Freeport, ME, March 3, 2021
L.L.Bean Stories: Irreplaceable Hand-Me-Downs
Perhaps the only thing better than a brand-new field coat or winter fleece or hiking boot is one with some wear – with some history and experience to its name. A jacket that has survived snowstorms and bonfires and breakups. A boot that has trekked up mountains and danced at dinner parties.
Most of us likely have at least one hand-me-down that carries special meaning, from a sibling or parent or – if we’re lucky enough – from a grandparent with an enviable, effortless cool. There’s a unique sense of nostalgia and connection to our well-worn clothing and gear that has a storied stain, a deep crease or a tear that’s been patched so many times you wonder how it hasn’t completely unraveled.
Throughout our 109 years in business, one of the things we enjoy most is hearing customer and employee stories about a well-loved item that’s been passed down through generations or passed around among siblings as one-by-one their arms outgrew its sleeves. An L.L.Bean jacket is great, but an L.L.Bean jacket with a soul is irreplaceable.
Here we’ve compiled some of our favorite stories of L.L.Bean employees' vintage and irreplaceable hand-me-downs.
Norwegian Sweater – 1981
My favorite L.L.Bean keepsake is the original Norwegian Sweater, navy blue with the white bird’s eye stitch and weight of an x-ray blanket – warm enough to serve as three-season outerwear, even here in Maine. It was also the sweater that I had to take to college in the fall of 1981. I remember driving up to the L.L.Bean Flagship Store and purchasing it late one August evening. I chose a men’s medium because I liked the oversized fit and extra-long sleeves. It was too big, but it was perfect for me. My college wardrobe was complete.
About this same time, I began dating my now husband of more than 30 years. I went to school in New Hampshire, and he was about two hours away in Western Massachusetts. When we saw each other on weekends, somehow the Norwegian Sweater became something we shared. He would wear it to a football game and would keep it until the next time we saw each other.
Fast forward to 2010, when our daughter Abigael was about to head off to college. I noticed the Norwegian Sweater was often in her closet, and in fact, she wore it more frequently than her dad or me. So when it came time to pack the car, we told her the sweater sharing story and that it was her turn to take it to college. And she did. She wore it regularly to Union football and hockey games, and she has it with her to this day. The sweater (except for one unintended machine washing) looks as good as it did when I bought it almost 40 years ago.
Norwegian Sweater Details
Bulldozer Boot – 1982
James Z., Footwear & Equipment Product Creation
I still have a pair of 1982 L.L.Bean Bulldozer Boots that were originally my father’s that have survived the years. My grandparents bought them for my dad at the L.L.Bean Flagship Store before I was born. These were his go-to boots for snowshoeing for many years, including when he took me snowshoeing as a kid. I discovered them in our house in high school and wore them all the time. I still wear them when I visit home, and all these years later, my dad will wear them on occasion as well.
Bean's "Bulldozer" Boot, pictured in the Fall 1982 L.L.Bean Catalog (above) & James's beloved pair pictured in snow (below)
Sleeping Bag – 1992
Jenn W., Merchandising
In 1992, my father gave me a sleeping bag for my high school graduation. I took it to Camp Wyonegonic that summer where I was an assistant counselor. It was cutting edge at the time – with synthetic fill and a ‘cotton handed’ interior. I love its 90s color palette, which features the original multi-color Mt. Katahdin logo – still hanging on by a thread almost 30 years later.
I have two teenagers who have taken this sleeping bag for camping, sleepovers and just playing video games or watching movies on the living room floor. We have a handful of sleeping bags, but this one has never gone out of rotation and has moved around the country with us. It is still my personal favorite.
Jenn's cherished sleeping bag today, after nearly 30 years of sleepovers
The multi-color Mount Katahdin logo
Mountain Classic Down Jacket, Jim Whittaker Edition – 1995
Amy Y., Product Creation
My mother-in-law – an avid hiker and mountaineer – worked in the L.L.Bean Flagship Store for about 25 years. In 1995 she went on the Expedition Inspiration Climb on Mt. Aconcagua and received a stipend from L.L.Bean for gear. She chose this iconic Men’s Down Jacket, which is very 90s in color and style with intricate Mt. Katahdin snaps – part of a collaboration with famed mountain guide Jim Whittaker. This coat still hangs on the rack in our house, and it’s one of my favorite vintage L.L.Bean pieces.
1995 Men's L.L.Bean x Jim Whittaker Down Jacket
L.L.Bean x Jim Whittaker label