“More heady than love, ladies or liquor is the sporting-goods catalog of L. L. Bean, outfitter extraordinary to men who live so they may hunt and fish,â€ read Life magazineâ€™s encomium to the entrepreneurial outdoorsman in October of 1941. From modest beginnings in 1911, sales at Leon Leonwood Beanâ€™s Freeport mail order business had surpassed the $1 million mark by 1937. Life showcased a number of innovative items from the Bean catalog, beginning with the famous Maine Hunting Shoe, created when Bean had a seamstress sew elk hide leggings onto a pair of old rubbers to keep his feet warm and dry while duck hunting.
In 1941 the boots, still with elk hide uppers, cost from $3.15 for the 6 1/2″ high version to $9 for the 18″. Other practical and stylish items included a fly fishing jacket with a special pocket for keeping your Luckys dry (above); a cold-proof ducking hunting outfit with a moleskin coat; zippered lambskin Canoe Shoes; a deer hunting outfit in red and black checkered wool; a double-visored bird shooting cap; an oilskin coat with a sheepskin collar and cuffs; and an array of 21 different knives for â€œevery sportsmanâ€™s whimâ€. Mr. Bean himself tested the decoys.
Jared Paul Stern is the editor of DRIVEN.