The Duck Boot, you instantly know what I’m referring to. The unmistakable boot featuring a rubber sole and leather upper that has virtually remained unchanged for more than an entire century. My first memories of the classic boot were those of my grandfather’s—a farmer, a hunter, and a man who was much more of an outdoorsman than myself by every imaginable stretch. Like many of his generation, practicality and function reigned supreme in buying decisions, and his purchase of what has colloquially become known as the “duck boot” was right inline with his consumer philosophy. The origin of the Duck Boot began with Leon Leonwood Bean (L.L. Bean), an ardent outdoorsman who spent much of his time hunting and fishing in the Maine wilderness out of the necessity to provide for his family. Bean was also fabled to have sold his own freshly bagged venison since the age of 13. After decades of returning home with puddles inside of his boots, he sought to create a comfortable and dry pair of boots for his outdoor excursions. After a bit of tinkering, Bean took an impermeable rubber sole to a local cobbler and asked to have this sewn directly onto a seven-inch leather upper. This was in 1911 and thus, the Maine Hunting Shoe was born. Bean located his shop on top of the Freeport, Maine post office, where his brother served as the postmaster, and promptly began to solicit his then iconoclast shoes by mailing a four page catalog to the addresses of people holding Maine hunting licenses. Bean offered a 100% money-back guarantee for anyone who was unhappy with their order of the $3.50 hunting shoe. Out of the first 100 orders, 90 were returned because of cracked rubber. The original production was a flop, but through some trial and error, the boots gradually achieved their intended function of keeping feet warm and dry. Eventually spreading to the far reaches of the country, the Bean Boot is an icon of American heritage and design. The boots are the epitome of versatility, and function as well in the Maine wilderness as they do on the sidewalks of any city. Unfortunately the same can not be said for my favorite brogues or suede bucks. Not to mention, Bean Boots were enthusiastically endorsed by a name that frequently pops up at the Ledbury office, Ernest Hemingway. The Bean Boot is more than a product of style but one of practical function. Except for a few modern improvements such as the addition of Thinsulate inner lining and a Gore-Tex outer membrane, the shoe remains faithful to Bean’s original design. During the resurgence of American heritage design that began a few years ago, a number of brands began churning out their own interpretation of the timeless boot. All modern interpretation aside, the Bean Boot is a certified classic and one to stick with for generations.
November 27, 2012 — Ledbury