You probably noticed a lot brown and tan rubber-bottomed foul weather shoes this season.
Most likely, it’s L.L. Bean’s Bean Boot, which has undergone a popularity spike.
But they’re not trendy on purpose.
In fact, the boot has been in production — largely unmodified apart from slight changes for new technology — for more than 100 years. Their popularity has waxed and waned during this time, but they have always endured. They’re the unofficial mascot of L.L. Bean.
But now, they’re really thriving.
“They’re all over college campuses and high schools,” L.L. Bean spokesperson Carolyn Beem told Boston.com. “Without changing anything, they’re back in style.”
In fact, the boots are so popular they sell out every winter. In December, Boston.com reported that between 60,000 and 100,000 pairs were backordered.
“The number of boots we have sold over has grown steadily over the last several years,” LL Bean spokesperson Mac McKeever told Business Insider. “Especially the last three years.”
Bean sold approximately 450,000 boots this past winter — which is a new seasonal record.
Why are the 100-year old boots so popular now? A few reasons.
- “Legacy” products are incredibly trendy now. Consumers, especially millennial consumers can connect to with history and a bulletproof track record — both of which the Bean Boot has in spades. L.L. Bean’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, started selling his Maine Hunting Shoe back in 1911 — which is where the Bean Boot comes from.
- Their slightly goofy aesthetic is back in style. The “normcore” Americana sensibility the boots give off, along with the aforementioned legacy, are both very “in” right now among a lot of demographics — especially young urbanites.
- The boots are an incredible value. The base model is only $US79, and comes with LL Bean’s unconditional satisfaction guarantee. Bean even lets you decide if you’re satisfied, so you can bring back your boot any time you want for virtually any reason — no questions asked.
- Speaking of bulletproof, that’s exactly what Bean Boots are. They’re well-known to be completely flawless from a functionality perspective. They are truly “buy it for life,” and many owners see the boots perform for decades without replacement.
Both how the boots are made and how they look has been essentially unchanged since they were first introduced as the Maine Hunting Shoe. Bean was an avid outdoorsman, and he designed the boot for fly fishing, hunting, etc. Most boots were all leather in the earliest model, but Bean had the idea to sew a rubber bottom to a leather top, for a dry, comfortable foot.
Apart from a few technological improvements, they’re still made the same way they were 100 years ago: hand-stitched in Maine. According to McKeever, it can take several months to train someone to operate the old-fashioned stitching machines.
Since demand for Bean Boots has taken off, the company has purchased another rubber moulding machine for about $US1 million and added another shift at their boot factory in Lewiston, Maine — which is now running almost 24/7 — to try and meet demand.
As of March 11, however, the boots are still on back order until late spring or summer. If you go to the L.L. Bean website to place an order, this message greets you:
Our advice: order the boots now if you want a pair for next winter.
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