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August 31 2014

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150 Years of Frye

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Jasper Johns' "Flag" and Frye's limited-edition bootsFrye, the oldest continuously operating footwear company in the U.S., turns 150 this year. To celebrate, the label’s creative director, Michael Petry, designed a limited-edition collection of boots for men and women that riff on Jasper Johns’ famous American Flag painting (above). “The Johns painting has so much depth,” said Petry, a veteran of Prada and Polo Ralph Lauren. “We knew that with our handwork and vegetable-dyed leather, we could get a boot to have that kind of weathered look and feel.” Antiqued and stained by hand, an Engineer and a Harness style also feature inlaid stars—a direct homage to Johns.

Beyond the new boots, which just went up for sale on Frye’s Web site, Rizzoli will publish a book in October showcasing photographs of many of the company’s most famous fans. A long-haired, sixties-era James Taylor, along with John Lennon, are particular standouts for Petry, but a black-and-white of Jerry Garcia was unearthed too late to be included. Also in October, the Discovery Channel will air a one-hour documentary shot inside the company’s Wynne, Arkansas, factory. New stores in Chicago and Washington, D.C., are in the works, and Boston just opened. The Newbury Street flagship was a homecoming of sorts; Marlborough, Massachusetts, the company’s birthplace, is a forty-minute drive away.

“We’re always hearing, ‘My mom wore these,’ or ‘My dad did,’” said Petry. “In many cases, Fryes become heirlooms.” (This writer has eight-year-old, fourteen-inch Campus heirlooms at home in her closet, and can firmly attest they do indeed get better with age.) Today, Frye has given Style.com an exclusive look inside its Arkansas factory (above), where its boots are handmade in much the same way as they were in 1863.

Photos:DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty Image (Jasper Johns’ Flag); Courtesy of Frye (boots)

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