Frye Boots Review: Are These One-of-a-Kind Boots Worth It?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Frye boots look one-of-a-kind, but are they any good? When you’re dropping that kind of cash on a new pair of boots, it helps to get some detailed information first.

In this Frye boots review, I’m looking at two of their most popular models—the Harness and the Campus—so you can decide whether this brand is right for you.

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Frye Boots

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Bottom line: Frye boots are built well and have a really cool, unique style. They’re overpriced in terms of value for money as there are many brands that offer better quality construction and materials at a lower price, but Frye’s style may be worth the extra cost for you.

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At a Glance Feature Image/Icon  Fit & Sizing At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon
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Pros:

  • There are several boots in the Frye lineup that are instantly recognizable---they’re unique, bold, and stylish
  • Made in the USA
  • 270-degree Goodyear welt construction means these are recraftable so you can rock them for years---maybe even decades if you take good care of the leather

Cons:

  • Not much information on the leather or internal components
  • My Harness 12R boots arrived in serious need of conditioning

I’ve known about Frye for a long time, and after reviewing over 100 pairs of boots, I figured it was time I tried them out.

To get a sense of how the brand is, I picked up their two most popular boots:

The Harness 12R and the Campus.

They arrived a few months ago and I’ve been testing them out. So how does Frye compare against other Goodyear welted boot brands? 

What Is Frye?

Frye 14 inch campus boot shaft
Wearing my Frye Campus boots.

Frye is a legendary name in the history of boots. The company has been around since 1863 and made their first pair of boots in 1888.

They specialize in Goodyear welted footwear, and if you’re not familiar with that term, it’s basically a method of boot construction that’s sturdy, water resistant, and allows you the opportunity to recraft your boots when the sole eventually wears out

There are many brands that build using a Goodyear welt construction now, but that wasn’t always the case—and I should also mention that Frye was around before the invention of the Goodyear welting machine. So that’s pretty wild. 

Frye Boots

Frye is one of the biggest names in the boot-business. And for good reason, too. From western-style boots to classic lace-ups, Frye has a huge selection of stylish boots that are actually built to last.

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author william barton wearing frye black harness boots
Wearing my Frye Harness 12R boots.

Frye’s style is a bit American heritage, a bit motorcycle/rocker, and a bit western. 

They’re really unique looking boots and as I’ll detail throughout the rest of my review, I think that’s Frye’s strength. 

There are some other luxury brands that have a similar bold style, but the quality isn’t nearly on the level as Frye (I’m really just thinking about YSL Chelsea boots—they look awesome, but Frye’s are made better).

Things to Consider Before Buying from Frye

Frye harness 12r boot on model

Frye boots are made more for luxury and fashion. That said, they’re also made well with good quality materials. 

They fit a niche in the top-end of boots, and there are plenty of other brands that match the quality (or exceed the quality) at lower prices. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t think you should get a pair of Frye’s if you like them—but know that the style and fashion are the biggest draws to the brand. 

For instance, if you want an extremely high quality pair of Goodyear welted boots, you can check out Grant Stone, which are built better in pretty much all respects. But they don’t have the same cool styles, and for that reason, Frye is still a great option.

Grant Stone

I love my Diesel and Brass boots from Grant Stone and I think they offer some of the best value-for-money boots you can find. They use the best materials throughout the entire boot---even what you don't see.

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Or you could save over half of your money and get a Thursday Boot, which costs around $200 and is also Goodyear welted with decent leather. 

Thursday Boot Company

Thursday Boots is my top recommendation for people looking to buy their first great-quality pair of boots. Their value for money is excellent. I haven’t found another brand that makes boots this good for under $200.

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Again, I think there are plenty of great reasons to shop Frye, but I think the brand’s strength is really in their design.

Frye Boots Reviews

I picked up two pairs of Frye boots: the Campus and the Harness. Both of these are made in the USA, and they’re both on the higher end of their price spectrum. I’ll break down my thoughts on each individually.

Frye Campus

Style

Frye campus boot leather detail

The Frye Campus has a 14-inch shaft, which makes this the tallest boot I own. I picked mine up in the Walnut leather, which has an interesting marbled pattern on it.

It’s a fairly simple boot: rounded plain toe, tall leather stacked heel, and a leather sole. It looks great with a pair of straight cut jeans like the Levi’s 501, and I can see this definitely being an “everyday” boot. 

Frye Campus

Iconic. Original. Laid-back. Reintroduced in the 1960’s, The Campus fast became an all-American symbol of rebellion and freedom. 

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Frye campus boots on model
Walking in my Frye Campus boots.

It’s quite casual given the marbling effect of the leather, and it has some western vibes to it (though it doesn’t come across as a cowboy boot). 

There’s a pretty fat seam down both sides of the shaft—I’ve seen other brands deal with this in a more subtle way, like adding piping along the seam, or by just making the seam smaller. 

In the end, this is a minor grip because it’s really not noticeable unless you’re really closely examining the boot. 

Leather Quality

Frye campus heel and logo

I’m not sure where the leather is from—Frye doesn’t carry any of that information on their site. It feels ok. 

