By now, everyone should know that LL Bean Signature is the best single collection of clothes out there. Thanks to Alex Carleton, as well as the entire LL Bean archive that is at his disposal, LL Bean has essentially out-J.Crewed J.Crew and come out with a line that is successfully combines traditional items with a more modern fit and details. While J.Crew has gone off the deep end with their expensive sloppy-Americana-workwear-reinterpretation look, LL Bean has embraced its actual history and heritage and created new old classics.
When the preview of fall items came out, the item that caught my attention immediately was the new Signature Work Boot. It looked like a great moc-toe boot that would work well with both jeans and khakis once the temperatures finally come down. Fortunately, my pair came in yesterday, so I can finally provide a hands-on perspective.
The first thing that intrigued me, as well as worried me, about the boot was the leather. While it appeared to be different from the leather used on any existing LL Bean shoe or boot, I was afraid that when it came it would be the same soft but easily-scuffed leather that is found on the Blucher Moc. However, my fears were allayed once I actually got my hands on the boots as this leather really is pretty nice. It's thick, buttery, and already has great depth of color to it. It's somewhat stiff, but seems like it will soften up nicely once it gets broken in. It also appear capable of taking a beating and should hold up for quite a while.
As you can see from the pictures, the sole is rugged, but has a fairly low profile, allowing it to more easily transition to casual situations without looking like you just got done climbing a mountain.
In terms of height, you can see that they are almost exactly as tall as the 10" Maine Hunting Shoe. I'd say this is a pretty practical height as it provides good ankle support for a variety of activities, but doesn't make them to difficult to easily get on or off. The speed laces are a nice touch. When laced up, there are stiffer around the ankles than my Maine Hunting Shoe, but again, I suspect they will soften up a bit once they get some wear.
The insole is leather, and when wearing them, they feel more like a moccasin and less like a boot in that there isn't really much arch support. This isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, but I may end up wearing my own insoles with them at some point.
In terms of styling, I feel like the name "Work Boot" is almost a misnomer in that they simply don't look as rugged as, say, the Katahdin Iron Works Engineer Boot. I mean this in a good way, though, as I feel like this boot is much more versatile with a more refined look.. If I did have one complaint, it would be that the toe is a little more squared off than I would prefer. Not a deal-breaker, but if I had my drothers, I would have made it a little differently.
Overall, I'm really pleased with these boots. As I mentioned, I can't wait for the fall weather so I can break these out, and I'm looking forward to being able to wear these instead of my Maine Hunting Shoes out in the dove field. If you're in the market for a boot but don't want to go the Red Wing route, I would certainly recommend giving these a look.