a level of self-discipline that statistics indicate that 71.6% of the population doesn’t have. 
    3. Only the worst kind of boor would claim that their ability to stay thin was a moral achievement. But that is just what makes it so powerful to be thin. The thin person doesn’t have to say anything; they just have to show up; they just have to be.
    4. Designers like Todd Snyder are making menswear into the same body-status pissing match that women’s fashion has always been.

  19. I’m glad they hired Todd to spark some creativity at LL Bean.

  20. Robert Archambeau | November 12, 2020 at 8:03 am |

    The landscape imagery on that puffer jacket looks like one of the murals painted on the side of certain Chevy vans in the 1980s. Hard pass.

  21. I mostly don’t get Todd Snyder and I really don’t understand this collaboration. I’m not one to lament anything that slightly challenges traditional ivy style. But this collaboration is hideous.

  22. Michael Brady | November 12, 2020 at 8:51 am |

    Bean was on a good track with their Signature line, so I hope that is not gone. Just yesterday a friend asked me where I got the flannel shirt jacket I was wearing…it was Bean Signature. Unfortunately that is store only; no catalogue presense, and I don’t have a store anywhere near me.

    There is not a time in my life that the Todd Snyder stuff would grace my closet.

  23. Curious if the critics here actually purchased any of the collaboration items. I did and for the most part have been impressed with what i received.

    I own Bean chamois shirts dating back to the 70s as well as modern Bean versions. The chamois shirts in this collaboration might be a tad lighter (and certainly trimmer) than my ancient ones, but they certainly have a higher quality feel and attention to detail than those for sale at Bean today (as they should given the comparative pricing). And I find the brighter colors to be a welcome change from the modern drab LLB color palette, and more in keeping with the LL Bean catalogues i recall dogearing around this time of year as a child in the 70s/early 80s.

    I am also enjoying the wool blend shirt jacket from the collaboration (in bright green no less). I haven’t seen anything similar being sold by Bean in ages, but it fits right in with shirt jackets Bean made back in the 60s and 70s… right down to the button snap placket.

    Admittedly, the collaboration includes some items that are a bit more of the attention-grabbing variety, but I think that is part of the point of a collaboration with a menswear designer. In any event, it seems to have done well as almost all items have sold out. I for one hopes this success yields future releases from this collaborative team as well as gets the attention of the Bean higher-ups to embrace their heritage rather than run from it.

    As a disclaimer, I will note that not all is to my liking – I would certainly prefer that the garments were made in the USA rather than various foreign locales, but that is a continuing criticism of Bean generally.

    Finally, a couple points about the syrup referenced in the post. That item is included along with a number of standard Bean items for sale on the Todd Snyder website, filling out the collaboration items, however as far as i can tell it is not anything to do with Snyder. It is an item that is for sale on the Bean website. As far as the concerns with the origin of the syrup, I am no expert, but I do not see anything odd or of concern with noting that the syrup was harvested from various locations in New England.

    Sorry for such a long post.

  24. Trevor Jones | November 12, 2020 at 9:15 am |

    @Christian, great point. I think all of the social distancing and isolation this year have caused people (who once liked to be known as the “traditional gentlemen” of the internet) to forget about, at the very least, having a veneer of civility and become outright vicious. Commenting that the model looks like “a moron, a drug addict, or an alcoholic, if not all three”? Another looking to fight him? Claiming that this collection was “a sop for the Asian market’s penchant for mega-logos”? Not good. Not good at all.
    Zoey did a great job writing this article. I agree with her that many of the “updated” neo-prep items are best forgotten, but I actually enjoy some of the other pieces in the collection. Like everything, there’s some good and some bad. Now, being civl while having my own opinion (one that actually relates to the content of the article!)…that wasn’t so hard.

  25. Is it possible that the “Southwick guys” possibly opening in upstate NY mentioned by Charlottesville is Rochester Tailoring? I believe O’Connell’s will be/are carrying the line?

