The Case for Duck Boots

For when you want to wear Maine as an accessory.

If you were hankering after a pair of LL Bean’s Duck Boots, satisfaction is a ways off: right now, there is 100,000 person waiting listfor the hand-made-in-Freeport boots, and none will ship before February 2015. At this point, you’re better off getting on good terms with your great uncle and trying to push for early inheritance of his old dogs. 

“Old dog” isn’t just a term of endearment. In 1911, Leon Leonwood Bean (LL himself) was prompted to invent the famous fully-sealed boot with a rubber sole and leather upper after returning from hunting with cold feet. The Maine Hunting Shoe, as it was originally named, is over a century old.  

Like most centenarians, these boots make few concessions to style (dark brown and dark blue have become available in the last few years) and no apologies for their casual mien. Ornament is at a minimum: decorative features include a leather pull-tab and rubber-chain soles and, well, laces. But, like a barnacled lobster boat unperturbed by the rollicking Atlantic, duck boots have a reliability and uncompromised functionality that make them valuable. If you buy a pair of LL Bean duck boots (our recommendation is the insulated 8-inch height in Classic Tan), you’re not just buying boots but making a scarf-muffled statement: I’m a guy who values the classics. 

Plus, with the right pairings, these boots can look downright handsome—like Jaws-era Robert Shaw.  With straight-cut jeans or (for the connoisseur) flannel-lined canvas slacks, duck boots are a sturdy base on which to build your perfect East Coast winter ensemble, replete with Carhartt beanie and CPO-checked jacket. Duck boots aren’t trying to be anything they’re not, and in a well-worn pair, neither are you. 

Photos by Associated Press