Made in Maine: Untying secrets of Brunswick's Bean Boot factory
Although it’s the point in the spring season where students are swapping their trusty winter footwear for ballet flats and Sperrys, the iconic Bean Boot has been a staple in the typical Polar Bear wardrobe for the past several years (much to the chagrin of fashion columnist Evan Horwitz ’15), and has recently experienced growing popularity on college campuses everywhere.
What is it about these seemingly basic boots that has caused them to strike the fancy of a generation? The Orient decided to go the source—L.L. Bean Manufacturing in Brunswick—to find out. The factory is just a few miles from campus, a few turns off McKeen Street.
“We welcome the popularity,” said Mac McKeever, spokesperson for L.L. Bean. “I was in Manhattan recently, struck and amazed by the number of people that were wearing Bean Boots, just on the street. I think there is a shift among younger folks back to this trend of Americana. We have this boot that was designed and developed really for hunting, to keep your feet warm and dry, but it’s also garnered favor with folks on college campuses, folks in urban settings, and in the fashion community. So I think that speaks volumes about the boot and the fact that its design has changed very little over 100 years.”
This original design was first conceived in 1911, when company founder Leon Leonwood Bean—fed up with getting wet, cold feet on hunting trips—decided to stitch rubber bottoms to the leather uppers of his boots in a quest for waterproof comfort.
“He really was a man ahead of his time,” said McKeever. “He started what truly revolutionized the outdoor footwear industry.”Bean’s initial efforts to market the boots did not immediately meet with success.
“He got 100 orders,” said McKeever. “90 of the first 100 failed. The rubber separated from the leather. And, true to his word, he gave back all the money, went back to the drawing board and corrected the problem. It almost bankrupted him refunding everyone’s money, and had it, none of this would be here today.”
Royce Haines has been Head Supervisor of Brunswick Manufacturing for two years and has worked for L.L. Bean for almost three decades. He said that although the business has expanded greatly throughout the years, all of the boots are still assembled in Brunswick, while the rubber bottoms are crafted in a smaller facility in Lewiston. The company currently sends catalogues to over 160 outlets and has international retail stores in Canada, China and Japan.
“We have a very heavy presence in Japan,” said Haines. “About two dozen outlets. They love the fun colors.”
Although all models of the boot are based off of the original, time-tested design, L.L. Bean has expanded its height and color options in the past few years to cater to the growing tastes and demands of consumers. In addition to the traditional tan and dark brown options, the company has dabbled in shades of red, blue, green, black and white.
The inside of the Brunswick factory is a well-oiled machine of Bean Boot production.
To this day, very little of the manufacturing process is automated. Workers could be seen crouched over sewing machines or cutting leather by hand during the tour of the factory. While we were navigating our way through the room, an employee stopped Haines for feedback on a minor issue with some boot eyelets.
“It’s still a little rough here, see?” he said, offering up a leather boot upper as example and running his finger over the metal eyelets to demonstrate his point.
A small portion of the factory is set aside entirely for repairs, a testament to the company’s 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. Customers who are not satisfied with their boots can exchange them for a new pair anytime at no charge. For a small fee, they can also send in their worn-out boots for repair.
“We’re one of the only companies out there that really lets the customer decide what satisfaction is,” said McKeever. “The interesting thing about the boots is that people fall in love with them—they become kind of like Linus with his security blanket and they don’t want to let them go, because the leather has molded to their leg, or they’ve become emotionally attached to them or they just love the comfort of these boots.”
“In the world today, repurposing, recycling has become a trend,” said Haines. “It’s nice to see people taking advantage of that.”
At the repair station, bins are stacked high with boots that have undergone all ranges of wear. “Oh wow, look at these, these have been around for a while,” said Haines, gesturing to a pair where only the worn leather uppers remained intact.
Each pair of boots has an address tag; they hail from all over the country, from New York City to Ashland, Va.
At one point, McKeever shared an anecdote about a man who left his Bean Boots on the dock at his camp. A big storm blew the boots into the water, and he thought they were lost. Several days later the man went snorkeling, and his boots were on the lake floor waiting for him.
“Every pair of boots has a story,” said McKeever. “Everyone loves them—what’s not to love?”
Video: In Focus: Bowdoin a cappella
No treble in paradise: a look at the auditions, rivalries, and inner workings of Bowdoin a cappella
Throughout the school year, students flock to campus venues to hear their favorite a cappella groups perform. Whether the event is the large holiday concert in Pickard or a more intimate, laidback gathering in Ladd House, the performances are well attended almost without exception. However, there is a lot more to the world of a cappella than belting out your favorite Macklemore song in the chapel. There are logistics involved: organizing auditions, obtaining recording funds and the ongoing effort to dispel the prevalent notion of tense rivalries between groups.
