Part III: Ruth Porter's Goldmine, The Boots
Ruth Porter is a Mainer. Slow-talking, droll, she’d scoot as she walked to the hermetically sealed door. She turned to Foster and I, grinned slightly, and rolled her eyes at the sight of two grown men, ebullient at what awaited us inside Art & Archives.
Bean Boot with Kilty
“Sure go ahead,” she said, unfazed, as we hesitated to touch anything. Mrs. Porter opened her home at the archives of L.L. Bean, and every clichéd childlike metaphor I could apply wouldn’t do justice to how we felt. Giddy, standing outside her “candy shop,” Mrs. Porter gave Foster Huntington and I full access to their archive. The amber color of the low wattage fluorescent lighting took some getting used to, as did the knobby cotton gloves. At one point, a glib Mrs. Porter remarked, “Yeah, the Minnie Mouse jokes are never-ending with the guys in design.”
An early version of the Rubber Moc, I love the elegance of the wingtip toe.
Mrs. Porter is a student of history, and the history of L.L. Bean is illustrious, as she was easily able to demonstrate. Roughly ten to twelve heavy aluminum shelves were set on rollers. Each shelf was jam-packed with close to a hundred year’s worth of everything from matchbooks to oil paintings, rods and reels to the earliest iteration of the hunting jacket. Mrs. Porter had a story for all of them. A menswear designer’s dream of an inspiration room, I was ready to pull out the Therm-a-Rest and set up camp.
These boots were petrified. The sole looked like it’d been dipped in heavily leaded cherry red paint.
The signature chain link only made it to the heel on the old Moc. Note the incredible wear on the toes.
A new arrival to the archive, this donation included a note that claimed L.L. Bean once wore these moccasins. Foster was quick to point out some dried blood around the back of the left boot cuff. After finishing her research, when Mrs. Porter sends word, I will provide the full history for this beautiful boot.
All images (c) 2009 Foster Huntington.