Every boy growing up in Maine knew about the ubiquitous Bean boots. Leather uppers, rubber soles, waterproof and comfortable no matter what you were slogging through. And every young man who preppied out in the eighties knew about them, too. Casual, yet with a storied brand name and never on the discount rack. And don't even get me going about the life-time warranty that they actually and unquestioningly honor. More than once in a slight haze after the bars let out we were known to take the trek to Freeport and go into the retail store that famously had to post employees at the doors around the clock when they once had a small fire because the 24/7/365 retail outlet did not even bother putting locks on their doors. So I was surprised to learn that L.L Bean boots were hip again.
A nearly century-old hunting boot is catching on with a younger generation that sees the utilitarian footwear as hip.
L.L Bean's familiar duck boot with leather uppers and rubber soles — designed for slogging through mud and snow — has become something of a fashion statement owing to its newfound popularity on college campuses, the company says. Another reason is new styles, including something Leon Leonwood Bean surely never envisioned in 1912: bright blue and pink leather, new for spring.
Part of the success of the boot is its versatility, in barnyards or in cities, in snow or rain.
At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Zina Huxley-Reicher, of New York, wears her dark brown, shearling-lined boots nearly every day, with a skirt or jeans. She has only one pair, but some classmates have several.
"They are very practical, but they've also become a fashion trend," she said. "They're simple and kind of have that rugged look that has been adopted as a fashionable thing."
Sales have grown from 150,000 pairs four years ago to about 400,000 this year, said Jack Samson, L.L. Bean senior manager for manufacturing in Brunswick. Next year, demand is projected to reach 500,000.
So there is my quandary. If I never stopped wearing Bean boots, was I hip long before the other losers caught up to me or was I the hopelessly behind the curve loser who wore them long after they went out of style?