You can’t miss the 16-foot tall boot in the center of Freeport, Maine.
It’s why many people visit the town, which is home to L.L. Bean, the long-time retailer of all types of outdoor products.
The giant “duck boot” stands in front of the company’s flagship store. is amazingly similar to the real deal. Confession: I owned a pair of duck boots as a teenager.
The story goes that Leon Leonwood Bean created the Maine hunting boot with a rubber bottom and leather upper in 1911. They were perfect for traipsing through the state’s boggy land to hunt and fish.
The following year, Bean sold the boots by mail order, with scant success at first. Ninety of the first 100 pairs were flawed. But by the 1920s, he was still selling the boots plus other outdoor products.
The duck boot has gone through popularity ups and downs through the years, but it’s been trendy for the last few years. In fact, L.L. Bean expects record holiday sales this year, according to a recent Associated Press story.
The duck boot and the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport have become part of retail tourism lore. I’d been to Maine before, but not to the L.L. Bean store, so I had to go on my recent trip to the state.
Years before the on-demand culture, Bean opened the Freeport store — and kept it open 24 hours a day. That was 1951. His idea was to cater to visiting sportsmen who would drive through the night to get an early morning start.
Inside the store, one of the first products you’ll see is the duck boot — in many models today. Shopping becomes a bit surreal as you stroll by a trout pond, a large aquarium and dioramas of moose, musk ox, mountain lion and other animal taxidermy.
In addition to the boot in front of the Freeport site, the Bootmobile (a large upper part of a duck boot built on top of a pickup truck) was there the day I visited.