Chippewa or Frye Harness Boots?

Recently, someone sent me an email asking about the current boots made under the Frye boots label. He noted that a new pair of Frye 12R harness boots were already falling apart after just one wearing. One boot pull was not sewn on completely and was coming off.

His original question was whether those Frye boots are really made in the United States, despite the label saying, “made in the U.S.A.”

I replied by saying that yes, the boots are assembled (“made”) in the USA at a plant in Arkansas, in a location that Frye will not tell you where it is (which adds to the suspicion.) However, I assert, unless the owner can prove otherwise, that the leather and other materials from which these boots are assembled comes from inferior sources outside the U.S. Further, because the current owner of the Frye boot label is the Chinese company Li and Fung, known for producing the cheap clothing and footwear imported by Walmart, the boots are assembled by non-union labor using inferior lasts (boot forms) that were not from the original John A. Frye Company.

Current Frye harness boots have a cheap off-brand rubber sole. Further, you can see from this image from Frye’s website that they imprint a pebble grain on the boots to hide blemishes that otherwise would be noticed if the leather were smooth. That is a way to hide that the leather is not Top Grain, the best leather for boots.

I assert, then, that today’s Frye boots are cheaply made from inferior materials. While the going price for a pair of these boots is about US$300, the company and all the middle-men involved are making a huge profit from the well-recognized name, and are not purchasing quality materials to go into the boots in the first place. This is definitely where the adage caveat emptor (buyer beware) applies.

Chippewa harness boots are a fair comparison in today’s harness boot styles. The Chippewa company is owned by another conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway. (Actually, the U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway owns Justin Brands, of which the Chippewa label is a subsidiary.)

However, in my humble opinion, Chippewa boots are made better. They still use the same lasts (boot forms) for their boots that they used before the company was bought out by Justin Brands. The boots are still made in the USA. From my direct observations of the materials and craftsmanship with which Chippewa boots are made, I feel that they leather and materials that they use to make Chippewa boots is of better quality. The boots are made of smooth leather. Blemishes are not observable. Double-stitching is used on stress points, including the boot pulls. Quality Vibram soles are used, which are far superior for a biker’s required traction (and will last long.)

And Chippewa sells a pair of their “Street Warrior” model 27868 harness boots for about $100 less per pair than Frye. Go figure — are you getting what you are paying for with Frye? I don’t think so. You are paying for a label, not quality.

Just because boots are made in the USA does not mean that they are all made with quality materials and craftsmanship. Look closely and compare, and be a well-informed consumer.

Life is short: do your research before making a purchase.

2 thoughts on “Chippewa or Frye Harness Boots?

  1. My response: look for vintage pairs of any kind of boots. Even if a bit worn, they will almost always be better-made than the c%$$ that is being made today. Unless you are willing to pay top dollar, go for vintage.

  2. I have worn out two pairs of 12R Frye boots on my motorcycle. The last pair in black leather were much thinner and feel cheaper than my old ones. I am going to pass on resoling these boots. I won’t be buying Frye boots in the future. Thanks for the great boot advice.

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