Saturday, October 30, 2010

How To Tell If You Have Vintage Frye Boots

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!


Donna C said...

This is interesting as I have been trying to figure out how old my Frye women's cowboy boots (cropped Taylor -like style, saddle/rust color with a stacked 3" heel) are. I came across them @ the Godwill for $7.00 and was quite pleased. The quality seems good, nicely stitched and re-inforced lining, in quite nice condition- a real find. They look fairly old. Your clues don't quite add up on my pair. It IS a white label- but there is only one in the R boot shaft. It says "Made in USA" only. There is NO brand logo stamped on either heel. Maybe these are cross-over late 70's? -early 8o's? I heard the label changed after 1978? Any way to check style/ model numbers on them?Just curious.
Either way I like them!

Booted Harleydude said...

Perhaps women's Frye boots are a bit different regarding age and style. This post was about men's Frye boots. Sorry, I don't know much about when Women's styles changed over, but what Donna is describing sounds like they're a crossover, as she suggests.

Booted Harleydude said...

"Joe" left a comment which provided additional helpful information, but also some unnecessary stuff, so I am repeating the relevant information from his comment below.

Pre 70s Frye boots had no sewn in label and no symbol. They simply had block letters that said FRYE embossed inside the boot.

Pre-80s had the black label with gold print and no symbol.

The stag Frye symbol started around 1980 give or take.

80s had the small symbol embossed sometimes with Frye above it sometimes not, and the white and black label.

Most 80s Frye Boots are every bit the same quality as the 70s.

Modern Frye has a large Frye symbol embossed (about an inch tall) still has the black and white label but also usually has a large printed Frye label on the inside about 2 or 3 inches square.

Also modern Fryes are made in USA, Mexico, Spain, and China. only a couple of cheap styles made in Mexico or China, Their mid range is made in USA and their top boots are all made in Spain as Spain is the Italy of boots. [BHD addition: not sure this is true as I cannot find any reliable separate confirmation of this statement.]

Also in the 80s Frye released a line called Frye American classics (which was a cheaper made line of their regular boots), and Frye Baby which were more of a fashion line (not seen many of these).

Mens and womens boots evolved exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great information about Frye boots. I bought a pair at Allens Boots in Austin--brown leather, square toe, made in Mexico. I paid about $400 for them. After reading about the sewn-in labels here, I checked my pair and found that there is NO sewn in label. I also checked the pair I bought online, which is the same style in black--also no sewn-in label. Any idea why these Frye boots would have NO label?

Booted Harleydude said...

Kevin: if the boots do not have a label, they may not be knock-offs and not real Frye boots. How do you know they're Fryes?

Frye was always very particular in quality control and would reject a finished pair of boots if the label were not in it. If you have two pairs of boots without labels, in my opinion, they're not Fryes.

Frye boots are among the most easily copied by imitators. Dingo started it back in the '60s, and several other no-name brands do that today.

Anonymous said...

I have a pair of Frye Harness Boots I purchased in NY at a store out on LI. I think in 1988 or so. They have the original Frye Cattle Stamp on the heels, but no labels inside except "Made in the USA 12R and then some numbers. I know for a fact they are original as I sent them back to Frye so they would re sole them for me, which they did for free, BUT only after they called and asked if I wanted a new pair instead! I insisted on having my original boots back and sure enough, about 3 weeks later they arrived on my door step with new leather soles and heel plate.. nice a shiny again with new life in them. They also have the slanted heel angle at the back, which the new boots no longer have.
About 3 weeks ago I managed to snag one of the last remaining new pairs of Tan Carson Harness Boots in a size 12 from Nieman Marcus. They were made in Mexico, have the Frye Cattle Stamp on the heel and are in all the original Frey Boot Company Box, with the care/maintainence card etc. I looked inside the boot, and no Frye Labels inside. But they are all original Frye's for sure.


Lori said...

Hi,LOVE your site! Came across it looking for info on FRYE boots...Got alot of my questions answered! Thanks! Love all your other blogs too. Do have a FRYE question maybe you can answer, or someone else that reads this. FRYE Boots-How can you tell if the are Mens Or Womens? Originally,made for Men or Women? Is it just by style,or are there # codes or something that would specify the difference? Would like to know, Though personally I wear which ever I like that fits! Thanks in advance...
Florida Girl

Booted Harleydude said...

Lori, women's and men's Frye boots had different stock (model) numbers. Also, men's boots had no more than a two-inch heel while some women's boots had higher heels.

There are not many records available to help determine which number was which. But the number to look for is the four digit number -- as shown on the pages of the women's Frye boot catalogs on my website. Go check it out -- perhaps your boots are listed there.

Bill C said...

Check style 8167 in the Frye women's catalog. There was a knock off of this style for men in the mid to late 70's. It was the same basic color, 15" tall, 2" heel, same design if I recall. Had the cattle horns' pattern on the front but slightly different than that one maybe to not infringe. Had the 2-section upper, stitched strips on both sides and one around the center, just like that. The upper was not one or two pieces but several, which probably saved a lot of cost. I had a pair of them and a couple others did also. They were great boots. I had them for 2 years in high school and outgrew them. Gave them to a friend. It was popular in Texas because of the tall height and plain looks like a Frye is known for, and as an alternative to cowboy boots which not everyone liked and some considered too ornate. -Bill