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L.L. Bean boots: Not just for Mainers anymore

Jen and fellow thrift store shopper Sarah pose with trendy L.L. Bean boots on sale for just $25 a pair.

Jen and fellow thrift store shopper Sarah pose with trendy L.L. Bean boots on sale for just $25 a pair at the Ellsworth, Maine Goodwill.

Apparently rugged, waterproof L.L. Bean boots are as high on a hipster’s wish list as derby hats, noise-reduction headphones and fat-tire bicycles.

So why were four pairs of the puddle jumpers mingling with worn out loafers and smelly tennis shoes at the Goodwill thrift store in Ellsworth, Maine last weekend? And why were they $25 apiece?

Jen spied the boots amidst the shoe racks. A former fitting consultant at Lorenz Boot Shop in Iowa City, she knows her footwear.

“Looks like your size,” she said. “They’ve hardly been worn.”

I looked the boots over and shrugged: “Sorry, but I’m a Red Wing guy.”

I could be set adrift in a leaky lobster boat for saying this but I just don’t like the L.L. Bean style. I’ve tried. There have been numerous trips to the L.L. Bean outlet store. I’ve purchased some nice things: Grey slacks, a corduroy jean jacket; and a blue v-neck shirt.

But every time I get home I say to myself: “Why did I buy this?

The grey slacks give me high school uniform flashbacks. The corduroy jacket fits like an empty sack of sidewalk salt; and the blue shirt isn’t blue enough.

But Jen insisted loudly. Other shoppers took note. Remember, the store was filled with Mainers who believe L.L. Bean is the patron saint of retail shopping.

I grabbed pair and tried them on.

“If those things fit you, you gotta buy them,” said a woman wearing tortoise-shell glasses and a black coat. “They go for $125-$150 new…  if you can find them. The millennials are buying them all up.”

I had seen this woman earlier digging through vinyl records with a friend. They filled a shopping cart with Christmas albums. I don’t think she was a hipster (there really aren’t many hipsters in Ellsworth, Maine), but she knew what was hip.

“You sure know a lot about Bean Boots.” I said. “Why are you giving me the hard sell? How do I know you’re not here on your day off from the outlet store?”

The woman denied connections to the L.L. Bean empire. She said her name was Sarah and she lived in Machias, Maine.

“I’ve had a pair of these boots since I was a kid,” she said. “I’ve worn them so much I had to get them resoled. If you can get a pair for $25 you gotta take them. At worst, you could sell them on-line and make $100 easy.”

Suddenly, there were Bean boots all over the floor. Jen tried on two pair. Neither fit. Sarah tried one on and found a match. She picked a pair for herself, a pair for her sister and a men’s pair for her husband, guessing they might fit.

“Hey,” she said. “If they don’t, I can always resell them to some over-privileged millennial in New York.”

I took a pair home too. But I’m not crazy about them.

I’m just too square to be a hipster, too old to be a millennial, and haven’t lived here long enough to be a Mainer.

But at least my feet will be dry.

  1. You will be very excited to learn that there is now a L.L. Bean in the Mall of America !!

    It is open! You can shop there when you come back for Xmas!!

    By they way…:

    I used to order shirts from L.L. Bean all the time. They were very well made. I dress in “business-casual” every day. They made an oxford shirt that was perfect for me. It fit nice and was made to last. In fact I still were a couple of them on a regular basis. I think I bought them about 5-6 years ago.

    Unfortunately, LL Bean decided to start making all their shirts “wrinkle-free”. They are very uncomfortable…

    I guess I’m getting old. I can’t adapt to that kind of change.

    (The funny thing is that I started shopping for oxford shirts at LL Bean because Abercrombie & Fitch decided they wanted to start targeting their merchandise to the high school crowd. A long time ago, a guy like me could walk in to an Abercrombie & Fitch store and be considered a valuable customer. If I went in there now, they would think I am some kind of degenerate attempting to ogle at their advertising photos of mostly naked kids that even Hugh Hefner would consider indecent exploitation).

    I found Orvis. They sell well-made, 100% cotton oxford shirts. Not wrinkle-free. Made in USA.

  2. John Freed permalink

    I’ve had my set of Bean cold weather boots for years and they are great. I think I had new bottoms put on 30 or 40 years ago and it is almost time to have it done again.

  3. I have friends who hunt and they hate Bean boots. They are not warm while walking in the woods. I’m a city slicker now and Bean boots are great for me. They’re easy to slip on and keep my feet dry. That’s all I need.
    They have become so popular on college campuses that Bean’s is back ordered on some sizes until February!
    Cheers – Andy

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