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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at L.L.Bean

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Anyone who has shopped at a retailer with few physical storefronts to browse knows it can be hard to figure out where to start. There are dozens of options that may all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that not all products from a given brand are created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than they do other things. L.L.Bean, we’ve found, is one of those brands — its massive inventory of unisex basics (and outdoor gear) must be carefully culled to find gems like the best duck boots, the most durable totes, and the warmest slippers. To help make things easier, we’ve rounded up all the L.L.Bean stuff our writers and editors — as well as architects, photographers, gardeners, and vintage-store owners — have recommended on the Strategist.

For everyone

“No one can top the L.L.Bean Boat and Tote,” says Chris Black, host of the podcast How Long Gone, and our writers and editors heartily agree — so much so that the Boat and Tote is featured on the Strategist 100, our roundup of the best, most stood-behind products that have ever appeared on this website. Ming Thompson, an architect and principal at design firm Atelier Cho Thompson and proud owner of eight of these totes, says, “You might think this is a bag, but you’d be mistaken. It’s a laundry bag, a picnic basket, a way to schlep all your things across town.” In fact, as former Strategist writer Hilary Reid points out, they were originally designed for hauling ice back in the 1940s, but they’ve taken on a new life as an actually stylish bag in the decades since, “carried by both Carolyn Bessette in the ’90s and Chloë Sevigny in 2016.” And if you want to have even more fun with your tote, you can monogram it, as Strategist contributor Sadie Stein has done. The result is something so versatile, it can take you “from Greenwich Academy lacrosse practice to Sunday afternoon at Dover Street Market.”

L.L.Bean’s Hunter’s Tote has a very similar silhouette as the classic Boat and Tote, and it comes recommended by both Chris Black and designer-slash-potter Jonathan Adler, the latter of whom called it the “bargain of the century.” The biggest difference between the Hunter’s Tote and the Boat and Tote, besides the green or camo-print exterior, is the thermoplastic interior coating that makes it “more water-resistant than its preppier canvas sister,” and therefore a bit sturdier for grocery shopping or even picnicking.

If you want an L.L.Bean bag that’s even better for food storage, try this insulated tote. It comes recommended by Julie Lindenman, owner of an eponymous event-planning company, who says it does as good of a job at keeping cold food and drinks cold as a Yeti cooler — but at a fraction of the price.

Though there are lots of winter boots that you can buy from countless other brands to keep your feet dry, “Any other winter duck boot is just trying to copy what L.L.Bean perfected more than a century ago,” declares Strategist editor (and L.L.Bean fan) Maxine Builder. And over and over again in our reporting, we’ve found that stylish women and men love the original, unlined Bean Boot for its durability and good looks. Fashion blogger Dana Landon says she’s “been wearing these for rain, slush, and mud since high school” because “they last forever.” Gardener and MasterClass instructor Ron Finley calls the Bean Boots his “go-to” for working in the yard, because “they’re comfortable, waterproof, made in the U.S., and look good.” He adds, “When things get muddy — you never have to worry about your socks getting wet.” And Builder says the original, unlined, six-inch Bean Boots she’s owned for at least a decade are “going strong, even after ski trips out West, brutal New England winters, and New York City’s aforementioned black holes of slush.”

Former Strategist writer David Notis prefers this taller version of the Bean Boot, which also has a Thinsulate lining to lock in heat. He’s had his pair for five years and loves to “break [them] out if it’s really snowy or rainy or slushy or whatever else.” New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff also owns a pair and says that they’re “as hardworking and practical as everyone says.” She likes that her navy boots “blend in to most outfits on days when I don’t feel like taking them off when I get to work.”

For even more insulation, there’s the eight-inch Bean Boot with a shearling lining to keep your feet extra warm — and that’s great for extreme adventures, like an Alaska cruise. “Most guests sign up for adventurous shore excursions that immerse them in Alaska’s wild natural environment; I recommend they bring waterproof boots to keep their feet comfortable and dry,” says Yves Segers, general manager on Oceania Cruises’ MS Regatta, who recommends these.

If you’re looking for maximum warmth, consider L.L.Bean’s ten-inch shearling-lined Bean Boots, which are the winter boot of choice for multiple Strategist writers. “In a full-on snowpocalypse, nothing beats the Bean,” says former senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson. Writer Lauren Ro says these boots keep her feet “toasty and dry” even when “stomping through inches of freshly fallen snow,” and former writer Hilary Reid describes them as “so snow-proof, you could walk through waist-deep snow and your legs might get soaked but your feet would still be warm and dry.” However, all three women agree the boots are heavy, which make them, as Reid puts it, “a little too serious to wear on an average winter day.”

