Friday, March 4, 2011

Dungaree Buddy Lee

In the 1920s, my grandmother was a little girl growing up in Minden, Louisiana. One of her uncles sold Lee Jeans out of the back of a horse drawn wagon and when she was around ten years old or so, he gave her a little doll. This doll, dressed in a plaid shirt and wearing blue jeans, was produced as a promotional item to help brand Lee Jeans. His name is Buddy Lee.

Buddy Lee was the brain child, or brain doll, of Chester Reynolds. Chester, who was in sales, came up with the idea of using miniature doll models to display the jeans in clothing stores. He must have had a win win as Chester would later become Lee's board president within this Dungaree clothing giant dressing the working man across America.

Buddy Lee stands at a whopping 14 inches high and is made from sawdust composition coated in a hardened plaster with hand painted features. You would think he would be a sack of dust within the jeans he wears but Buddy stands on my desk at 91 years of age. He looks pretty good for an old man.

In 1998, ad agency Fallon McElligott brought Buddy back to life along with the 1940s Lee tag-line, "Can't Bust Em," to promote the new Lee Dungarees line. The campaign was sheer genius and would grow legs running the brand into 2004 peaking in 2005 when Buddy Lee was promoted as a write-in presidential candidate for the 2008 election. Kind of wish he was president now as I'm thinking a head full of sawdust might do a better job.

Buddy Lee serves as a perfect example on the importance of holding on to your heritage. An effort that most organizations lose site of when they grow beyond their spirit. He reminds us that our own spirit can capture the imaginations of many when it's kept close and never forgotten.

Never forget where you came from. Your past is what makes up who you are.

And who you become.

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