Biddle's got the classics, GoreTex-ified. Mascari has 'em in brown, (iconoclast), and I've got the tall fleecey ones—I hate getting cold ankles. Blam might order a pair. I'm talking about the L.L.Bean Boot: the accidental, unofficial shoe of Gizmodo.
If you grew up on the East Coast, chances are you've owned a pair of these too. Chances are you've splashed through a puddle of freezing slush without giving a thought to your feet. Chances are, you and dozens of other kids squeaked down your school's linoleum hallways on a snowy day, trailing the trademark faux-chain footprint, rendered in dirty wetness. Chances are you called these shoes duck boots. And chances are you never realized how much you loved them. Take a second to remember; step back in time with me for a minute, to Maine in 1911.
The following is a dramatization, using paid actors, questionable sources, and a shaky knowledge of the subject matter[s].
It was a cold winter—but that's not unusual in Maine. The temperature hovered in the teens, sometimes flirting with single digits; there was a reasonable amount of snow. Leon Leonwood Bean—L.L. Himself!—went hunting a lot that year, and this was also not unusual. Bean was an avid hunter, and had been selling his fresh-bagged venison since he was 13 years old, and his feet were almost perpetually cold and wet. The boots available at the time were oiled leather, which could resist moisture, but wouldn't stand up to a good soaking. Bean's own boots were always soggy. One cold day in 1911, Leon had a brainwave. One word: rubber.
He came up with an idea for a boot with an impermeable rubber bottom: A polymer capsule around your foot that couldn't, by its very nature, allow moisture to penetrate. When he returned to town, he contracted a local cobbler to make the shoe, got a list of out-of-staters with Maine hunting licenses, and sent them a flyer advertising the "Maine Hunting Shoe." He offered a 100-percent money-back guarantee.
Out of the 100 boots that were made and sold, 90 came back; the rubber bottoms were cracking and filling up with water. That cobbler sucked. Fucking amateur.
But that didn't stop Leon! He returned every dissatisfied customer's money. The next year—a wetter and colder year—he got a $400 loan and trucked down to Boston to talk to some professional rubbermakers, the United States Rubber Company. USRC helped him refine his design, and agreed to make his new-and-improved boot bottom.
That was the birth of what is, without question, one of the best pieces of footwear ever designed.
Nearly 100 years later, the boots remain largely unchanged. Sure, you can get them updated with modern materials like GoreTex and Thinsulate, and the manufacturing process is a little safer, but boot soldiers on, true to its original form. This is a story of a successful technology. One that several members of the Giz team rely on whenever it gets wet out.
What other 100-year-old technology do you use? A pencil? Booze? An idea this good isn't just something to recognize, it's something to celebrate—by splashing carelessly through a puddle of water. Every. Single. Time.