LL Bean boot production kicks into higher gear, benefiting from retro trend
A nearly century-old hunting boot is catching on with a younger generation that sees the utilitarian footwear as hip.
L.L Bean’s familiar duck boot with leather uppers and rubber soles — designed for slogging through mud and snow — has become something of a fashion statement owing to its newfound popularity on college campuses, the company says. Another reason is new styles, including something Leon Leonwood Bean surely never envisioned in 1912: bright blue and pink leather, new for spring.
Part of the success of the boot is its versatility, in barnyards or in cities, in snow or rain.
At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Zina Huxley-Reicher, of New York, wears her dark brown, shearling-lined boots nearly every day, with a skirt or jeans. She has only one pair, but some classmates have several.
“They are very practical, but they’ve also become a fashion trend,” she said. “They’re simple and kind of have that rugged look that has been adopted as a fashionable thing.”
Sales have grown from 150,000 pairs four years ago to about 400,000 this year, said Jack Samson, L.L. Bean senior manager for manufacturing in Brunswick. Next year, demand is projected to reach 500,000.
Defying a trend toward offshore production, the outdoors retailer is adding 125 full-time employees to its Maine-based manufacturing operation to keep pace with orders.
The well-known boot appears to be benefiting from a retro trend, whether it’s penny loafers or the Gap’s 1969 series blue jeans, said Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail in New York.