Photo by Salt Water New England

Monday, December 20, 2021

Bean Boots by L.L.Bean

Bean Boots are the classic Americana footwear made in Maine by L.L. Bean, and originally called the Maine Hunting Shoe.  As L.L. Bean says as often as they can, they were developed by Leon L. Bean (with whom, funnily,  my husband shares seven sets of great grand-parents) back in 1912.   Originally designed for hunters traversing marshy terrains, they now are sold as everything from snow boots to fashion accessories.  

I grew up wearing Bean Boots.  As soon as I could fit into my mother’s, I pilfered them.  In our house they were always called pacs (never duck boots), which my parents bought back in the early 1950s.  (See her wearing them grouse shooting in Maine in the second to last photo.)

Now hugely popular, there are endless permutations combining styles and colors produced.  You see them everywhere, in the field, across suburban downtowns, and all over the streets of Boston and New York.

And for preppy cosplayers, who enjoy the fun of mixing clichés, Bean Boots are great props, and much cheaper than a used Jeep, a trip to Nantucket, or renting a boat.  Posting a picture on Instagram of a poorly bred Golden Retriever with its paws awkwardly in Bean Boots is practically a right of passage.  

I wore L.L. Bean boots through the early days of my blog for everything from filling the bird feeders, milking a cow, winter jaunts to Newport and even sitting in the Bootmobile in Damariscotta on the Maine Coast. (See photos).  

They are loved and depended upon by many.  But I don’t wear Bean Boots anymore.  In my own field trials, I have found alternatives that are better looking, more durable, offer support, and breathe.  

    
    






My Current Boots

 

41 comments:

  1. Yes, mostly agree. I still have a pair of Maine Hunting boots which I wear hunting, but have moved on to other options for farm boots or out and about on wet days.

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  2. What are your go-to alternatives?

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  3. Are those photos of you driving the Bootmobile?

    David J Cooper

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  4. Mine get dragged out much less often. They just are not that comfortable, and the soles tend to slip in mud.

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  5. I have a pair, six-inch, unlined. I only wear them when it's wet. They're the only pair I've ever had, and I bought them second hand. I have never been photographed while wearing them. I can highly recommend them, although the sizing is a mystery. Mine fit best with the heaviest socks I have. They are noiseless when walking. They are also the easiest to clean when I get back home.

    I have several other pairs of boots, all waterproof to some degree. Most have lugged rubber soles, which really pick up the mud and pebbles, something the Bean boots do not do. Other bootmakers offer shoe pacs but I've no experience with any of them. The army issued shoe pacs in WWII, both 10-inch and 12-inch but I've read they were not a great success for some reason. Don't know who made them, either, but they had lugged soles.

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  6. Good morning, twin! I am wearing the same Norwegian sweater and a red plaid scarf as in the first picture. My beat-up sweater was attacked by moths over the summer and I just picked it up from being mended and it looks like new!

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  7. I have two pairs which I wear in the yard with the dogs occasionally for rain and light snow. For heavy snow yard work there are better alternatives.

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  8. I have a pet theory that what people call Ivy style or simply classic style morphed into "preppy" because of two influences. One was summer resort wear: The bright colors and nutty patterns heretofore found only on the yacht club porch were now worn in the middle of winter at the fraternity smoker. Second was the L. L. Beanization of traditional style, the integration of outdoor and sporting clothing with rather specialized purposes into everyday wear that happened to be especially well-suited to the northeastern prep school or university campus, which involved trudging up and down steep hills in rain, sleet, and snow. The Bean boot being a classic example of the latter.

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  9. Our son took over the pair i wore in college 30+ years ago (6 inch dark brown leather tops). He had Bean replace the rubber bottoms a few years ago. My replacement pair has 10 inch (eight eyelets) bison leather tops and brick red soles; they're still my preferred boot for short walks or getting around town in the rain. One of our daughters in Michigan wears a pair of thinsulate-lined Bean boots in the winter. Take care of them, and the leather uppers will last and look good for decades. I don't like walking any distance in them due to the lack of support. Mine have a particularly roomy rubber bottom to accommodate thicker/warmer socks.

