But like Jason's Allen Edmonds and Aldens, I too believe in spending a premium on two very important things: a pair of good leather boots and a good coat. If you're looking for a last-minute gift for a lady in your life that appreciates the hard-to-find blend of fashion and function, look no father than Frye boots.
No, they're not made of horse leather, but they are made (not in China) with lustrous, thick cow leather that only looks better with age. I personally own three pairs: the Harness in both black and brown, and then a shorter equestrian style. And before they catered to the ladies, the Frye Company booted the troops:
"Frye's Harness boot is rooted in this tradition and continues to draw inspiration from the American Cavalry. During a 1938 trip to Washington, D.C., John A. Frye's grandson and namesake met a U.S. Navy Admiral who noted his difficulty in finding the Wellington styles he liked so much. As a favor, John agreed to make him a pair. Frye continued to fill these requests for boots through World War II.
By mail order, the company supplied thousands of brave soldiers and pilots with Frye Wellingtons, known as Jet boots. Our boots traveled the world on the feet of American servicemen, from Normandy to Okinawa – even General Patton wore a pair."
Yes, they're close to $400 (or more) a pop, but I guarantee they'll wear better than a pair of Manolos you'd get for the same price. And unlike Jason's Aldens and Allen Edmonds, my original Harness boots have yet to need a resole after six years of nearly daily wear. Fryes are wiley creatures: fresh out of the box, they'll give you blisters and ruin your white socks for about two weeks. But they're trainable: you'll soon find they settle into the best boots you'll ever wear.
Remember when Abercrombie & Fitch made respectable outdoor clothing instead of promoting questionable morals, ads that put American Apparel ads to shame, and t-shirts thinner than tissue paper? Whelp, C.C. Filson did it better, and managed to not to slide into the typical suburban teenager's wardrobe. Filson's "Better Outdoor Clothing" was born during the Klondike Gold Rush, and the flagship store remains hidden in south Seattle to this day. From the wool bomber for the fall to the foothills parka for the snowy depths of a Chicago February, you can't go wrong with this outdoor wear. My dad has a Filson coat that he got in the early 1990's (I believe he paid around $400 at the time) and I'm pretty sure it'll keep him warm and dry well into his 90's.
So my fashion spend rules are thus: for couture, go for the hunt (or luck out like me and have a grandmother who amassed a wonderful collection over the years). Troll eBay, troll thrift stores, and refuse to pay a premium for the new China-made-questionable-labor-sweatshop couture that's lost the original soul and quality that designers like Coco Chanel intended her clothes to have. For the everyday pieces like shoes and coats: spend large and luxuriate in the joy of a pair of perfectly worn-in boots.