Frye or Wesco Boots?

Kid you not, this was a question that landed a visitor to this blog. Unfortunately, it was directed to a post where I discussed differences between Chippewa and Wesco boots, not Frye. Oh well, here goes… what are the major comparisons between Frye and Wesco boots?

Hmmm… like what’s the difference between a Yugo and a Harley?

Some readers may not be old enough to know what a Yugo was… photo shown… a little car made in by the Serbian automaker Zastava that was imported in the U.S. It was notorious for frequent breakdowns as a result of poor manufacturing processes. Compared with a Harley — purely in jest — one would easily find a Harley motorcycle to be much more reliable and better built than a Yugo. The only comparisons were that both of these machines were vehicles made of steel and had tires. That is it.

Today, this comparison is sort of the same when it comes to Frye boots and Wesco boots. While some of the men’s classic-designed Frye boots are made in the USA, the process of Frye bootmaking took a serious nosedive when the original John A. Frye Company of Massachusetts sold out in 2003, and was subsequently purchased, sold, bought, and re-sold by a string of holding companies. The current company that owns the Frye name is Li and Fung, based in China.

The companies that have owned the Frye name since the original company sold out were, in my opinion, not interested in making boots — they were interested in selling boots with a name that was well-recognized in the United States (and around the world.) These companies simply bought the “Frye” name, then had boots made of similar, but not equal, design and made with lower quality materials by machines. However, the price of a new pair of Frye boots is very high, especially considering the low value one gets from the use of cheap materials and labor to make these boots today.

The company that makes Wesco boots, on the other hand, has been owned and operated by the same family since 1918. Their bootmaking facilities are based in Scappoose, Oregon, near Portland. Other than making boots, this is where similarities between Frye boots and Wesco boots end.

Wesco boots have superior leather, materials (such as Kevlar stitching), Vibram soles, double-stitching at the sole and stress points, as well as each boot being made under human control and attention. Yes, machines are used to do various processes in making the boots, but always under human touch — from forming the foot onto the last (the form), to stitching the sole onto the boot, and much more.

I’ll throw an intermediate boot brand in here for consideration. This is based on a comment that someone posted with one of my videos. That is — Chippewa boots. Well cared-for Chippewa boots will last as long as Wesco boots. Chippewas are very well-made, and made in the USA. To a lot of guys, it doesn’t make sense to spend two or three times as much on a pair of boots if you would get the quality from Chippewas that you would from Wesco boots. While Wesco boots have some more features that Chippewa boots do not — such as lug soles — for the most part, the two brands (Chippewa and Wesco) compare well — sort of like a Chevrolet and a Cadillac (in U.S. car comparison terms, carrying the analogy that began above.) Both cars (i.e., boots) “drive” well.

Price-wise, a new pair of Frye boots is almost the same as a new pair of Chippewa boots, but that is it. Frye quality suffers tremendously. The money they save on using cheaper materials and labor to make Frye boots lines the pockets of the Chinese owners of the Frye label. Frankly, I would rather invest money in a U.S. owned and operated company (Chippewa or Wesco) than Frye.

In my opinion, there is no true comparison between new Frye boots and new Wesco boots. It’s worse than comparing apples and oranges … or … Yugos and Harleys.

Life is short: know boot quality!