    When i was a trial lawyer in New Hampshire, it was normal during the winter and mud season to see prosecutors and defense lawyers arguing cases in Bean boots (and suit/tie).

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  10. I really liked my Bean boots, found them to be comfortable and great for mucking through any terrain that would wreck other shoes. But I also found them to be surprisingly dangerous -- I slipped and fell or nearly fell at least a dozen times on many a smooth, hard floor after being out in the cold and wet of Pacific Northwest winters. Grocery store floors were often the smoothest and the most perilous. So I had to part with them, reluctantly. Anyone else have that problem with them?

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    1. Yes! I have a pair of made in Maines, goretex lined pullons that are about 33-34 years old and I adore them, but I've had to make the decision to never wear them when it's actually wet, snowy or icy. I've replaced them with a pair of Dubarry boots (thank you Muffy for the recommendation, I LOVE them!). I pull out my Bean boots in the fall and wear them where I know I can't slip and fall and break something. Or several somethings.

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  11. Bean Boots are made in the Saltwater New England towns of Brunswick and Lewiston, Maine. The boots pictured as the "preferred alternatives" are made overseas in Morocco (Le Chameau) and Portugal (Dubarry) so I think the choice here is obvious.

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    1. Bean Boots get big points for being Made in Maine. I also find the boots and the mocassins to be very useful. For example, I have a pair of the latter by the back door for frequent trips to the garden and composters. I can't imagine wearing anything else for that purpose.

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  12. Bean boots used to be my go-to footwear in inclement weather. I wore the pair I've had since my university years up until one wet morning in 2017 when I slipped on a slick pavement and broke my right shoulder. My fault. I should have either chucked them or have the chain-tread bottoms replaced by LL Bean. I've since relied on other brands like Dubarry, l'Aigle and Joules for much surer footing.

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  13. What is the brown quilted jacket you are wearing while driving the Bootmobile? PA

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    1. It is a Barbour quilted corduroy paddock jacket. I gave it to a friend.

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  14. I have worn them since a child. And now at 64, still enjoying them! I have over 40 pair, of assorted patterns, heights, and styles. And they have NEVER failed me! Thanks once again, so very much!🎄

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  15. I'm a die hard Bean boot fan. Have not had the bad experiences of poor workmanship many others have had (thank goodness). My first pair came from Santa Claus back in 1977 - lasted 33 years. Have two pair now - one Bean Boot and one Maine Hunting Shoe version. Should be set for the rest of my life.

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  16. While Bean boots are waterproof and warm (though, as Mrs. Aldrich says, not breathable), I also find them to be very slippery and impractical. Boots (and shoes) with lugged Vibram soles are much, much better on icy sidewalks.

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  17. The substance, aside from salt and like chemicals, that will not slide on ice has yet to be identified.

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  18. Schnee’s pack boots. Made in Montana. Removable quilted linings. Rubber bottoms. Shank reinforced. Very good for walking in legit cold temps (under 10F).

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  19. I have worn Bean gum shoes forever. However, living in Freezing Minnesota I am on the prowl for something warmer. Appreciate any recommendations. Thank You.

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    1. I spent some time in Minnesota. I snowshoed in insulated Merrell boots and wore insulated Timberlands walking around. Today, I might look at insulated Red Wing boots to show some loyalty to the local brand.

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  20. Change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes just the way it goes, left behind with the summer tote, and a parting hat tip to the boot. A welcome respite from, well, everything. Merry Christmas, and all the best in a new year.