It’s a thick leather, which is good. Plus there’s the natural leather lining which also helps give these boots a sturdy feel. 

But there was a good amount of wrinkling in the leather before I even tried them on, and I’m not such a huge fan of the marbling dye effect. To me, that’s just hiding the fact that this leather isn’t all that special for a boot that costs in the mid-$400 range. 

Sole Quality

Frye campus leather sole detail walking up stairs

For the Campus, Frye uses a thick leather sole, which I think is a great choice for this western style boot.

As mentioned earlier, the Campus features a 270-degree Goodyear welt, so when the leather sole eventually wears down, you can easily bring it to a cobbler and get the sole replaced

Frye doesn’t give much information about how their boots are actually made, but based on what I’ve felt wearing these boots so far, here’s what I think is going on in the insole: 

There’s a steel shank for arch support—there ought to be because the leather stacked heel is two inches and a steel shank will help a lot in reducing a “pinch” at the front end of your heel. 

Frye campus boot leather sole

And the insole is a piece of high density foam, which helps these be more comfortable right away. Because the leather sole doesn’t have a lot of shock absorption when compared to a rubber sole, it’s good to have some foam in the insole to help pad your feet when standing for long hours. 

Overall, I really wish Frye had more information available on what’s actually going on with their insoles, but all the materials and construction in the insole and outsole seem solid. 

Frye Campus

Iconic. Original. Laid-back. Reintroduced in the 1960’s, The Campus fast became an all-American symbol of rebellion and freedom. 

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Fit and Sizing

Frye campus boot on model

The Frye Campus fits true to Brannock sizing. I’m a 10.5 D on the Brannock device (that metal thing you use in shoe stores to measure your feet) and the Campus is spot on with that measurement. 

Frye uses the width conventions of Medium and Wide, instead of the standard D, E, EE, width measurement conventions, which is a bit odd considering those are pretty well known conventions for Goodyear welted boots.

You can read my full Frye sizing guide here, but if you’re looking at the Campus specifically, I recommend getting the same size you would for your sneakers. 

If you own Red Wing boots or pretty much any other heritage brands, you know that those tend to run large. Frye boots don’t run large. If anything, they run small. 

Frye Harness 12R

Style

Frye harness boot in black

The Frye Harness 12R is a great looking boot. It’s the main reason I wanted to shop with Frye in the first place. 

Frye is the original brand that made this style of boot based on what soldiers would wear in the Civil War. Those cavalry dudes were styling. 

model wearing frye black leather boots

The harness ring is nickel, so it has a really nice contrast with the black leather.

My favorite part of this boot is the squared off toe, which isn’t something I’ve seen from other brands. It makes this boot totally unique and definitely works for motorcyclists and rock & rollers alike. 

Frye Harness 12R

Inspired by the Civil War cavalry, this iconic boot is American craftsmanship at its best. Not for the faint of heart, this boot is uncompromising and gets better with age.

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Leather Quality

Frye harness boot profile view in black leather

Again, Frye doesn’t offer any background on their leather—I don’t know if it’s a US leather or if it’s imported. 

It feels thick and supple, which is nice, but it did arrive in desperate need of conditioning. There was a thin ashy layer around the entire boot, and I thought it was actually part of the design until I realized it just needed conditioning. 

I hit it with some Saphir Renovateur to both nourish the leather and also bring out some shine to it.

Saphir Renovateur Suede Conditioning Spray

I love keeping a can of Saphir Medaille Dor Spray on hand to keep my suede boots protected and looking new all season.

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I can say with confidence this is a tumbled full grain leather based on how it looks and feels. 

There’s no leather lining on the Harness 12R, so on the inside of the shaft you get the exposed roughout side of the leather grain. 

I’m a bit concerned for the lining of the upper, though, because Frye uses a fabric liner, which isn’t something I see too often in boots at this level—usually they’re roughout all the way through or have some leather lining (fabric tends to be the first thing to wear out, especially around the toe area). 

Sole Quality

Frye harness heel walking

Frye uses a neoprene rubber sole which offers a lot of traction on wet concrete and has plenty of slip resistance on oily surfaces—more positive evidence for motorcycle riders. 

I love that the toplift (rubber heel cap) is relatively thick at half-an-inch. This is usually the first thing that wears away, so having it thicker means it’ll last at least a year of regular wear before that portion needs to be re-done. 

The insole for the Harness is also high density foam with a fiberboard footbed and a leather midsole. 

Some guys don’t like synthetic materials like foam and fiberboard in their boots, and at this price point, I agree—I think considering you can get a full leather and cork insole and midsole (which will last longer) for the mid-$300 range, this type of construction doesn’t feel up to the standard I expect with a mid-$400 boot. 

Fit and Sizing

author william barton wearing frye black harness boots
Walking in my Frye Harness 12R boots.

Like the Campus, the Harness fits true to size. You can generally know what size you should get in the Frye Harness by looking at what’s most common in your closet.

So for me, I’m a 10.5 D size in my sneakers and dress shoes, and the 10.5 Harness fits well. 

In my Red Wing and Wolverine boots, I’m a size 10 D, so Frye boots fit a little more snug compared to those American heritage brands. 