The A Cappella Council, spearheaded by Noah Gavil ’14, works to facilitate communication between the six groups to ensure that these logistics run as smoothly as possible. Although the groups perform together three times a year, their contact is otherwise fairly limited, and the Council has recently been working to change that.
“This year, for the first time that I remember, we had a big meeting between all the other groups to work through some of the kinks,” said Kevin Miao ’14 of the Longfellows. “In the past, it was much more fragmented and there wasn’t much communication.”
One of the most important aspects of this communication occurs during audition period. At the beginning of the year, each group goes around to the first year bricks to do “dorm sings,” making sure not to overlap too closely with anyone else. Interested students then sign up for auditions later in the week.
“People kind of do their own thing with auditions, but it’s mostly a variation of the same thing,” said Gavil, who added that after the first wave of auditions, leaders from each group consult to create a schedule for callbacks. This way, if someone gets a callback from two groups, they can attend both.
“There’s a big draft through all the groups where we talk about who wants whom,” said Erica Nangeroni ’14 of the coed group BOKA. “If we have someone we really can’t make a decision on we say, ‘Hey, you got into a couple groups; you have a few minutes to decide which one you want to be in.’ It’s a little high pressure.”
As a side note, Nangeroni added, “We tend to have more girls audition than guys. The general trend is that boys are pulled a little bit more towards all-male groups and girls are pulled more towards coed group.”
“There have been occasions where someone has been in two groups, but it is somewhat discouraged,” said Gavil. “They are always in one group first and then if they want to be in another group, they can audition in later years.”
The lack of overlap in groups could feed the idea of their being rivalries amongst them, but Gavil, a member of Ursus Verses, maintains that this is not the case.
“It’s all artificial to me—it’s sort of funny,” he said. “I think any rivalries are not real rivalries—they’re not like Seahawks and 49ers—and I think what is cool is that all the groups definitely have their own vibe, and their sort of type of repertoire and type of presentation.”
Meddiebempster Michael Yang ’14 agreed, highlighting the difference in presentation between the two all-male groups. Where the Meddiebempsters (Meddies) are more “barbershop and tongue-in-cheek,” according to Yang, the Longfellows have a slightly more modern style in terms of song choice, arrangement and choreography.
“We sing completely different things,” said Miao. “The kinds of kids who are attracted to the Longfellows aren’t necessarily attracted to what the Meddies bring to the table and [vice versa].”However, just because such rivalries do not exist does not mean that they never did.
“I know that my freshman year, some of the Meddie/Longfellow seniors—I don’t even know who—just personally didn’t like each other, and that grew into a group thing,” said Yang.
“We have been trying to get rid of the perception of rivalries. I’ve loved a lot of Longfellows…As long as both groups are good, then that is a great thing,” he added.
Nangeroni expressed similar sentiments.
“When I was younger, there were more rigid rivalries so to speak,” she said. “I think there was just a little bit more contention when I was an underclassman, and I can’t really say why.”
She added that Thursday night’s Bursurka—a joint concert with BOKA and Ursus Verses—is a good way to dissolve the notion of rivalries.
“I think the [idea] stems from the fact that there are two male groups, two female groups and two co-ed groups, and automatically people think that all of them are going to be butting heads,” she said. “Bursurka is a good opportunity for us to show the campus that the coed groups are here to work together and we’re just here to have fun with each other.”
“There’s always a friendly rivalry,” said Margaret Lindeman ’15 of Ursus Verses, “but I think it more comes from the fact that every group wants to make really good music. So we’re always pushing ourselves to perform better and be as good as we can be, not by putting other groups down, but by doing the best that we can.”
One aspect of the a cappella community that has always been strong is alumni relations, particularly with the Meddies and Longfellows, who hold frequent reunions.
“We have really tight alumni connections,” said Yang. “I know alums from ’06-’07 pretty well even though I never went to school with them, because they visited here sometimes. I’ve been added to the email thread list of recent alumni from 2001 on, and there’s a Facebook group too.”
Although the alumnae networks in the all-female groups may not be quite as established, the leaders say that their alumnae remain an important part of their identity. Over Spring Break, Miscellania did a weeklong tour of New England and New York, where they were able to touch base with several alumnae.
“We’ve done relatively informal reunions in the past, but I think it would be great to do a bigger, official reunion, too,” said Paige Gribb ’14 of Miscellania. “We’ll have our 45th anniversary in 2017, so that will definitely be cause for celebration.”
