Choosing a leather belt whether as a gift or for something that will last a lifetime can be challenging.
Particularly in this fast fashion market where you can buy belts from $5 in any colour and style. Today there are so many 'in the know' terms for leather goods such as:
- Genuine leather
- Veg Tan
- Cow Hide
- Natural Leather
But what does this all seriously mean? In this article we will break down what it truly means to purchase a good quality leather belt and what you should be looking for.
The Quality of a Leather Belt
Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is definitely the best leather to buy if you are looking for something long lasting. It is the highest grade leather available and includes all the natural grain. Here are some key differences why Full Grain Leather makes for a better quality belt:
- Full grain leather develops a patina over time, which allows for a rich texture, character and tone to develop. This gives the leather a vintage look and feel.
- Genuine Leather means that the leather is technically made from animal skin but differs from Full Grain because it is usually made from lower quality leather material being inner leather or made from a variety of different cuts and bonding agents (spilt leather).
- Polyurethane or PU leather is made from thermoplastic polymer. While it is often considered vegan it can be hard to maintain its original shape and colour because plastic does not age as well as Full Grain leather.
The Cut of Hide
Depending on the thickness of the belt being made the part of the hide used is certainly an important factor. The best hide to use with most belts consists of the double butt or double shoulder hide due to its strength, consistency and softness.
90% of leather in the market is chromed tanned, meaning its tanned with chromium sulphate, it is a lot more detrimental to the environment and involves toxic chemicals within the dying process. In contrast vegetable tanning strictly involves using natural tannins which consists of materials such as bark, leaves, roots etc.
Vegetable tanned leather or Natural Leather is leather that is not treated with chemicals or toxic products. Vegetable tanning is widely regarded as the most eco-friendly leather available.
Your personal preference and what type of pant you're pairing the belt with will streamline your choice of thickness. A good belt should be thick enough to be strong and durable, but also comfortable and supple. For most people, this tends to be between 3mm to 3.5mm (7.5 to 9 ounces).
The Buckles and Fixtures
A good leather belt should always include high quality buckles and fixtures (rivets or Chicago screws). This is because the quality prevents damage to the leather and also should last as long as the belt. The best materials for buckles and fixtures include solid brass, stainless steel, copper or other sturdy metals or alloys.
Edges seem like the last thing on anyone's list when looking for a leather belt but you can often see the comparison between a burnished edge and a non-burnished edge over time.
A burnished edge includes the leather being buffed and sealed with a smooth finish. This makes the leather have a slicker finish but also serves a purpose of avoiding any cracking from movement and acts as sealant to avoid water seeping into the leather.
Beeswax/Natural Gum Paste
Like burnished edges, finishing leather with beeswax or natural gum paste adds a sleek, glossy finish but also serves as a natural protectant, bringing out the natural finish without using toxic chemicals.
The Style of a Leather Belt
Depending on the style of your pant the tail style, meaning the end of your belt, makes it easier to tuck into your belt keeper.
Angled Cut is exactly how the name suggests meaning the end of the belt is cut at an angle. English Point creates one central point at the end of the belt.
Angled Cut Abyss - Dark Blue Leather Belt House of Cato AUD $120
English Point London - Black Leather Belt House of Cato AUD $120
The buckle on your belt can definitely make a statement on any pant. There are many styles available but the two most often used to make a great leather belt are the two prong or single prong buckle. Two prong belts can create a modern look with a belt while the single prong gives a more classic style to the look.
Single Prong Buckle Sahara - Deluxe Tan Leather Belt House of Cato AUD $125
Double Prong Buckle The Postman - Dark Brown Leather Belt House of Cato AUD $120
The Belt Keeper
If the buckle is a half buckle (also called a heel bar buckle) you definitely need a belt keeper to keep the tail of the belt secured. If the buckle is a full buckle (centre bar buckle) a belt keeper is not necessary, though can still be included for aesthetic reasons.
Without Belt Keeper Utah - Premium Black Leather Belt House of Cato AUD $120
With Belt Keeper Berlin - Extra Thick Black Leather Belt House of Cato AUD $130
The Finishing on the Leather
While I have a preference for a more natural minimalist finish you can find different type of finishing for a leather belt. Some include glossy finishes, embroidery, pigmented, waxy and brush-coloured.
Redback - Red Leather Belt Limited Edition House of Cato AUD $129