Back in 1911, avid outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean was hunting in Maine when we became fed up with his shoes. They could keep him warm, but not dry, and he needed something more practical to wade through the mud. With a design in mind and the help of a local cobbler, he combined the leather top from a boot he owned with the rubber soles of another and the first "bean boot" was officially for sale by the next fall.
But the iconic boot, which never seems to go out of style, was not an immediate success. Of the first 100 pairs sold, 90 had been returned. Bean stuck with it though, reworking the design to address customer complaints. And once the designed was perfected, the L.L. Bean company was able to build off its success and introduce a field coat, mail-order catalog and along the way, create an authentically American brand that is built to tackle the outdoors.
We're lucky L.L. didn't give up, because today the boot's functionality has become stylish and anyone living where the leaves change has been able to set their calendar to the annual resurgence of these shoes. You might say, that they're the footwear equivalent of "pumpkin spice," and if you live in a climate that warrants these shoes, they're something you should own.
Each pair of L.L. Bean duck boots takes over an hour to make which is why every year, there's a finite number made and as The Atlantic reported, some years see a dramatic shortage. While only the Maine exports can be the original, other brands have had a century to mirror the classic design and offer a fresh alternative to the legendary style. We've compiled our favorites.