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  21. Being from Chicago, having spent all of my summers (and winter when I could) at our cottage in Michigan, and now living in Maine, I find the Bean boot as useful and comfortable as ever. I remember being 7 or 8 and "graduating" to my first pair of Bean boots. I have a number of pairs of varied ages, and I wear them everywhere, most importantly for walking our irrepressible 8 month old labs in snowy/icy conditions. I have some Bean Traxx for particularly icy days here on the coast of Maine. For "dressy" boots, I wear a pair of Sorels, which, sadly, are no longer made in Canada, but rather Vietnam or China. A shame as they do make very good boots. I also have some rather aged Quoddy boots of which I am fond, but which Quoddy will no longer repair (that only applies to the rubber boots, they are still happy to fix up their other shoes). When possible, I do like to support our miniscule handmade shoe industry.

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  22. "preppy cosplayers" = terribly accurate

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    1. I agree. These are the folks who put the fashion out front hoping to live the "prep" life, rather than leading with an ethos and living a lifestyle wherein the fashion necessarily follows. To see multiple examples of preppy cosplay each day, I suggest following the OPH group on Facebook. It's embarassing and pathetic, yet entertaining to see how badly folks try.

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    2. OPH? Now I'm curious and eager to dish.

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    3. Original Preppy Handbook. And I agree 100%, I followed it (briefly!) on FB and just shook my head. But considering the original book was satire, maybe that's what these folks are doing??

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    4. Official, not Original. Auto correct strikes again!

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  23. Many L.L. Bean products aren't the same or aren't available but the boots are as great as ever (as are the tote bags!) And they are the best thing I have found to wear with wool ragg socks when it is chilly and muddy or damp, but yet no snow.

    --EM

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  24. I can somewhat sympathize with Muffy’s grievances. I have similar feelings when I see someone wearing a Barbour jacket that is all fashion and little function. But why should I stop wearing my beloved Barbour because of a few people? If it’s a fad then it will pass with time. (Well I guess Timberland’s tale debunks my theory). If you truly cherish a product then why give it up? Some of the comments seem directed at the ubiquitous online retailers’ social media sites which try to associate traditional staples with their low quality products.

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    1. "All fashion and little function". Do you really mean Barbour (waxed) jacket?;-) In my opinion it's all about function and very little (or not at all) about fashion. I really live in it, literally. I wear it even during winters in central Europe with a mink lining made up to measure and it is still ok.

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    2. You missed my point. Let me rephrase. There are many Barbour products which are not the same quality as a Border, Beaufort, or Bedale. Those garments have prominent logos and are worn along with a Prada bag and high heels. To each their own. The look is unappealing to me personally as the jacket isn’t doing what Barbours we’re designed originally to do. However it doesn’t change my mind about loving my less fashionable Barbour garments.

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    3. I missed your point indeed. I wear only waxed jacket, I actually appreciate this brand for being still "family operated" company when almost all sold out theirs to some kind of French, middle-eastern or other conglomerates. Merry Christmas!

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  25. I have had my Bean Boots for 25 years. They are still my go to boot for snow and blizzards ice and northeast winters.

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  26. I loved my Bean Camp boots, but changed years ago to Eastland's Camp Moc Chukka for performance and comfort. I tried Bean Boots in the 1980's but found them to be uncomfortable and slippery. I agree with this forum that Dubarry and Le Chameau offer better footwear for this function.

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  27. My Bean boots are still going strong and are still my choice for outside work. No point in buying new boots when the old ones are perfectly functional, though I do wish they would make them in wide sizes. Stay classy, people. There is way too much snobbery on this website. Who cares what preppy influencers do?

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  28. I put out an APB for winter footwear recommendations when I moved to Maine two years ago. Muck boots, people said. Easily the most popular boot up here, for weathery out-and-about.

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  29. Hey there!

    I have two questions for you!

    Who makes the boots pictured front row to the right with the black and brown two tone? Also, when you were still wearing your duck boots, did they ever hurt the blacks of your ankles?

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    1. ...sounds like English...
      not sure what information you ask for.

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