Above all else, the singers all seem to agree that a cappella has been a defining part of their Bowdoin experience, and many of them hope to continue singing after graduation.
“[A cappella] has helped me with my personal confidence in terms of singing,” said Nangeroni. “It’s honed my leadership skills but also my public speaking skills. After college, I know that I want to keep singing. I don’t know when or where, but I know that I need some sort of outlet, because it’s been a great way to just relieve stress and I enjoy it so much.”URSUS VERSES
Founded 2001 * co-edbehind the name: Ursus means bear in Latin, and verse is a musical term for a line of wordsMUSICAL STYLE: Pop music, ranging from hip-hop to folkMOST POPULAR SONGS: “Leaving Town” by Dexter Freebish, “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, “Intro” by the xx and folk song “Down to the River to Pray”TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: Bursurka with BOKA CLAIM TO FAME: The song “No More Crazies” from their 2012 CD was featured on the Best of A Cappella CDRECORDINGS: Three CDs signature PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Semi-casual gray scale
BEHIND THE NAME: Ursus means bear in Latin, and verse is a musical term for a line of wordsMUSICAL STYLE: Pop music, ranging from hip-hop to folkMOST POPULAR SONGS: “Leaving Town” by Dexter Freebish, “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, “Intro” by the xx and folk song “Down to the River to Pray”TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: Bursurka with BOKACLAIM TO FAME: The song “No More Crazies” from their 2012 CD was featured on the Best of A Cappella CDRECORDINGS: Three CDs SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Semi-casual gray scaleMISCELLANIA
Founded 1972 * ALL WOMEN
BEHIND THE NAME: Created the year women were first admitted to Bowdoin; wanted the name to match the Meddiebempsters; looked in a dictionary and chose Miscellania
MUSICAL STYLE: Range of classical choral music and current pop
MOST POPULAR SONGS: Depends on the audience, but currently “Royals” by Lorde
TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: ValJam with the Longfellows and Meddielania with the Meddiebempsters
CLAIM TO FAME: They were on Maine Public Broadcasting Network with the Meddiebempsters a couple of years ago.
RECORDINGS: Several CDs are out, most recently Little Black Dress, and another in the works for this year or next
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Black dresses
IF THEY COULD PERFORM ANY SONG, WHAT WOULD IT BE: “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and GarfunkelTHE LONGFELLOWS
Founded 2004 * ALL men
BEHIND THE NAME: Named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, class of 1825
MUSICAL STYLE: Pop, contemporary a cappella and traditional American choral pieces
MOST POPULAR SONGS: “Hey Juliet” by LMNT
TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: ValJam with Miscellania
CLAIM TO FAME: Semi-finals at the International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella 3 years ago; made the Top 30 on the show Sing Off two seasons ago; sang the national anthem at a Celtics games
RECORDINGS: A new EP is on the way, and they have previously recorded three CDs.
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Black suitsBOKA
Founded 1994 * co-ed
BEHIND THE NAME: It stood for Bowdoin’s Only Co-ed A Cappella, but the Best of College A Cappella CD acronym caused confusion, so the C was changed to a K
MUSICAL STYLE: Pop, with a little bit of indie
MOST POPULAR SONGS: A mashup of “As Long As You Love Me” by Justin Bieber and “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry
TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: Bursurka with Ursus Versus
CLAIM TO FAME: Low-key concerts for friends in college houses
RECORDINGS: The last CD was recorded 3 years ago, and another one is due this spring
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Jewel tones
IF THEY COULD PERFORM ANY SONG, WHAT WOULD IT BE: “No Scrubs” by TLCBELLAMAFIA
Founded 2007 * ALL WOMEN
BEHIND THE NAME: Randy Nichols said that the group was pretty in crime so they decided to incorporate it into the group’s name.
MUSICAL STYLE: Mostly folk with some higher energy music.
MOST POPULAR SONGS: A mashup of “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys and “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem ft. Rihanna
TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: PrezJam with the Meddiebempsters
CLAIM TO FAME: They perform in many elderly homes in Brunswick and for the Portland Review.
RECORDINGS: One currently out, with another coming next year.
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Seasonal. They wear sweaters and try to coordinate.
IF THEY COULD PERFORM ANY SONG, WHAT WOULD IT BE: “Elastic Heart” by SiaTHE MEDDIEBEMPSTERS
Founded 1937 * ALL men
BEHIND THE NAME: The original story is that someone was blindfolded while throwing darts at a map of Maine, and one dart struck Lake Meddybemps.