Frye Harness 12R

Inspired by the Civil War cavalry, this iconic boot is American craftsmanship at its best. Not for the faint of heart, this boot is uncompromising and gets better with age.

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What do Other Reviewers Say About Frye Boots?

Frye is an extremely popular brand and there are tens of thousands of reviews online for their boots and shoes—way too many for me to read through. 

A lot of reviewers get the Harness boots for riding and say they’re some of the best boots they’ve ever had for that application. I’m not a rider myself, so I can’t confirm, but I read that multiple times in different reviews, which has got to count for something. 

Frye Boots Alternatives

Thursday Boot Company

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For a Goodyear welted boot with synthetic insoles, I think boots from Thursday offer much better value for money compared to Frye

For instance, if you like the Frye Harness boot, check out the Thursday Harness boot. There are a few things I prefer about the Frye Harness—for example, the Thursday Harness has a zipper, which I don’t like.

Thursday Harness

Handmade by expert artisans in Portugal, the Harness Boot offers a uniquely sophisticated spin on the classic plain toe silhouette with just the right amount of attitude.

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But otherwise, the construction quality is pretty similar, but the Thursday is only $200 compared to Frye’s mid-$400 price.

I do think Frye’s boots have a bigger style impact in that they look more refined and unique, but I’m not entirely sure that’s worth over double the price. 

Thursday Boot Company

Thursday Boots is my top recommendation for people looking to buy their first great-quality pair of boots. Their value for money is excellent. I haven’t found another brand that makes boots this good for under $200.

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Red Wing 

Red Wing Iron Ranger on model walking down rusted steps
Walking down in my Red Wing Iron Ranger boots.

If you want to stick with a boot that’s USA made, it’s tough to beat Red Wing boots. For riding, you may want to scope out the Red Wing Iron Ranger, which has a durable toe cap and is made with a full leather and cork insole and midsole. 

With all natural materials at the core of the boot, you’re going to get a longer lifetime out of your boots, and that’s especially pronounced if you’re putting your boots through the paces by riding or working in them. 

Grant Stone

moc toe Grant Stone Brass boot black
Standing in my Grant Stone Brass boots.

Grant Stone boots are near the top end of construction and material quality all the way through. They’re not USA-made, so that might be a deal-breaker for you if you only shop American. 

But you can get something like the Grant Stone Brass boot (made with Chicago-based Horween Chromexcel leather) that’s built like an absolute tank in the mid-$300 range.

Grant Stone Brass Boot

The Grant Stone Brass boot is a total beast. The construction and stitching is meticulous and the build quality is the best I’ve experienced. While I personally prefer a slightly slimmer style, there’s no denying that the Grant Stone Brass Boot is one of the best value-offers in boots today.

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My Thoughts Overall On Frye Boots

What I Like

  • Frye’s boots have a distinct style that’s refined, bold, and unique. 

  • Their higher end boots are made in the USA.

  • 270-degree Goodyear welt construction means these are recraftable so you can rock them for years—maybe even decades if you take good care of the leather.

What I Don’t Like

  • I wish they’d put more information about the leather and insole so you could have a better idea of what you’re buying. 

  • My Harness boots needed a conditioning when they arrived—they were looking pretty ashy right out of the box. 

Who is Frye for?

Frye is a good choice if you’re eyeing a specific style they offer and want that “one-of-a-kind” look.

The Verdict

Frye boots are solid, but there are a few other brands that offer better value for money that I would opt for over Frye when getting my next pair of boots. 

I love the style of the Frye Harness 12R—it’s a great looking boot and the leather is soft and supple. 

Same goes for the Campus. There’s no other boot on the market like it and I love the balance between the western vibe and the plain toe style. 

I wish Frye had more information about their leather choices and how they actually construct the insole and midsole. And when I compare what I’m seeing against other brands in the $400 range, I’m not seeing the same rigorous material quality in Frye boots. 

For more style-forward boots on a budget, I’d look to Thursday Boot Company. For hardy American made boots, I’d go for Red Wing. And if you just want the best possible quality, you can check out Grant Stone or a brand like Nicks

Don’t get me wrong: Frye boots are good. And their styles are unique, which makes them worthwhile. 

But I’m not sure their materials and construction have kept pace with newer, younger brands.

Frye Boots

Frye is one of the biggest names in the boot-business. And for good reason, too. From western-style boots to classic lace-ups, Frye has a huge selection of stylish boots that are actually built to last.

Shop Frye
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FAQs

Are Frye boots good work boots?

Frye boots are best for style purposes. While you could definitely use them in a working situation, their biggest strength is in their looks.

Is Frye made in China?

Many Frye boots are made in China, though their higher end models like the Campus and Harness are made in the USA.

Can I wear my Frye boots in the rain?

Yes, you can definitely wear your Frye boots in the rain. They feature a Goodyear welt construction, so you’ll get a lot of water resistance before your socks ever get wet. You don’t want to completely soak the leather, but it’s not the end of the world if you do. Just dry them gently if they get soaked and wait a few days to wear them again so they can completely dry out.