Drifting Away: Classic Lands’ End Crewneck Gives Trad The Cold Shoulder


The Lands’ End “Drifter” sweater has been an old faithful for years. An inexpensive beater sweater that looks better as it fades, but is also easily replaced if ruined in an overly aggressive touch football match.

But the sweater’s most redeeming virtue was its saddle shoulder, a defining trad detail and what seperated the Drifter from the countless other cheap crewnecks from department stores and low-end retailers.

But have the Drifter and its saddle shoulder drifted apart?

Above is a sweater from this page at Lands’ End; note that it is specifically called a “Rugged Drifter” and that it is no longer in stock. That, as I recall, is what the sweater has always looked like.

Below, looking quite different at the neck and shoulder, is the current Drifter model:


And just to further confuse things, there is a third model called the “Cotton Drifter,” whose description points out its raglan sleeves, which are close to saddle shoulders, though not exactly the same thing:


Has anyone else noticed this change and when it may have happened? Is it simply a design update, or has LE changed factories (in China, presumably), and the new one can’t make saddle shoulders, and LE approved it anyway?

We’ll try reaching out for comment Monday. — CC

26 Comments on "Drifting Away: Classic Lands’ End Crewneck Gives Trad The Cold Shoulder"

  1. Good catch Christian. I have two drifters that I purchased in 2012 and they both have saddle shoulders. This is the first time I hearing about the shoulders.

    Overall I think that this is just another indicator that Lands’ End is lost. Over the past 5 years or so they have discontinued the must-iron Original Oxford, reduced the collar sizes on all shirt (with the Hyde Park being the most painful to witness), and have trouble keeping fits/ colors consistent.

    LE helped me access the types of clothing that I desired early on when the other retailers were out of my price range. It is sad that I can only recommend 1 or 2 of their items to anyone who is looking for the staples on a budget. I think the Land Ends not too far ahead: http://oxfordclothbuttondown.com/2014/04/the-land-ends/

  2. Philly Trad | October 19, 2014 at 1:14 pm |

    My father told me never to wear a sweater without a jacket, so, for me the saddle shoulders are irrelevant, it’s the crew neck that counts, and Land’s End still does that nicely.

  3. Pretty funny, considering sweaters come from athletics. Golf, tennis, rowing, etc…

    Oh, and baseball:


  4. Christian,

    Some of us try to forget that Ivy League style has anything to do with athletics.

  5. @Oxford Cloth Button Down

    Even before Lands’ End did so, L.L. Bean shortened the collars on their OCBD shirts. Both of them look ludicrous with a necktie.

  6. I got a Breton stripe Drifter this spring and it had set-in sleeves as well.

  7. I am still wearing denim shirts & 3 Willis Geiger shirts from Lands End that I bought in 2005-2007 seasons – no longer even look at the low quality items they sell now. What a shame.

  8. I’m still wearing some Lands’ End Charter Collection ties from the 1980s and using my cotton canvas luggage. I used to enjoy reading the LE catalogues in the 1980s but bought more from Brooks and L.L. Bean due to proximity to where I lived and went to school. I do have a favorite pair of khakis from Lands’ End c.2003. It seems like there were so many more options in past decades.

  9. Not nearly as old as rojo and JWK, but I purchased about 10 Lands’ End Original Oxfords in 2009-10 when I was guessing that they were being discontinued and have been wearing them weekly since. They are just now beginning to fray. They were $8 dollars a piece. I should have purchased more.

  10. With a couple of notable exceptions, I’ve never been impressed with Lands’ End products. (They seemed bland and low-budget offerings,) I’m not surprised that they have opted for a cheap version of a crew neck sweater. I would love to find inexpensive, but decently designed and made products, but I’m afraid over the past several years I have gravitated to the pricey, but well designed and made clothing. Maybe the retailers such as Lands’ End will eventually get the message, but I’m not optimistic. Crappy clothing made in China seems to dominate the general marketplace these days.

  11. Reactionary Trad | October 20, 2014 at 12:00 am |

    I still prefer Lands’ End khakis/chinos to those produced by any other firm. They have a “gentleman’s cut”, preferred by those of us who are not interested in exhibiting the shape of our genitalia or buttocks.