MUSICAL STYLE: Founded on barbershop, but they also do jazz arrangements and modern pop songs
MOST POPULAR SONGS: “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington and “Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby” by Les Applegate
TRADITION OR EVENT THEY’RE ASSOCIATED WITH: PrezJam with Bellamafia, and their annual tour
CLAIM TO FAME: They’ve sung at the White House, in Korea and in California
RECORDINGS: Decades of CDs, including Christmas with the Meddies
SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE ATTIRE: Khakis, white shirts, blue blazers, and Bowdoin polar bear ties
IF THEY COULD PERFORM ANY SONG, WHAT WOULD IT BE: “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot
Interactive: John Brown Russwurm House: a window into Bowdoin's past
In 1826, John Brown Russwurm became the first African American to graduate from Bowdoin College. Nearly 200 years later, the House named in his memory is a thriving center for academic, social and cultural events on campus.
The son of an English merchant and an unknown black slave, Russwurm was born in 1799 in Jamaica. He and his father moved to Portland, Maine in 1812, where he attended Hebron Academy. In 1824, with the support of his stepmother and her second husband, Russwurm enrolled at Bowdoin.
After graduation, he led an illustrious career as an abolitionist, serving as editor of “Freedom’s Journal” (the first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans) in New York for several years before emigrating to Liberia in 1829, following his controversial support of African American colonization of Africa. He served as editor of “The Liberia Herald” for several years and became governor of the Maryland section of the colony in 1836, holding this post until his death in 1851.
Event kicks off senior class gift campaign
Last night, over 160 members of the Bowdoin Class of 2014 convened in Druckenmiller Hall to support the annual Senior Class Gift Campaign.
The event is a classy affair—complete with hors d’oeuvres, champagne and semi-formal attire—geared toward raising donations from the senior class for a gift to the College that will aid future students in the years to come.
This year, the campaign is spearheaded by seniors Filipe Camarotti, Emily McNeil, Neli Vazquez and Wiley Spears.
The four directors were selected through an application and interview process in the fall and hired in early October by Alumni Fund Associate Alain Mathieu.
In addition, there are 32 senior class agents who volunteer to help run the campaign and educate the rest of the class about its objectives.
Modeled after last year’s project, this year’s class gift will be a scholarship to a future member of the Class of 2018, a gesture that many students see as a great way to give back to the College.
Vazquez noted that she has received so much from Bowdoin that it is “really significant to have the opportunity to give back in a meaningful and impactful way.”
She also stressed to potential donors that it is really the thought that counts, and that students giving smaller donations to the fund should not see their contribution as insignificant.
“You may not believe that you can give enough to create a meaningful impact,” said Vazquez in her opening speech at last night’s event. “Participation matters just as much, if not more, than the amount of money you give.”
The ultimate goal is an 85 percent class participation rate, a feat that would surpass last year’s class by five percent and seems entirely possible considering the large student turnout.
“I think it’s really exciting to have a big part of our grade be here tonight and to see the work that we’re about to do,” said class agent Katie Ross. “I think we can break the record for best participation.”
Students also commented on the event as a good way to bring the class together in a relaxed and fun setting.
“It’s a blast,” said class agent Jordan Goldberg. “It’s cool for the whole senior class to come together, all for a good cause: supporting Bowdoin.”
“The class doesn’t get to see each other enough, so it’s great that we can all come together in this environment,” added Marie Centano ’14.
This year also marks the first time that members of the faculty and staff have been invited to participate in the event.
“It’s really great that Security can be involved in something like this,” said Campus Security Officer Allen Daniels, one of many Bowdoin employees present in Druckenmiller Thursday evening.
The campaign does not end with 2014 either; the Class of 2014 Gift Campaign operates with the hope that class members will continue to give to the College after receiving their diplomas.
“There is a donor for every year that we reach 60 percent [participation] that will give $10,000,” said Vazquez. “So on top of what we raise as a class, there will be $10,000 for the next five years for every year that we reach 60 percent.”
President Barry Mills was unable to attend Thursday’s event, but instead appeared onscreen before an idyllic faux snowscape background to encourage students to donate.
“Once people start to give to the College, it becomes something that becomes part of their life,” he said.
Professor Linda Docherty to retire after 27 years of teaching
Students filed into the packed Shannon Room last Friday afternoon to listen to Associate Professor of Art History Linda Docherty’s Uncommon Hour, “Art Theft and Why it Matters.”
