L.L. Bean Co.
L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Shoe
I have no financial or other interests in the L.L. Bean Company or any of its suppliers or affiliates. I am simply a long time retail customer.
The State of Maine is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. One could spend a lifetime exploring the unspoiled wilderness and rocky coastline. By New England standards Maine is huge, almost the size of the other five New England states combined. While strikingly beautiful, Maine is also an unforgiving place. The winters are long and hard, with snow in abundance. Nor’easters (storms similar to hurricanes) bring near biblical amounts of wind, rain and snow.
The people of Maine are a hardy bunch. You have to be just to withstand the weather. Also fishing, farming and the outdoor life are in Maine’s DNA. To work and play in Maine good clothing is an absolute necessity. Not surprisingly Maine is the home of the great American outfitter L.L. Bean. The company has been supplying outdoor oriented clothing and equipment for nearly a hundred years.
Company founder Leon Leonwood Bean started with one product, the Maine Hunting Shoe. A century later the shoe, also commonly known as the “Bean Boot” or “Duck Boot”, is still the company’s signature product. When you think of Maine the first thing that comes to mind is lobster (“laubsta”) followed closely by the Bean Boot. L.L. Bean still manufactures boots in Maine.
The Maine Hunting Shoe
The classic Bean Boot is made primarily of rubber and leather. The lower part of the boot is made of a thick rubber with a moderately aggressive tread pattern molded into the sole. The soft rubber tread provides very good traction on slick surfaces. A steel shank in the lower provides good support and stability. The leather upper is very weather resistant but still flexible enough for long hikes. Bean Boots keep the feet warm and dry even in absolutely horrendous weather. Bean Boots are tough, durable and practical. The L.L. Bean Company produces numerous models of boots featuring different insulating materials.
I bought my Bean Boots more than three decades ago while still in school. They are the classic model with no insulation. These boots have been in service throughout my adult life. In the early years my Bean Boots went on vacations exploring Maine’s Acadia National Park and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Later there were long weekends on Maine’s southern shoreline with lobster and clambakes around the campfire. Now as a middle-aged suburban samurai my Bean Boots are used mostly for walking the dogs on cold, rainy nights and plodding behind the snow blower. Despite my somewhat humdrum lifestyle the old boots still serve me well.
One notable feature of the Bean Boot is that it is repairable. The L.L. Bean Company has a busy shoe restoration department. Just send your tired old boots back to Maine and the staff at Bean breathes new life into them. Of course the service is not free. In point of fact buying a new pair doesn’t cost a whole lot more than a full restoration. But many of us prefer to rebuild our Bean Boots. It does save a few bucks compared to buying new. But more importantly we just have a sentimental attachment to our boots and don’t want to let them go. Mine have been back to Bean twice over the years and they are still in very good condition. I hope to have my original pair for many more years.
Back in the 1980s L.L. Bean was a go to retailer for “preppy” clothing. As fashion trends changed enthusiasm for the brand waned with the younger crowd. But now Bean Boots are a hot seller. The mainstream news is chockfull of stories about college kids flocking to the stalwart hunting shoe. I see it in the suburbs too. You’re just as likely to see Bean Boots on a bargain hunter at the mall as a whitetail hunter in the woods. Maybe it’s just a quirky fashion trend, or perhaps the younger generation has discovered the practicality and value of the Bean Boots. Only time will tell but I hope Bean keeps selling them like crazy.
The Bean Boot is still manufactured in Maine and is most worthy one of the “Made in U.S.A.” moniker. The boots are tough, hardworking and durable—just like the people of Maine. Anyone who spends any time at all in cold, wet weather would be wise to keep a pair of Bean Boots on hand. This century old New England icon still makes the grade today and is still made in America.