  12. James Redhouse | October 20, 2014 at 12:14 am |

    I just checked out the patterns on the currently available Lands’ End neckties. Believe me, they are as traditional as one could ask for.

  13. I like raglan sleeves so the change is not a problem for me. They’re especially nice when striped because the stripes match up beautifully. The raglan sleeved sweater pictured looks fine. It is full fashioned so less apt to unravel.

  14. Raglan and saddle shoulder are just subtle variations of the same thing. I have no idea why someone would buy a inset shouldered jumper.

    There was a time when all sweatshirts had raglan shoulders.

  15. The smaller collar on the Hyde Parks is just horrifying. Most of my shirts were about 10 years old when I ordered a few new ones last year, and I was shocked when I saw what they’d done to them.

  16. I love my old Lands End shirts, but find the new ones unwearable because of the tiny collar. Their trousers are still OK—at least they were the last time I bought a pair a couple of years ago—but I miss the watch/change pocket and suspender buttons they used to have. I’ve always been pleased with their ties, though I haven’t bought a new one from them in a long time.

  17. So long as we’re on Lands End, I purchased several pair of Lighthouse chinos (flat front, 1 1/2″ cuff) last spring and have been pleased. They look good, quality is passable, stitching and seams, buttons, zipper, etc., appear solid (and the watch pocket has returned). I’ve worn them regularly and durability seems good. I’m watching for flaws, or failures, and so far they appear well-built for the $50 price. They are among the few items at LE that haven’t disappointed – yet.

  18. Are there really customers who prefer the tiny Lands’ End collars (and the LL Bean collars which aren’t much better)?

  19. Dutch Uncle
    Both are now evidently taking their styling cues from the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

    I’ve never bought anything from LE and only sporting goods from LLBean, but I do know that at one time both offered some very nice shirts for the price, especially for guys on a budget.

  20. Cranky Yankee | October 21, 2014 at 9:49 am |

    @ James Redhouse: Lands’ End tie patterns may still be traditional, but they have gone to narrower widths to match narrower lapels. Instead of 3 ½”, both are now 3 ¼”. Brooks made the same move about four years ago. Fortunately, J. Press is still 3 ½”.

  21. I can’t vouch for the quality of any LE clothes, but I have some of their canvas luggage that I got back in the late ’70s that I’m still using today. And I had a LE canvas briefcase that lasted me through college, through graduate school and for at least a couple years into my first real job.

    When I eventually retired it, I replaced it with a leather model from Levenger that is still going strong although it’s definitely showing signs of age. It even survived my all-expenses-paid (well, officers actually had to pay for their food) trip to the Middle East back in 1991, where it had to endure the same less-than-perfect conditions that I did. And I even used it to carry a souveneir or two home (grenade fragments and artillery fragments, courtesy of the locals).

    I seem to recall that the plastic liners of the non-canvas LE bags fell apart after several years. But the outside was still in good shape at that point.

    And recall wearing LE shoes in college. The white bucks came with a chalk bag and the dirty bucks came with a bag of some sort of brown stuff that wasn’t quite chalk but served the same purpose. The beauty of the LE shoes was that they were all made on the same last (IIRC), so once you learned what size fit you, you were good to go.

    I also had a Willis & Geiger backpack at one point. It looked robust when I first got it, but the place where the straps connected to the pack gave out fairly quickly. I replaced it with a leather-and-canvas model from the Duluth Trading Company which looks like it will easily outlive me. It might even outlive my sons.

    So even in the golden era of LE, their quality seemed a bit hit-or-miss. But that’s probably true of any brand that you can think of.

  22. What do you think of the saddle sholder on the Men’s Lambswool Crewneck currently sold by Landsend? Haven’t tried one myself, but it seems like a good and inexpensive substitute to some of the more expensive trad wool sweaters.

  23. Sorry for the links. This was the sweater I was referring to in my above post.


  24. The quality of Lands’ End clothing is very poor these days. I used to buy a lot of things from Lands’ End, from shoes to blazers and everything in between. I still have a few old pinpoint oxford shirts from Lands’ End, some could be up to 20 years old, that I wear to knock around and the quality is remarkable. As a once loyal customer, I’ve tried to buy some shirts and pants over the past few years, and everything has gone back because it’s so cheap.

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