“I was very touched by the turnout,” said Docherty. “You know, students are always late to these things. Then all of a sudden I looked around and they were behind the refreshment table.”
Docherty plans to retire at the end of this year after 27 years of teaching at Bowdoin.
Arctic Museum celebrates opening of Inuit sculpture exhibit
The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum celebrated the opening of its new exhibit, “Spirits of Land, Air, and Water: Antler Carvings from the Robert and Judith Toll Collection,” Wednesday night with a lecture by Norman Vorano, curator of contemporary Inuit art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Quebec.
The Tolls, Inuit art enthusiasts from California, are in the process of donating their entire collection to the Arctic Museum.
“[The Tolls] made one donation in 2009, about a third of their holdings, and they will continue over the coming years to donate the remainder of their collection to us,” said Arctic Museum Curator Genevieve LeMoine. “This has been a really big and important development that enables us to do a lot of exhibits of contemporary art.”
Student-produced 'Vagina Monologues' voice female gender issues
Conversations that are usually kept under wraps were professed to a full house as 36 Bowdoin women clad in red and black filed onto the stage for Bowdoin’s 16th annual rendition of the Vagina Monologues at Kresge Auditorium.
Sponsored by V-Day, a global organization that works to end violence against women throughout the world, the Monologues broach largely undiscussed topics about the female body and sexuality in an accessible and often lighthearted way.
The show began with cast members reading quotes taken anonymously from female Bowdoin students.
Art museum appoints new co-directors
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art will soon have two new directors, Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd announced on Wednesday. Frank H. Goodyear III and his wife, Anne Collins Goodyear, will serve as co-directors starting June 1. The search for a new director began early last year when Kevin Salatino, director of the museum for three years, accepted a position as the director of art collections at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. “Foremost in our search was the desire to appoint a director who would exude a passion for the art museum’s unique and important collection,” wrote Judd in an email to the Orient.
How Maine does the holidays: Seasonal activities for all
December is here, as the light snowfall last Sunday briefly reminded campus before sending along unseasonal echoes of spring. Putting this aberration aside, Maine generally goes all out when it comes to holiday festivities, seen in the multitude of outdoor activities and the cozy indoor events replete with hot cocoa and Christmas lights. And for those who need a distraction from reading period—take a break to explore some of the local attractions that define a Maine holiday experience. Melding intrinsic Maine-ness with holiday cheer, L.L. Bean lights up Freeport every December with the L.L. Bean Northern Lights. From November 16 to December 31, the store illuminates downtown Freeport with a nightly Musical Holiday Light Show. The ubiquitous Maine company also hosts horse-drawn wagon rides, musical performances, and sled dogs throughout the holiday season. Stop and admire one of the largest Christmas trees in the state outside of L.L.Bean while you are shopping at the outlets, or soaking up the glitz of Freeport Sparkle Weekend, which starts today and continues through this Sunday.
First Friday Art Walk opens up loud Portland art scene
The Flat Iron gallery at the corner of High Street and Congress Street stands as the perfect microcosm of the First Friday Art Walk in Portland. In many ways it exemplifies a stereotypical art gallery: the wooden floors are shiny, and shoes—no matter how discreet they are on normal surfaces—are bound to make an audible sound. Visitors casually hold glasses of Pinot Noir while seeming to speak knowledgeably about perspective and artistic influence. However, this is where the stereotype ends, and the diversity that epitomizes First Friday begins. On one wall, a photograph of a small child laughing in a brown fleece vest is juxtaposed with a stoneware pelican, while a makeshift stereo system in the form of a scratched green laptop sits on top of an exhibited sculpture. Oh, and did I say glasses of Pinot Noir? I meant red Solo cups of the Franzia equivalent.
The truth behind TA’s at Bowdoin
This fall, 77 quantitative reasoning (QR) tutors are leading weekly study sessions, holding drop-in hours, and grading all homework assignments in the math and economics departments. They are paid $8.75 an hour, with an additional 25 cents an hour for each successive year that they tutor.
The examined life: A night with the Peucinian Society
“Work hard, play hard” was the topic up for debate at last week’s Peucinian Society meeting. Members went head to head over whether the mantra promotes a balanced lifestyle, or a clash of extremes that cheapens both work and play.
Shake and Kolster raise awareness of epilepsy through son’s plight
On her birthday one chilly fall morning in 2010, Christy Shake woke up and decided to write a daily blog about her son Calvin’s ongoing battle with epilepsy. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was going to write at the beginning, but she just “knew it was something [she] had to do.” Nearly two years later, Shake’s blog, titled “Calvin’s Story,” has received more than 155,000 hits.