L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Shoes ($139)
Upon his return from a rainy hunting trip in rural Maine in 1911, Leon Leonwood Bean was fed up with his old leaky boots, which did little to prevent his feet from becoming cold and damp. He took to the basement of his brother’s apparel shop and called on a local cobbler to stitch together a hardier boot, combining a comfortable leather upper with a durable, waterproof rubber sole. The first version tended to split at the seams. But Bean had already instituted his now legendary satisfaction-guaranteed policy, and when 90 of the first 100 pairs were returned, he fixed them himself, securing a core of diehard fans.
Though the Bean boot, as it’s affectionately known, was designed to aid hunters during long treks, it soon caught on with urbanites. Hit the streets of Boston or New York City in early spring and you’ll notice young professionals and hardened blue-collar folks alike wearing it. It works great in slush, and the modern build holds up better than its forebears, giving the Bean an ever expanding fan base: at times it’s been on back order for months. The wait is worth it. One pair can last a lifetime. —Mitch Breton