Quickly after arriving at Harvard my freshman fall, fresh from the beaches of Australia, I encountered these weird, half rubber, half leather boots. I couldn’t understand their popularity, why would someone wear such an ugly shoe? The first time I arrived back in my dorm after a horrible Boston rainstorm with freezing, wet feet, I quickly began to understand their appeal.
I discovered the rich history surrounding Bean Boots, like their long tradition of being handmade in Maine, and that they had long been a staple for the students of the university I had just arrived at. Naturally, I bought a pair, mainly to combat the cold feet, but also to be part of the long tradition of Bean Boot wearing Harvard students.
Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean was the man who invented the Bean Boot, originally called the Maine Hunting Boot, in 1911. He originally marketed them to hunters who appreciated how comfortable the boots were, whilst being almost totally waterproof. As the boots grew in popularity, they spread from being mainly for hunting, to being a more mainstream, outdoor recreation boot, to what they are today, a highly function piece of fashion worn by almost anyone in cities in the Northeast of the USA, and an icon of preppy fashion.
I can now see the appeal of their design, the waterproof rubber lower half, with the classic tan colored sole around the bottom, and the leather upper, a tell tale sign of how well loved a pair of boots is. The more worn and creased the leather, the more stories that the boots have to tell. They’re nothing special to many of us, but to an outsider these boots were bizarre, and have come to be a familiar part of everyday life.