An L.L. Bean kind of guy in Walmart apparel … Or, how to remain rugged at age 65

Don’t be fooled by outward appearances. True, I may be clad from head to toe in clothing from the sales rack in Walmart. But I’m an L.L. Bean kind of guy.

Whether I am hiking in the wilds (which I don’t do nearly enough anymore) with my dog (sorry, he’s not a Labrador, more of a sales rack sort) or savoring a cognac (well, generic on-sale diet cola beverage) by the fireplace (that can’t actually have fires in it), I generally prefer to do so while attired in soft and snuggly, well-made clothing of denim, flannel, or corduroy.

Alas, my clothing budget no longer permits such purchases from the iconic Maine purveyor of classic, durable and cozy apparel.

But this time of year, as my birthday nears, I might actually open the latest catalog that dropped through my mail slot — if for no other reason than to fend off the inquiries from my brother and sister: What do you want for your birthday?

You will always find at least one dog in an L.L. Bean catalog — generally a pointer or a Lab, either splashing through a lake or nestled peacefully in an L.L. Bean dog bed ($109-$249).

The round or rectangular dog beds come in various sizes, with either a denim or fleece cover, monogrammable, and inside a mattress made of either “loose fill” or memory foam. You can’t get a round one with memory foam, though. I’m sure there is a reason for that, but, as I’m nearing 65, I forgot.

Yes, that’s right, I am reaching the age where even foam has a better memory than I do.

The shirts in the catalog most often grab my interest. I know from experience that as soon as I open a new one up, it will feel like an old one — even an old favorite one. Yes, it is almost like paying extra for a shirt that has already been worn. But, when I’m not actually paying for it myself, I don’t care.

In the latest catalog, there are “sunwashed” shirts, and “stonewashed” shirts and “lakewashed” shirts.

I have no clue how “sunwashing” is accomplished, but I found myself wondering if there is a particular L.L. Bean employee who does the lakewashing — who, accompanied by his Labrador retriever, hauls all the new shirts to a lake in the mountains to accomplish this deed. I mean there’s gotta be, right? Otherwise it would be false advertising.

I see him as an older gentleman who preferred this job to being a Walmart greeter, because it allowed him to be in the great outdoors, with his dog. He likely fills his old Jeep with boxes of new shirts and a few times a week heads to the lake with his dog and a washboard. He’d be wearing those famous rubber-bottomed duck boots, which he gets at an employee discount.

“Lakewashing,” I’m sure, is meant to convey an image of purity and freshness and the great outdoors — and it works as long as you don’t let algae and pond scum or boycotts enter the picture.

Fortunately, in L.L. Bean World, that never happens. There, lakes remain pure, mountain streams run fresh, and you remain rugged and vital — at least until you head back to Walmart.

(Photos: L.L. Bean)

John Woestendiek

John Woestendiek is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of "Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend."

3 thoughts on “An L.L. Bean kind of guy in Walmart apparel … Or, how to remain rugged at age 65

  • September 5, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Wait, what? I was expecting an interview with the lakewasher!

  • September 5, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    You wear Walmart clothes but would prefer L.L. Bean Lakewashed shirts? Well, with or without, you’d look great! Especially with Jinjja by your side! Happy Birthday!

  • September 8, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Um. These days? You really are better off with WalMart than LLBean. Those iconic shirts and pull on pacs and mocs and sweaters? Having been a recent but now never ever again a customer I speak from personal experience. Sweaters that pill and unravel; boots and mocs that, despite careful sizing, simply do not fit; shirts where the buttons and their holes are cattywampus. That’s just the start – try sending something back! Yes – just try! They will do everything in their power including arguing with you by phone and email for a month or longer to attempt to force you to accept a “gift card” usable only at LLBean instead of a refund when you sent back – following all instructions – those boots that were carefully measured and sized and the correct color ordered but alas didn’t fit and were the wrong color. Not your grandma’s LLBean anymore, very sad to say. Frankly I’ll take WalMart over LLBean every day especially on birthdays. Now for dog stuff there are wonderful alternatives to WalMart. WalMart misses the point entirely on pet supplies. Imagine how much more WalMart could sell with just an eentsy teentsy upgrade in dog collars, leashes, sweaters and raincoats!

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