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Freeport, ME, November 25, 2020

Built to Last: The Story of the Original L.L.Bean Boot

There’s nothing quite like an original. Especially when the original was built of ingenuity, necessity and a love for the outdoors. Such is the story of the L.L.Bean Boot – the revolutionary idea of Leon Leonwood Bean that would go on to forge one of the world’s most storied brands.

Originally known as the Maine Hunting Shoe, the concept itself was novel. Created as a solution to soggy-soled boots that plagued L. L. when hunting in the wilderness of western Maine, he began designing a boot that was based on the comfort and flexibility of a leather upper and the durability of a rubber-soled work boot, aimed to keep his feet warm and dry.

The first-edition Maine Hunting Shoe, created in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean

After setting up shop in his brother’s basement, L. L. manufactured and sold 100 pairs of his new Maine Hunting Shoe, touting a 100% satisfaction guarantee. But of the first 100 boots, 90 were returned.

The problem with the initial batch was that, despite the innovative design, the single-line stitching too easily tore through the rubber, separating completely from the leather upper.

In keeping his word, L. L. issued refunds to those early customers and borrowed more money from his family so he could fix the design flaw. He retooled the build with a more durable rubber, reinforced by triple-line stitching, ensuring the rubber and leather would never separate. Now, more than a century later, that triple-line stitch remains a signature of the L.L.Bean Boot – our most iconic product, known for its superior quality and enduring function.

An early ad for the Maine Hunting Shoe

A letter from Babe Ruth, friend and customer of L. L.

A pair of L.L.Bean Boots being laced

The triple-stitch is a trademark of L.L.Bean Boots. Our stitchers are trained for 26 weeks to master the technique.

Over the years, L.L.Bean’s reputation for quality and customer care grew exponentially. L. L. received hundreds of letters from outdoorsmen and women across the country, sharing pictures of their adventures in the wilderness, with notes of gratitude to L. L. for helping outfit them for the great outdoors. Some of L. L.’s most loyal customers ranged from Babe Ruth (also a personal friend) to sitting presidents to everyday hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts from all walks of life.

“My great-grandfather, L. L., was a practical man – an avid hunter and fisherman – and everything he created, he did to make the outdoors more enjoyable for fellow outdoorsmen,” said Shawn Gorman, L.L.Bean Chairman and great-grandson of L. L. “What he didn’t know is that his innovations would create the outdoor legacy that has become L.L.Bean. The Maine Hunting Shoe was the start of it all. To this day, we’re proud that Bean Boots are made by-hand by our dedicated stitchers in Maine – just like the original. That hand-made quality is part of the magic of the L.L.Bean Boot.”

What L. L. created in 1912 was not just a boot. The Maine Hunting Shoe would go on to live many lives and become an outdoor must-have, especially for trekking into cold, damp land. It became a symbol of the outdoors. The L.L.Bean Boot has shown up in virtually every corner of American life, culture and style, including most recently as part of a collaboration with menswear designer Todd Snyder, with a standout rubber sole in hunter orange and a textured bison leather upper. It became so popular in the 2010s, in fact, that there was even a nationwide shortage.

The L.L.Bean x Todd Snyder Bean Boots in Bison Leather were released in October 2020 as part of a limited-edition collaboration with the menswear designer.

Since 1912, the L.L.Bean Boot has been reimagined in hundreds of colors, shapes, upper material (leather, waxed canvas, flannel), liners, and other adaptations, but one thing has never changed – it’s signature rubber sole.

The L.L.Bean Boot is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of footwear in American outdoors history. Whatever you call it – Bean Boot, Duck Boot, Maine Hunting Shoe – there’s nothing quite like this original.

The 8-inch, unlined tan Bean Boot remains a best-seller for both men and women.

The 8-inch, unlined tan Bean Boot remains a best-seller for both men and women.