Inside the Weird, Lovely World of L.L. Bean Commenters

Photo: Courtesy of L.L. Bean

Does anything really happen in the last two weeks of the year? If it did, would you care? Welcome to Brain Dead Fortnight, two weeks of mental vacation.

L.L. Bean reviewers can be divided into two categories: those who favor flannel and those who are open to fleece. The active comments section of the company’s website pits active seniors against their scrawny twentysomething children; offspring who dare to describe the traditional sweaters as “tent-like.” They’re morally opposed to hunting, think fishing is boring, and wear the Bean Boots to their urban office jobs. They don’t believe that L.L. Bean Signature — a line with more tailored, modern cuts — sufficiently addresses their needs for form-fitting clothes.

Meanwhile, their parents gripe over increasing overseas production and decreasing quality. The monograms on boat totes are askew! The shearling-lined slippers are getting holes after only a few months!

Since its start in 1912, the outdoor and activewear line has offered a money-back guarantee. Defects in the initial design of the Bean Boot (officially, the Maine Hunting Shoe) led to a 90 percent return rate of the original production run of 100 boots. Leon Leonwood Bean, a rugged outdoorsman from Maine who started the line, remained undeterred. He simply fixed the boot design and carried on, developing a company that recently celebrated its hundredth anniversary with $1.52 billion in sales.

L.L. Bean reviewers are nothing if not meticulous. In page after page of product reviews, they’ll debate whether the 100% Pure Maple Syrup is too thick to soak into pancakes, and if the buttons on the Irish Fisherman Mock Turtleneck are excessively large or simply easy to use. In response to the site’s mandatory “I would describe myself as …” field, they offer responses that range from vocational  (“active gardener,” “walker, fiber artist,” “birder”) to existential (“stuck in a desk job, wish I was a park ranger,” “hungry”).

When poring over the L.L.Bean reviews, it’s best to simply ignore the petulant San Franciscan who bikes to work. His opinions don’t matter, but his mother’s do. She grew up in Chebeague Island, Maine, knows her way around the woods, and measures fit in size, not seasonal style.

Click through for seasoned shoppers lamenting the old days — when a sweater lasted for decades and actually fit across a husband’s broad shoulders — as well as pondering questions about love versus comforter-warmth and the size of daughters’ big toes.

The Weird, Lovely World of L.L. Bean Commenters