Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of your site, and the enormous knowledge and enthusiasm that it provides! I’ve got three boots in my sights -
1) Frye Brando - These look nice boots with some vintage styling, and leather soles, but not sure about those double straps at the top. Also, I heard that Frye boots come up very loose, is that widespread?
2) Chippewa 97863 - These look like they have a good toe shape, but I don't like the matte / greasy finish. Can these be polished up with regular boot polish to a gloss shine? Also, don't those buckles look like something off a ladies purse!
3) Chippewa 1901M48 - Again, not sure about those buckles, but I like the leather and the tan welt around the base. The soles look like they're made of foam rubber or similar!
I was hoping you might pass on the benefit of your experience with some guidance which might be the best to go for.
Thank you for the e-mail!
Frye Brando - I’ve owned these boots for many years - currently being sold under the name “Rand” with less desirable modern characteristics - and agree with you on the vintage styling. I wouldn’t let the double straps be a deal-breaker since they aren’t noticeable when worn. They are the only pair I have with double buckles, so it definitely adds color to my collection. They fit a little big and I recommend going with at least one half size down. Worn with jeans or something dressier, these boots are pretty versatile.
Mine have been stored in a box of miscellaneous Engineer Boots for some time now, but my ultimate plan is to have them resoled with stacked Woodsman heels, half soles, swapping the buckles out with traditional colors – or try to see what sanding off the coating does, and removing the celastic from the toe box. They are ready to rock out of the box, but my planned modifications are merely to get back into them as I currently only bounce back and forth between only a standard few from my collection.
Pros: Classic styling / profile, 1940’s-style low, blocked heel, versatile with various wardrobe styles, retail for around $250
Con: Dark coated buckles
Chippewa 97863 - I’ve had my sites on these for a long time with the intent of having them immediately resoled with stacked Woodsman heels, half soles and swapping the buckles out with traditional rollers. Any leather can be polished – black Kiwi Parade Gloss polish and a boot brush will make you forget they ever had a matte finish. Take it even a step further with a military spit shine.
Of your three options, this is the pair I’d choose for myself. A natural welt is available upon request at the time of rebuild.
Here’s a prime example of how great these boots look following a rebuild from Okuyama of Hukurokuju.
Pros: Classic 1950’s Chippewa Style (after a trip to the cobbler), retail for around $200 (still under $500 with the above rebuild)
Cons: Modern factory buckles, Leather (but you get what you pay for)
Chippewa 1901M48 - One of the newer models put out in an attempt to revive the brand that still falls short on anything remotely close to their archives. Chippewa should have been less concerned with the vintage tag and calling it something fancy like, “Whirlwind” and spent a little more effort on using traditional buckles. They’re wearable out of the box, but I wouldn’t go too long without swapping the buckles out and would probably have Okuyama do the same work as above, while still maintaining the natural welt edge.
Pros: Classic styling / profile, natural welt edge, retail for under $300 (still around $500 with a rebuild).
Con: Modern factory buckles
I hope this helps a little with your decision. Cheers!