December 7, 2012

Swooning over 'Your LL Bean Boyfriend'

The ideal man website featuring L.L. Bean models and a Maine native's musings becomes an Internet sensation.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

When Liz Pride was talking with a friend a few days ago about her ideal man, she found a two-dimensional version close at hand: on the L.L. Bean website.

click image to enlarge

Liz Pride, a Cape Elizabeth native, says those toned and tanned L.L. Bean models pretty much fit her mental picture of the ideal man. The thousands following her new Tumblr site would seem to agree.

Charles Mostoller photo

Pride, a Cape Elizabeth native who now lives in Philadelphia, said those toned and tanned guys clad in flannel and down jackets pretty much fit the picture in her head, prompting her to launch a Tumblr site called "Your LL Bean Boyfriend."

Tumblr is a social networking platform consisting mostly of photos posted by users, usually around a single theme. The “Your LL Bean Boyfriend” Tumblr includes screen shots of Bean models wearing a “Heritage Sweater” or a ‘Wicked Good Flannel Shirt.” Pride gives the models names and provides what she imagines as snippets of things an ideal boyfriend would say:

"I just saw a Groupon for scuba diving lessons," Thomas told me. "What do you think? We could do them together and then go for a week of scuba diving in La Ceiba."

That's her fantasy conversation with Mr. Wicked Good Flannel Shirt, while she imagines that Mr. Heritage Sweater would fulfill her longing for a better world: "I signed us up to help with the food drive," Damien said. "I know how that's one of your favorite things to do during the holidays."

Pride's musings and the photos of hot Bean models -- three words probably not intended to be uttered together -- have gone viral on the Internet.

Within a few hours of her first posting Monday, Pride had a few hundred people following her. By Wednesday, nearly 4,500 had signed up to make sure they got regular updates on their fantasy L.L. Bean boyfriends, nearly 1,000 had sent tweets and more than 25,000 had shared the site with friends on Facebook.

Somewhere, Leon Leonwood Bean is scratching his head and wondering what his simple hunting and fishing store has come to.

Pride said that her image of the ideal man was probably shaped a bit by her Maine background, so those pictures of male models in the Maine woods or alongside a lake probably strike some sort of primal chord inside her.

"It's something that I've always known. It's just the concept of a guy who's really outdoorsy," Pride said.

But Bean shirts and sweaters add a certain amount of sizzle, she said.

"The clothing is definitely a part of it," she said. "The flannel shirt is incredibly attractive and a lot of people are commenting, 'Oh my God, I want a man with a cable knit sweater.' I think a lot of guys are going to get sweaters from Bean for Christmas. "

Bean is hoping she's right.

"We're just going to watch it like everybody else," said company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem, recognizing that the publicity is something that would lead a marketing consultant to submit a seven-figure invoice. "We think that it's a load of fun. It's well-written and it's funny."

Beem said amid the holiday rush, it's hard to tell if the site has sent hordes of people to the company's sites in search of Thomas' and Damien's friends, although she said she wouldn't be surprised to see a jump in hits.

Bean, of course, used to use employees as models in its catalogues -- Pride said the parent of a childhood friend worked for the company and the family was pictured in one catalog.

But Bean started hiring models at some point, and Beem said the company now goes to modeling agencies in New York and Boston, seeking "people that are like us, but are better-looking."

That translates into good-looking, rugged, casual and outdoorsy types, she said, just like Pride envisions, although she admits to a preference for guys who are "a little hairier."

Pride said she anticipates spending a chunk of her free time tending to her L.L. Bean boyfriends, as long as they hold her interest -- likely a pretty long time-frame -- and continue to gain followers.

"People are like, 'Bless you for making this,' " she said. "I think it's just sort of a funny fantasy."

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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