What do the world’s most beautiful and famous women have in common with me? Not beauty or fame, unfortunately. But we do have the same taste in boots.
There’s good reason for this: Frye boots are the best. Based on cavalry boots, they’re the ultimate translatable equestrian fashion. They’re cool, rugged, authentic, and – a little-known but immutable principle of quantum physics – their chunky heels and hardware make everyone’s legs look skinnier.
Frye Harness boots bring a saucy insouciance to a floaty summer dress on the streets of LA (okay I haven’t been to LA since 2007, but the world’s most famous and beautiful women riddle the place). Frye’s Dorado Riding Boot and Veronica Slouch are sexy in the countryside with dark jeans – and with shorts they’re properly hot.
Fryes are comfortable enough to pound urban pavement, and they last for decades, developing a soulful patina. Best of all, they aren’t as expensive as they should be. There’s even a raging vintage trade in Frye; I’ve scored knee-high 1970s Campus boots in just the right shade of chestnut on eBay for under £50.
Fryes have been around a long time. Founded in 1863, the Frye Company is, in fact, the oldest continuously operated shoe company in the United States. The original Frye boots were worn by American pioneers heading west for the gold rush, by soldiers fighting the American Civil War, and by Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War. Fryes later proved a favourite of World War II servicemen, including General Patton. Later still, Frye boots became the go-to boot for Harley-Davison-riding motorcyclists like James Dean.
Frye introduced the Campus boot in the 1960s, based on an 1860 original, with a bulky toe and blocky heel that came to embody the attitude of the wild and free 1970s. The Campus was everywhere on college campuses, fashion shoots, rock concerts. They became such an icon that in 1975 a pair of Campus Boots was added to the collection at the Smithsonian Institution to mark their impact on American cultural history, their supporting role in the coming of age of just about every rock star, model, actress – everyone really cool.
I came late to cool, and late to Frye boots. I missed them entirely at university, when I was patently unhip, was in fact hopelessly pretentious and prim, and first found them in my 30s, recovering, in New York City, from heartbreak.
Enter the boots, on the feet of a slender dark poet, who played Brazilian music and read the verses of Anne Sexton, who dappled tender black cod with his own fresh pesto, who merrily whiled away weekday afternoons in his vast white bed in the echo chamber of his Tribeca loft. A friend of movie stars and artists, he went to the Oscars every year, retreated to a crumbling palacio in Lisbon to write, and collected misty black-and-white photographs. Leonard Cohen forged his poems into lyrics. He was cool.
He showed me a whole new way of being grown up. He helped me take down my hair. He brought song; he brought funny. He helped me find my laughter again; he helped me find my voice.
Eventually, healed, I left New York and the poet and I broke up, but even now, ten years on, after all the ten thousand things that have happened – a marriage for me, two award-winning books for him – I always get a message from him within a few hours of thinking of him…
You see? Frye boots are like that. They’re boots for motorcyclists and poets, boots for romance, boots for adventure, boots for poetic romantic adventures on motorcycles. I bet that’s why Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow, Keira Knightly and the other beauties wear them. That’s why I do.
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