A self-described “true basic New England chick,” former social content manager Siraad Dirshe has been wearing (and rebuying) L.L.Bean’s Wicked Good Moccasin Slippers for years. “The durable sole makes them ideal for both indoor and outdoor wear, and the shearling lining helps to draw moisture away from your feet,” she says. Former writer Reid also described them as “the ultimate New England dad gift.” She purchased the regular shoelike slippers as a “cozy alternative” for her dad, who likes to wear loafers and socks around the house. “One of his favorite things to do after work at home is to practice the trumpet, which he usually does in his unheated basement ‘studio’ — so I’m hoping these will keep his feet warm while he’s playing scales,” she says.

If you’re not worried about running to the mailbox in your slippers, try these leather-soled Wicked Good slippers that resemble an “Ugg-moccasin hybrid,” according to Ro. The slippers’ “shape, lambswool lining, and ankle height recall Ugg style, but the visible stitching takes them into moccasin territory.”

When Reid investigated the efficacy of UPF-protective clothing, she discovered this khaki baseball cap with extra sun protection built in.

L.L.Bean’s Cordura backpack is popular with both working professionals and students, and like the canvas Boat and Tote, it is also designed to “last you for years,” according to former George Washington University resident advisor Kira Sommer. She calls it “a solid, reliable backpack that can withstand heavy books and a laptop.” And according to Dustin Sposato, communications manager at a data-focused nonprofit, this backpack actually looks nice in addition to being durable: “They’re super functional and last forever — my mom still uses one I had in elementary school. This one felt ‘adult’ without being overly sleek.” [Heads up: Many colorways of this item are sold out or on back-order.]

If you’re looking for something that’ll carry even more than the largest Boat and Tote, here’s a handsome weekender bag made from L.L.Bean’s heavy-duty waxed canvas. It comes recommended by real-estate agent Robert Khederian, who points out, “There are few more classic combinations than waxed canvas and leather.” Plus, the waxed canvas looks better with age and is “made to get beaten up. You don’t need to be precious.”

Freemans Sporting Club head designer Nikko Lencek-Inagaki said that even though this waxed-canvas L.L.Bean bag is meant to tote firewood, he finds it “useful for many other things.” The bag’s waxed cotton is “strong enough to stand on its own,” which makes it perfect for holding everything from Nikko’s grocery store items to camping trip essentials, and would be nice for “even small mammals, perhaps,” he says.

Builder picked up one of L.L.Bean’s “super lightweight” Packlite Chairs at its flagship store in Freeport, Maine. She likes that it can be compacted to “about the size of an extra-long Nalgene bottle,” which makes it easy to transport in a tote or backpack (like, say, the Boat and Tote). She likens sitting in the chair to “being swaddled in a hammock,“ but at the same time, “It’s so comfortable and supportive that I’ve even taken to setting it up inside my house.”

In a (slightly wine-induced) pre-Cyber Monday shopping haze, Builder also purchased a set of L.L.Bean’s Egyptian-cotton hand towels and got them monogrammed with her last initial. She described the pair she chose in flint gray with black embroidery as “so incredibly soft that I am now, soberly, considering getting the full set.”

For men

L.L.Bean’s Long-Sleeved Tee is one of our picks for the best long-sleeved shirt for men, because it’s “no frills, no fluff, no ridiculous markup — just a good shirt,” according to Tatcha senior brand marketing and communications manager Andrew Favorito. Available in 12 colors from clover green to a deep ocean blue, he says it offers “exactly what you’d expect from L.L.Bean in regard to quality, cost, and styling.”

Or if you’re looking for something a bit more insulating, Brian Davis, the owner of vintage store Wooden Sleepers, likes how this thermal henley’s “hefty wool blend” is similar to the sturdy construction of his favorite vintage thermals.

In the early days of COVID-19, Black recommended this wool sweater from L.L.Bean to a reader living alone and wanting to make their home cozier. “Why not put on a GIANT sweater? Something oversized might make you feel like you are being hugged,” he said, pointing out the classic item “could become your best friend during this time in lockdown.”

Black also suggested this classic knit sweater for a reader looking to update their fall wardrobe. He declared that the fisherman sweater looks good “on almost everyone, even if you aren’t trying to catch lobsters in Maine.”

For an even chunkier and cozier version, Black called this pure wool model the “best in class for the price.”

