BRUNSWICK, Maine — Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, celebrated the emergence of the traditional L.L. Bean hunting boot as a hot fashion item Thursday morning during a tour of the company’s manufacturing facility in Brunswick.
The visit wrapped up a busy 24 hours in southern Maine for the senator, who on Wednesday toured a Biddeford mill repurposed as a business incubator and a new fire station in Saco before attending a homecoming event in Brunswick for Marines who had been stationed in Afghanistan.
At the L.L. Bean plant, manufacturing manager Jack Samson told the senator he has hired about 135 new workers over the past year and is due to hire 15 more in the coming weeks, largely to keep up with demand for the classic boot which originated a century ago as functional footwear for outdoorsmen and now is becoming trendy in even the most urban environments. Nearly 450 are employed at the Brunswick facility, he said, with another 50 working at a sister facility in Lewiston.
“I’ve heard that Bean boots are a big hit on college campuses,” said Collins, herself decked out in L.L. Bean shoes, pants and coat. “Is it true you’re developing a pink Bean boot?”
John Oliver, the company’s vice president of public affairs, said L.L. Bean has seen a marked increase in requests by fashion magazines for samples and photos. But while the company produces coral, blue and yellow rubber moccasins, Samson said there’s no pink version of the iconic Bean hunting boot in the works just yet.
He said the hip way to wear the hunting boots is to roll them down and expose the soft inner lining.
On Wednesday morning, Collins visited Biddeford to learn more about public and private efforts to redevelop the historic North Dam and Pepperell mills as business incubator spaces, where she said about two dozen startups are working to gain traction.
She followed that with a tour of the new Saco Central Fire Station, then finished her day at Brunswick Landing — the former Brunswick Naval Air Station — where four busloads of Marines met up with family and friends for the first time after 10 months in Afghanistan.