Frye Campus Boots
In the 1960s, Frye reintroduced the campus boot, from its 1860 original, featuring a bulky toe and chunky heel that came to epitomize the attitude and the style of the 60s and 70s. There was nothing like the “new” Frye boot on the market.
This was THE boot to have in the '60s and '70s. They were popular among rockers, jocks, and geeks alike in high schools and colleges across the United States. Frye campus boots of this era were 14“ to 15” tall, and came in a variety of color choices: Banana (a light tan), Sunrise (medium tan), Saddle (dark tan), Olive (cool dark green), Russet (redish-brown), Walnut (brown), and black.
The heels are stacked leather, and/or made of leather-board/fiber (not solid wood). Also some early harness/snoot toes had a black nylon-plastic “western” heel-base. Vintage Frye boot heels were 2-3/8 inches (6cm) high, with a rubber sole plate. The soles of original campus boots are made of smooth leather. True vintage Frye boots will have only one Frye logo sewn on the inside of the right boot shaft; boots made in the 1980s and thereafter have logos sewn on the inside of both boot shafts, as well as a Frye logo brand stamped on the left and right heel.
Vintage Campus Boots
Vintage Frye boots were produced by the original Frye company in Marlborough, Massachusetts (USA) during the early to mid-70s during the campus boot “golden age.” I recall them fondly from my junior and senior high school days. (Because they were rather expensive, many of us, ended up settling for the cheaper Penney's and Sears knock-offs) They were characterized by a black fabric label limited to the inside of the right boot with the “FRYE” logo sewn in gold “handcrafted” in red and “SINCE 1863” in gold. During this time, the styles were distinguished with four digits. In general, the men's boots were usually assigned stock numbers in the 2000s and the women's boots were 9000s, however this was not always the case. This information is limited to the men's styles.
The Campus boot was the most popular style and manufactured in 15, 17 and 19“ heights (including the 2 3/8” block heels). Soles were thick leather at 3/8“. The 15” was most common, priced around $60-70 equivalent to $240-280 in today's dollars.
- - #2552-Natural, banana, most common/popular
- - #2556-Antique russet, orange, nearly as popular as #2552
- - #2553-Earthen clay, olive, difficult to find, I finally found one pair after years of hunting
- - #2554-Burnt chestnut, actually dark orange
- - #2555-Dark cherry, burgundy
- - #2550-Natural antiqued, dark brown
- - #2557-Faded blue, odd color, have never seen this outside of catalog. I wonder if any were actually sold.
The 17“ was divided into boots with the longhorn stitch and those without any stitching. The latter were identical to the 15”ers with just 2“ of additional height. The following styles had the longhorn stitching:
- - #2711-natural, banana
- - #2714-light russet
- - #2719-dark russet
- - #2718-tan, darker than banana
- - #2717-dark cherry, burgundy
The following 17” styles had no stitching:
- - #2661-russet
- - #2664-tan
The only 19“ campus boot happens to have the longhorn stitching:
- - #2735-dark cherry, burgundy, rare
Interestingly black was not in production for any of the styles discussed above. If you see any black campus boots with a label from this era, they have been dyed black.
Is there a difference in the quality of vintage versus contemporary Frye campus boots?
Unfortunately yes. The company has changed hands several times over the years and as with many things in manufacturing in this country, quality has taken a back seat to profits. It is apparent that the materials used in production of the vintage boots were significantly better. The leather was thicker including the soles. Moreover, even the block heels were 2 3/8” vs 2“ in currently produced boots. Check out the photo below. Recently manufactured campus boots on the left, vintage campus boots circa 1975 on the right. Can you tell if there is a difference? You be the judge.