Welcome back! This week, for the holiday season, we have a New England tradition. Leon Leonwood Bean developed a waterproof hunting boot in 1912 and he set up a store in Freeport, Maine, to sell it. He made up a flier to advertise the boot to his fellow hunters and the L.L. Bean catalog was born. This “duck boot”, with a leather upper and rubber base, is still the symbol of the L.L. Bean company, represented in a oversized sculpture in front of the company headquarters and two “Bootmobiles” the company uses for publicity events.
The company is famous for it’s functional outdoor gear and New England-style daywear. Often called “preppy style”, the cardigans, plaid shirts and khaki pants reflect a conservative and practical style hearkening to American workwear fashions of the 1920s and ’30s, as well as collegiate styles of the 1950s.
They are particularly famous for durable outerwear that keeps the wearer warm and dry despite varied conditions. The company’s employees have historically been people who loved outdoor sports and used the gear in the field themselves.
In the 1980s, with the resurgence of preppy style, L.L. Bean’s clothing enjoyed a popularization that introduced it to a wider audience, often including more urban customers with less use for their fishing gear and more for their useful luggage and sturdy jeans and khakis. Many of the catalog items also can be ordered with monogramming.
Through the years the company has increased its women’s division to fill gaps in the market, such as sizing that accommodated petite and curvy women. They were early adopters in the business of selling items in multiple cuts, such as jeans or khaki pants cut slim-leg, straight-leg, or boot-cut, as well as options for petite, a curvy misses, a medium tall, and a tall size range. In addition they were one of the first retailers to offer bathing suits for women selling tops and bottoms separately. This innovation made it easier for women whose bust and hips sizes didn’t fit a single size’s measurements.
We wish you and yours a warm and cozy holiday season, whether you’re here in NYC or home someplace far from here!