The company was formed in 1889 by Henry David Lee as the HD Lee Mercantile Company at Salina, Kansas, producing dungarees and jackets. The growth of Lee was prompted by the introduction of the Union-All work jumpsuit in 1913 and their first overall in 1920. Later in the 1920s Lee introduced a zipper fly and continued to expand. Around this time, the first children's overalls line was sold. In 1928 H.D. Lee, founder and president of The H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, died. During the 1930s and 1940s the company became the leading manufacturer of work clothes in the US. In 1944, the Lazy "S" became the official Lee back pocket. In 1954, Lee expanded into casual wear. During the 1960s the company expanded to 81 countries and in 1969 was acquired by the VF Corporation.