Over time, however, so many have reinterpreted the boots that it can be easy to lose sight of the immense history, importance, and persistence they carry. The first pair was cobbled together in 1911 after Maine fisherman and hunter Leon Leonwood Bean grew tired of getting his feet wet during outdoor excursions. The idea was simple yet innovative, joining a light, leather upper-ankle support to a rugged rubber galosh sole to create a singular pair of hyper-functional footwear. The Bean Boot or Maine Hunting Shoe, as it later became widely known as, offered the same benefits of a rain boot without the added weight or rigidity.
Everything about the shoe was constructed with a pragmatic approach, giving careful consideration to the needs of a huntsman. Not only was the concept innovative, but the execution developed several new cobbling techniques including a triple stitch adjoining the two halves, a patented split backstay designed to limit wear and friction on the Achilles, five lines along the rubber meant to direct water flecking from the toe, and a thoughtful rubber lip to prevent debris from entering the top of the boot.
While Bean’s first line suffered from quality control issues, they were soon perfected, making and breaking waves across Maine. The versatility and functionality were unmatched at the time, proving valuable to anyone from a casual hiker to an arctic explorer. By 1928, even Ernest Hemingway was buzzing about his newly acquired “rubber bottomed boots.”