  26. Too much toxic masculinity I suppose.

    Will

  27. Charlottesville | November 12, 2020 at 10:39 am |

    John Carlos – I wish I knew what has become of Bill’s Khakis. The owner of Eljo’s told me that he has trouble getting them in stock. I was fortunate that he was able to find a pair of M2s in the original khaki twill in my size, and I pounced on them since I may not get the opportunity again. Eljo’s also carries a similar khaki made by Berle under the Charleston Khaki label, and they looked very good to me; less expensive and slightly heavier weight, if perhaps just a touch fuller in cut than M2s. Another friend told me that the last pair he bought had a thick, fused waistband, which is not at all like the old-stock pair I bought.

    Robert — I have been told that the original 3/2 sack green Augusta jacket was made by Brooks, but I can’t verify that. A trade association blog post states, “Hamilton in Cincinnati has made the jackets. They’ve made 90-plus percent of the jackets since the ‘60s, but there are other companies that do make them.” https://www.americanmanufacturing.org/blog/the-making-of-the-masters-green-jacket-is-shrouded-in-mystery-but-is-it-made-in-america/

    Gempro – I have no idea, but you could well be correct about Rochester Tailoring. Myles at Eljo’s indicated a connection with Hickey Freeman, which I believe is, or at least was, based in Rochester. If O’Connell’s uses them, that sound like a good recommendation.

  28. Charlottesville- Yes, I have experienced something similar with our local store, Satel’s. They used to carry a wide range of Bill’s, both pants and sport shirts. Then the company was sold and the collars on their shirts became terribly short so I stopped buying them. The khakis remained unchanged but now I can’t find something so basic as the M2 plain front original twill in a size 33.

  29. The Berle Charleston Khaki is nice with a very thick fabric and a good price point but a bit too full in the leg for me. Purchased mine at R. Bryant in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of years ago.

    Will

  30. Sacksuit- Thanks for the input but I think the Berle khakis would not work for me as the Bill’s M2 is plenty full cut for my skinny body.

  31. Reminds me a bit of a not so friendly Floyd R. Turbo.

  32. The model in these pics looks familiar: wasn’t he part of the crew that assaulted poor old Ned Beatty in ‘Deliverance’?

  33. @Charlottesville & John Carlos: a little while back, I spoke with a local (Chestertown, on the Eastern Shore) retailer who told me that he was no longer stocking Bill’s Khakis because their supply chain issues were so bad. Sounds like that’s everywhere.

  34. Good one, Paul.

    Quite possibly dueling banjo boy as well.

    Will

  35. I think the model is the grandson of the bully kid in “A Christmas Story.”

  36. Charlottesville | November 12, 2020 at 3:57 pm |

    Christian – You nailed it. Scut Farkus, poor little Ralphie’s nemesis.

    John Carlos and Paul – Eljos’ may have the M2s you seek, if you are lucky enough to find your size. https://shop.eljos.com/ As of yesterday, they had a pretty good stack of them, but not all sizes. Unfortunately, their website is pretty limited, so a phone call (434-295-5230) or e-mail (under “Contact Us” at bottom of web page) would be your best bet. 9:00 to 2:00 Covid hours these days.

  37. Charlottesville- Thanks much. I’ll give them a call.

  38. I’ve never worn Hickey Freeman, but they have/had a great reputation in certain circles. I hope they, or someone else can pick up and carry the Ivy Style/Trad torch. If I had my say in the matter, they would go MTM only, so as to eliminate the excuse of not moving enough product to continue, or passing the burden of overstock to good retailers. They could distribute a few archetype jackets/blazers/suits for display purposes, and offer a top notch fabric selection.

  39. @Charlottesville – surprised to hear such an enthusiastic recommendation of Eljo’s. I was on grounds a few weeks ago and drove over to the shop. While I appreciate supply chain issues are increasingly an issue, the selection struck me as both small and haphazard. Some of their blazers had lapels down at the nipples, clearly from the Clinton era. Our (much smaller) town in the Commonwealth has two better men’s shops. Eljo’s must have massive laurels to rest on.

  40. Michael Saur | November 12, 2020 at 5:24 pm |

    “Even on the LL Bean site proper, it bears reminding that these sweaters are also no longer Made in Norway.”

    Now I’m just confused. Here’s the Bean’s webpage for the Norwegian sweater: https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/60845?page=heritage-sweater-norwegian-crewneck&bc=12-26-594&feat=594-GN3&csp=a&pos=15

    Note where it says “Made in Norway.” How this narrative got any traction, I have no idea. Took me all of 20 seconds to look/confirm.

