Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Natural Belt - 1 Month

After the wedding, the wife and I spent some quality time in Italy bouncing from Florence, to Rome, and ending in Sorrento. Due to my new sartorial obsession, and to my wife’s chagrin, I spent a lot of time window shopping. Although many shops carried goods I could only hope to afford (Kiton, Cucinelli, Canali, etc.), we would occasionally stumble upon small shops with modestly priced handmade goods. In Rome, we happened upon a fantastic leather goods shop. Most items were made for women, but there was one wall filled with men’s belts.

Being the Styeforum and Superfuture addicted lurker that I am – I have become well acquainted with the growing interest in natural leather goods. Consider natural leather the equivalent of raw denim. The leather is untreated by any stain or oil, other than the very initial treatment to finish the outer surface. These goods are meant to age and develop character that will look its best a few years down the road. With such quality makers as Tanner or Corter, natural leather can be quite the pricey endeavor. Yet to my surprise, the belts in this shop cost a fraction of these upper tier items. For approximately $40 American, I was able to pick up this beauty.

Over time, with occasional treatings of Obenauf and perhaps a tanning in the sun, I hope that this will darken and gain a nice patina to create another well aged piece to add to my growing wardrobe.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the shop, but if you ever happen to find yourself near the Pantheon in Rome, wander down a few side-streets and keep an eye out for local clothiers.

You can even start to see some slight aging of the leather near the buckle. Since the leather has been untreated, it will begin to absorb the oils from my hand. As it is used more frequently, it will start to take on a rich golden color and darken. Before the winter creeps in, I should treat it in order to guard against any water stains.

Notice the thickness of the leather. This will thin out over time, but it's an easy indication of quality leather. Also note the buckle, nice and simple, just how I like it.

The belt was initially too large for my waste, but the shop owner/worker was nice enough to match it to the belt I was wearing and cut it down to size. Truly a fantastic shop. If you're ever in the area, seek it out as they have some very nice women's bags as well.


  1. Wanna pick up one for a fellow I-Gentleman.

    Orange Gent

  2. Stumbled on your blog when I was looking around for some cordovan boots and was interested in your enthusiasm for your new belt. I am also interested in belts and thought you may be interested in the following links. In Devon, England there is still a tannery producing leather in the most traditional way by tanning in liquor made with shredded oak bark - J & FJ Baker & Co. The leather takes one whole year to go through the tanning process (compared to 24 hours for the usual highly chemical tanning methods). The leather produced is of incomparable quality being true full grain leather of exceptional strength, unique character and with a beautiful surface. This is the link to the tanner http://www.jfjbaker.co.uk/index.php) and a BBC interview with the owner (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-14442109).
    I know two artisan leatherworkers in Britain who use oak bark tanned leather. They both make beautiful belts for a fraction of the price large department stores and fashion houses ask for vastly inferior products. The first is Terry Dear at Celtic Leathercrafts, this is his website (http://xstream.fortunecity.com/strato/160/#belts) look for his range of belts called Quercus to show they use the oak bark leather. They're pretty chunky at 6mm thick. The second is Jasper Highet This is his website (http://www.handmadeleatherbelts.co.uk/belts.html) Jasper's belts are slightly thinner at around 4.5mm – though still plenty thick enough and are beautifully finished. I visited Jasper in his workshop last month and he made two fabulous belts for me taking me through all of the processes - he even makes his own hemp thread. I noticed on the belt pictured the buckle is fastened using a rivet - this is a sure sign of a maker cutting corners. Buckles should be stitched on, it is much stronger and in keeping with the heritage of leather work. Read the information on Equus belts website - another very good belt maker here in the UK (makerhttp://www.equusleather.co.uk/index.php/Making-quality-leathergoods.html) which explains in detail about saddle stitching. Equus use leather from J&E Sedgwick & Co, the very finest leather, but not oak bark tanned. This leather is vastly superior to almost any other leather you're likely to come across, though I still prefer the oak bark tanned leather. This is their link (http://www.jesedgwick.co.uk/jes/index/)
    The belts made by the artisan craftsmen above are made specifically for each customer and their belts go on improving for a lifetime. You cannot buy this quality from shops anywhere and they're a bargain!