Cold Feet Warm a Nation


LL Bean,

Outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean’s website declares, “Since 1912, we’ve believed in the adventure of a life lived outdoors, the promise of a fair deal, and the guarantee that everything we make is designed to last.” You’re probably familiar with their popular outdoor clothing and gear, but you might not know that it all came about because founder L.L. got cold feet. Literally …

According to, “The Maine-based sporting goods retailer got its start in 1911, when Leon L. Bean, an avid outdoorsman with an eighth-grade education, came home from a hunting trip with wet, uncomfortable feet. Bean, who had briefly worked in his brother’s shoe store, had a cobbler sew leather tops onto a pair of workmen’s rubber boots to create a more functional form or footwear. The following year, Bean jump-started his business by mailing a promotion flyer to everyone who held a Maine hunting license, declaring “You cannot expect success hunting deer or moose if your feet are not properly dressed.” He took orders for 100 pairs of his product, dubbed the Maine Hunting Shoe, but 90 of them were returned because of defects. Undaunted, Bean refunded everyone’s money, ironed out the quality issues and mailed a new batch of fliers. His company soon was thriving, and in 1917, he launched his first retail store in Freeport.”

The L.L. Bean brand is now known worldwide, and unbelievably, that same basic shoe design is still one of their biggest sellers … warming the feet of multitudes of outdoor enthusiasts over the years. And they’ll still refund your money if you’re not satisfied. “We make pieces that last, and if they don’t, we want to know about it. So if it’s not working or fitting or standing up to its task, we’ll take it back. L.L. himself always said that he didn’t consider a sale complete ‘until goods are worn out and the customer still satisfied.’”

Leave a comment 6 Comments

  1. Nielsen,Winifred T. says:

    I have been a buyer from L.L.Bean for over 30 years. Sadly, I have to say that the quality of their clothing has greatly declined. Some of the pieces I still have from the 1990s are much higher quality than the equivalent you can purchase today. They do have a few items, like the boots shown here, that are made the old way and represent quality. The one great customer service protocol that they have always maintained is that if the item is not what you like, you can return it and get reimbursed minus the basic shipping fee. The company has been recently purchased and run by someone, who is not in the family, but I have not seen any change in the quality of the clothing. It is sad because at one time, I could do all of my clothing shopping at LL Bean which made me very happy as I am not a shopper at regular stores.

  2. Lisa Von Saunder says:

    I am a 3rd generation LL Bean buyer. And I still have items i’ve purchased from 50+ years ago.My huge canvas satchelI bougth in 1969 ( I call it my ” bean bag” ) has been around the world 2 1/2 times and still going strong, no signs of wear.

    My grandfather’s LLL Bean clothes were sadly disposed of when he passed and they were from the turn of the century and like new. He had all those heavy duty woolens like the Buffalo plaid hunting gear. I still buy from LL Bean but yes, like Winnie , I think the quality has gone downhill on many clothing items. But then again I have my 2 Adirondak jackets, both 20+ years old, and they are like new. I wear my ” dirt colored” one half the year on the farm and the lovely flowered one to town.

    I wear LL Bean boots too but not the ” famous ” ones with the rubber soles. Long live LL Bean !!

  3. Karlyne says:

    I’m sorry to hear that the quality has declined, Lisa and Winnie, but L.L.’s story made me smile. I do most of my shopping at thrift stores, and when I find an L.L. Bean, I get pretty happy!

  4. Krista says:

    I personally haven’t purchased from L.L. Bean but my dad has. He owns those exact boots that are pictured and has worn them for as long as I can remember. I loved reading how his business was created and how he stands behind all that he makes, but it’s sad to hear that the quality is declining though. Hopefully that will change soon.

  5. Bonita Bosch says:

    Love LLBean

  6. Sharon Castro says:

    LOVE!!!!…LL Bean’s Original Fit Pants…they ‘fall’ from the waist (where we woman naturally curve in) covering all issues of muffin top, love handles, and wedgies!!! Fabric quality in their no-stretch denim, as well as, the nice weight and color choices of their khakis are unparalleled in the industry!

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