  41. Charlottesville | November 12, 2020 at 5:26 pm |

    Rake — I understand the disappointment, and you are right about the massive laurels, but I don’t think Eljo’s is resting on them completely. Stock is indeed down, since they are primarily geared to MTM for tailored clothing these days. That is disappointing, and not really geared to browsing. However, most other places can’t (or won’t) even order a 3/2 sack with a hook vent, and Eljo’s fabric selection is excellent. Yesterday, the owner showed me two navy blazers he had just had made (by Empire, probably) for out-of town UVA alumni; both 3/2 sacks with hooked vents, ready for the final fitting. The retail model Hardbopper suggests is the one Eljo’s has gone with, and for the reasons he lists: no large investment in stock sitting around unsold. While they have some good things on the racks, the current environment is not that great for hardcore Ivy, and even in MTM, they sell mostly 2 button, side vented coats, but of high quality.

    I would be interested in the other Virginia shops you like. I know Davidsons in Roanoke and Alvin-Dennis in Lexington, both of which used to be good sources of traditional Ivy clothing, but changing markets and tastes have hit them in the same way they have hit Eljo’s. Beecroft & Bull, with several stores in Virginia, tends to skew more designer and contemporary but also carries some quality merchandise. There used to be a good men’s shop in Williamsburg, but it also carries mostly 2-button darted sport coats and blazers these days. I’d love to hear about others.

  42. Anyone here want to take on an assignment and write a feature/news update on Eljo’s?

  43. @Michael Saur: That’s a relief! The last time I checked (granted, this was a few years ago and I had since lost hope), that wasn’t the case. Glad they went back to the original model, or I could have just been mistaken initially. Still, doesn’t change LLB’s “Imported” quality that’s been sold at markup prices for some time, including the TS edit that is also even more expensive.

  44. Buffoonish and effeminate.

  45. Anyone tried Frank’s Pants? OConnell’s carries them, and they seem to even have the same naming/fit system as Bill’s (F2, F2P, F3). Cut and sewn in the USA, according to a quick search.

    And is Jack Donnelly back up and running again? I see their site is up, but they are all sold out of certain sizes.

  46. NaturalShoulder | November 13, 2020 at 6:21 am |

    I had good luck procuring Bills on eBay but my most recent search turned up few options in my size in M1 which has become a new favorite or the M2. I was ordering some other items from O’Connells and decided to try the higher rise trousers. Not as full cut as the M1 but more so than the M2. Taking them to the tailor for alterations this weekend.

  47. @Charlottesville: C&D Rigden & Son in Middleburg and Highcliffe Clothiers in Middleburg are examples of better shops. Highcliffe makes traditional blazers and sells Hickey Freeman and Oxxford off the peg. C&D is awash in tattersall and tweed. The dearly departed Richard Allen Clothing was the most off the rack trad of them all, stocking Empire, Samuelsohn, and formerly Southwick. Both shops are miles more appealing than Eljo’s from a shopping experience perspective – heck, I went into Eljo’s prepared to spend four figures, but couldn’t even find a white OCBD!

    Bell Clothiers in Winchester is a longstanding family owned shop, but can’t in any sense be described as either Trad or Ivy. Either way, funny/ sad that most of the old line family owned clothiers have left DC (WM Fox was still hanging on), but we have a bunch in horse country.

  48. A Morningstar | November 16, 2020 at 10:48 am |

    Didn’t know people still used the pejorative and bigoted “limp-wristed,” but Roger Sack shone through with brilliant, fabulous colors..

  49. Charlottesville | November 16, 2020 at 2:17 pm |

    Rake – Thanks for the advice. I haven’t been to Middleburg for a long time, and it sounds like I need to make a pilgrimage. Thank you for reminding me of Bell’s; as you say, and old family owned business, but not Ivy. Many many years ago, I worked at the Bell’s store in Staunton Virginia for a few weeks around Christmas, and very much enjoyed the experience. It was a sister establishment to the Winchester store, but is long gone. I think they may have had one or two other locations as well.

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