Note: the information below is about Men’s Frye Boots. No postings on eBay or Craigslist that link to this post are authorized by the author.
I have worn Frye (brand) boots since I was 13 years old… ahem, a “few” years ago … like 40 years. Back then, Frye boots were the coolest boots to wear. They had taller than usual heels, and made a boot clunk sound like none other.
These boots are highly valued by collectors, and many pairs of these boots appear on eBay and Craigslist with claims of being “vintage.” True “vintage” Frye boots were made in the USA and the claim “vintage” is for a pair of boots made in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s, featuring heel height and label described below. Vintage Fryes were made of entirely US-obtained materials, including the leather. They were mostly machine-produced, but the process at their facility in Marlborough, Massachusetts, required a lot of hand-labor throughout the bootmaking process.
Today, the boots are all machine-made and assembled, with little hand-labor involved. The quality of the materials from which the boots are made are of lesser standard. And the company even states on a stamp on the inside of the campus boot style shaft, “made in USA of U.S. and imported parts.” That’s a crafty way of saying that it is likely that the leather is from a country such as Pakistan which has a reputation for selling inferior leather. Frye boots available today in styles other than the campus boot are likely made in China.
Update: Information on how to distinguish vintage Frye boots from modern-day Frye-labeled boots is here on the Boots Wiki.
If you come upon a sale or auction of “Vintage Frye Boots,” how do you determine if the claim of the boots being “vintage” is valid? There are three major things to look for:
1) The height of the heel. Pictured here is a heel from a Frye boot made and worn since the early 1970s. The actual heel height is 2-3/8″ including the rubber sole plate. True “vintage” Frye boots have this higher, stacked heel.
Frye boots made since the 1980s have a 2″ heel, including the sole plate. The difference is noticeable in pictures on eBay listings, for example, but if the listing doesn’t say the actual heel height, you should send the seller a question to ask.
2) look for the Frye label on the inside of the boot shaft — or look for pictures or statements about the label. True vintage Frye boots have one black label on the inside of the right boot (only) sewn in gold, with the words “handcrafted” in red and “SINCE 1863” in gold.
Frye boots made since the 1980s have a label in both the right and the left boot. The label is white with the word “Frye®”, under that a steer brand company logo, and the words “Since 1863” under that.
While looking at the label, look at the printing under it. Does it say, “Made in the USA” only? Or “Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts?” The latter is a clear give-away that the boots are not vintage.
3) look for the brand logo on the heel. If there is no brand logo stamped into it or if there is the word “Frye” in letters stamped onto the heel, then the boots were made in the 70s or before.
If you see a logo of a steer head stamped into the heel, then the boots were made in the 1980s or after, and do not qualify as being labeled “vintage.”
More information on the history of Frye Boots is on the Boots Wiki, here.
If you’re looking for true vintage Frye boots, I hope this information is helpful to you, so you don’t mistakenly bid up the price of a pair of Frye boots that are not of vintage standards and quality.
Life is short: know your Fryes!