I am not receiving any recognition or compensation from L. L. Bean for this post. Just want to say that up front. Because I loooooove L.L. Bean!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! There's a link below. Go there. Shop. Be one with the Bean.
I can't tell you exactly when I became aware of L.L. Bean, it's just always been part of my life. When I was a kid, Dad would take hunting trips to Maine with his buddies and midnight stops at L.L. Bean in Freeport were a part of that tradition. Dad brought home stuffed animals, kid sized snow shoes (the old school kind made of wood and tanned leather), birch bark Moose calls, and one time a basket backpack "just like the Indians used to use". That basket was awesome and I loved it.
The L.L. Bean catalog was in my home just as often as the Sears Christmas Book catalog.
I poured through the pages to look at the hunting gear, the camping gear, the fishing gear. Oh, what I wouldn't do for a split bamboo fly rod!!!
And the clothes! The fairisle sweaters (and sweater dresses), the patch madras dresses and skirts, the great coats and the shooooeeess..... sigh... penny loafers with leather soles, hand made in Maine. And you could really put a penny in them (though the style at the time was to use dimes so you'd have money for a phone call - take that whippersnappers!).
My very first "on my own" purchase from L. L. Bean was a pair of penny loafers, a pair of the uber stylish Bean boots (6" and there were no color options then), and a navy blue "Norwegian Fisherman's Sweater". Believe it or not, I still have that sweater. I think it might even fit.
I remember that I saved the money from my first job - scooping ice cream at Charlie's -and gave it to my Mom who wrote a check for me. There were no shipping fees then, and if you went into the store the prices were exactly the same as in the catalog. Because L.L. Bean picked up the shipping fees, they didn't have a toll-free number and I used to know their number by heart. The area code is 207.
When I filled out the order form for my first order, I wasn't really sure of my shoe size so I called the customer service number. The kind lady at the other end of the phone told me to trace my foot and they'd figure it out. She reminded me that I'd have to do it twice as I wouldn't wear heavy socks with the loafers, but I would with the boots. I traced, Beans figured, the shoes fit.
I placed the envelope for my order in the mail box while I was waiting for the school bus and 2 weeks later I had my stuff. The sweater, the shoes, the boots (which are still made in Maine) ... everything was of a great quality.
The penny loafers died a noble death on the streets of NYC when the sole ripped and the cobbler told me "these-a good shoes but you need-a buy new".
The Bean boots lasted for 30 years. I did have to have the leather resewn onto the boot once, and then I replaced the boot. Unfortunately, then the leather rotted out while I was living in the Tropics.
The Beans pledge of taking anything back at any time for any reason is still in effect. They have reinstituted the "free shipping" policy, and their merchandise is well priced.
If you wonder where to do your shopping this Christmas, I suggest you go to www.LLBean.com and go wild! Be One With the Bean!!!