Belts are something that most men don’t give much thought to. After all, most of the time they are hidden from public view underneath a jacket, shirt, or sweater.
However, as you begin to improve your style you will notice a shift in your perception. You’ll notice yourself become more of a details oriented guy, and pretty soon having a quality belt will be a detail that you simply can’t overlook.
For example, have you ever purchased a “leather” belt only to have it wear out on you in a couple of months?
I know I have.
It’s probably because you purchased an inferior product, not knowing there was a difference in quality between leather belts.
But how does one determine a good quality leather belt from a bad one?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
In this article I want to go over 3 details you should look for when purchasing a quality leather belt.
One of the biggest differences between a good quality and poor quality leather belt is its pliability. Simply put, a good quality belt will be more pliable and supple than a poor quality belt. This is because a good quality belt is made from 100% full-grain leather. