by John Russel Jones


Eighty years ago, L.L.Bean introduced the  Boat and Tote, a bag that would transcend its utilitarian origins to become an enduring symbol of American style and practicality. To commemorate the icon’s 80th anniversary, the company is partnering with Wooden Sleepers—a vintage curator and menswear brand founded in 2010 by New York native Brian M. Davis—to release a collection of 24 one-of-a-kind Boat and Totes in varying sizes, colorways, and degrees of wear. The vintage collection will drop on June 13, 2024, exclusively on  Wooden Sleepers’ website, and is the first of four vintage L.L.Bean drops this year in partnership with the brand. L.L.Bean will also introduce two new tote styles on June 18, as part of the anniversary celebration on llbean.com and in select L.L.Bean retail stores.  

A Historic Evolution  

Originally introduced as the  L.L.Bean Ice Carrier in 1944, company founder Leon Leonwood Bean designed this heavy-duty bag to transport block ice to home freezers. Despite the durability of its reinforced, rugged oatmeal-colored canvas construction, the Ice Carrier disappeared from the catalog after just one season. While L.L. did not leave a paper trail as to why the product disappeared so quickly, some speculate it could have been due to wartime supply disruptions. In 1965, it reemerged as the Boat and Tote, redesigned with a nautical flair and destined for a broader purpose.  

Crafted in Maine from the same ironclad material used in conveyor belts, it is designed to hold up to 500 pounds. The underside has signature V-point closures that offer added durability and are a sign of authenticity. Jean Gray, an experienced L.L. Bean Boat and Tote stitcher, notes, “They’re iconic because they never wear out and can be used to carry anything.”  

From its humble beginnings, the Boat and Tote has grown into a cultural force, with celebrities and style icons like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Chloë Sevigny, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sarah Jessica Parker photographed carrying the durable piece. 

Davis says, “Leon Leonwood Bean is the greatest American clothing designer. The Bean Boot, Boat and Tote, Field Coat and Norwegian Sweater are all American style icons. Vintage L.L.Bean was made incredibly well and is kind of ‘trend-proof.’ You can pick up a 50-year-old Field Coat or Boat and Tote and still use it today. It’s functional clothing that happens to look cool decade after decade.”