Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sartorial Saturday: The Belt

Let's take a few minutes to speak of that basic but essential men's accessory: the belt.

As with much of men's fashion, the purpose of a belt is not to be creative. There are some basic rules which it's best not to violate. First off, your belt must match your shoes. If you are wearing black shoes, you must wear a black belt. If you are wearing brown shoes, a brown belt is required. In anything but the most casual situations, these are pretty much the only two belts you need: one brown, one black. The brown one may have a silver or gold colored buckle, whereas the black one pretty much have a silver colored buckle. If you want to be more casual or expressive, please have the decency to do so with you casual clothes, not your professional or formal wear.

However, while sartorial propriety gives you almost no options in the selection of the color and style of belt, you may express your taste in terms of quality. Cheaply made belts are all too common, and unfortunately, they're not even always inexpensive. I have found myself the victim of too many of these over the years. The belt presents itself as being from some half-way decent brand, and appears respectable enough, but after a year or two you start to see the telltale peel-away look where you buckle it.

Note the unsightly bits of grey peering through the nice black finish, rendering the belt suitable only for weekend casual wear or being turned over to the children to serve as a pirate's baldric.  At last, frustration with this led me to do a round of research, and here is what I've discovered.

Many belts that you find will claim to be "genuine leather".  That has the sound of being a good thing.  After all, you wouldn't want fake leather, right?  (You really don't, believe me.)  It turns out that "genuine leather" doesn't just mean "real leather", it is a specific type of leather.  The top layers (most of the grain) are cut away from the cured skin, leaving the less durable, lower quality leather beneath.  Since this won't finish well, a finish is then applied: either a thin layer of textured plastic or a thin layer of top grain leather.  This is the finish which wears away on a genuine leather belt, revealing the glued together layers of low grade leather underneath.

The solution to this problem is to look for a full grain leather belt.  Full grain leather is a higher quality grade of leather and includes all the top layers of the grain as well. as a fair amount of the lower parts of the skin.  it's the leather itself that takes the finish, rather than having a finish applied to it, so wear and scratches don't have the same highly contrasting look.

What I really wanted was to try this belt from Saddleback Leather, where I got my wallet a year or two ago, but I shouldn't quite justify spending a hundred dollars on a belt at the moment so I picked up a full grain leather belt at Macy's on sale and am hoping for the best.


Jenny said...

I had no idea that "genuine leather" really means cheap garbage that falls apart. That's useful info.

Darwin said...

The worst grade of leather is "bonded leather", which is scraps ground up, put together with glue, and then given a texture and finish which are usually plastic.

Then there's "genuine leather", which I described.

Next is "top grain leather", which is a fairly thin leather with both the top part of the grain and the lower parts of the skin shaved off -- this hides imperfections in the skin and can allow a lower grade of leather to look better.

Your best leather is "full grain leather".