Photo: retailer

L.L.Bean’s classic Pinpoint Oxford Shirt is available in sleeve lengths as long as 37 inches, making the style more accessible for taller men — like actor, model, and tall guy Kyle Andrew. Andrew likes his own so much that he’s “put a few men on to these in the past and they always end up with multiples.” The shirt comes in three shades: white, light blue, and a darker French blue, and according to L.L.Bean, shirts with 37-inch sleeves are also two inches longer from top to bottom. But even if you’re not tall, this classic shirt is still a crowd-pleaser because it’s “truly wrinkle-free to wear right out of the dryer and holds its shape and fit.”

Offering his thoughts on workwear that can handle even the toughest carpentry and sculpting projects, Black says this Portuguese cotton shirt from L.L.Bean is “warm and double-stitched for toughness.” And in addition to looking equally nice with some distressing, as Black points out, “You could even add a monogram!”

Photo: reatiler

Take a cue from dancer and consultant Eva Alt, who revealed to us that she’s sometimes guilty of stealing her boyfriend’s “insanely warm” flannel robe. L.L.Bean’s flannel is woven with longer-than-average fibers, which makes it more durable, and according to the brand, each robe is vetted by a master weaver who gives the robe a “touch test” before “declar[ing] it soft enough” for the customer.

In response to a reader looking to perfect après-ski style for winter, Black recommended layering “L.L.Bean’s soft, thick, navy (and machine washable!) wool socks” underneath a pair of classic black winter boots.

For women

L.L.Bean’s Trail Model Rain Jacket has a slim silhouette that’s equally flattering as it is protective, which, according to Carolyn Leber from boutique PR agency Boxwood Co., makes it a must-have on hikes and walks. “This jacket really keeps out the rain, but is lightweight and can easily be taken off and tied around your waist if it gets too warm,” she says. Leber also likes that the jacket has a hood that “snaps up tight for protection in really stormy weather,” and the design features “lots of pockets both inside and out for stowing keys, phone, snacks, and even a leash.”

In response to a reader query, Strategist writer Chloe Anello went sleuthing for a dupe of Emily Blunt’s red jacket in Wild Mountain Thyme. Though this peacoat “doesn’t have the same punchy color that Blunt’s has,” Anello still thinks it’s “a great option for unpredictable weather because it’s made from extra-soft Italian lambswool with a Thinsulate liner to add a layer of warmth without bulk.”

When Adelson was visiting her alma mater, she couldn’t resist picking up the brand’s Hi-Pile Fleece, adorned with a college logo on the front. Noting the adorable color and calling the kangaroo-style front pocket “very cozy,” she likes that the neck can be snapped up or down “depending on the temperature” and even took to wearing the fleece during summer, “cuddling in it with the air conditioner cranked up,” she says.

Despite being someone “who swore off jeans,” former Strategist intern Aisha Rickford was delighted by the elastic-stretch waistband on this pair from L.L.Bean that she discovered at a thrift store. Rickford described the quality as “incredibly soft, comfortable, and [having] this lovely broken-in feeling,” and after they surpassed the one-year mark without any tears, she doubled down on the Double L Jeans, buying a brand-new pair from L.L.Bean.

Photo: retailer

L.L.Bean’s Wicked Plush Robe comes recommended by two very cool women who love that its luxurious design includes a sherpa hood and cuffs for maximum warmth and coziness. Upstate New York–based photographer Ysa Pérez, who admittedly “can’t mess with a robe that doesn’t have pockets or a hood,” says the ultra-comfortable Wicked Plush “makes me feel like I’m at a hotel,” and compares wearing it to “being wrapped in a blanket all day,” while Caraa co-founder and creative director Carmen Chen Wu swears her Wicked Plush Robe gets softer after every wash, calling it “super thick and fluffy” and “truly like wearing your bed around with you.”

Photo: retailer

In our roundup of the best bathing-suit cover-ups, former intern Rickford professed her love for her lightweight L.L.Bean tunic, which she said is “built to last for seasons” and, because it “doubles as a T-shirt dress,” is “perfect for the beach and non-beach days alike.” Plus, since it’s opaque and rated UPF 50+, it provides additional sun protection.

In the winter, swimsuit designer Melisa Denizeri prefers traditional camp socks like this chunky cotton pair from L.L.Bean because they’re “super cozy when worn indoors” — though she also says they’re great for wearing outdoors with a pair of heavy boots too.

For pets

This recommendation comes from interior designer and dog owner Grant K. Gibson, who was looking for a dog blanket that’s “more tasteful and that doesn’t stand out or interfere with the interior.” He recommends this deceptively stylish but pet-proof quilted L.L.Bean blanket, which he says “can really blend into any interior, traditional or modern.”

It pays to be prepared. This veterinarian-approved canine first-aid kit includes items such as hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, forceps, and a thermometer that can apparently be used on humans in a pinch.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Guide to Shopping at L.L.Bean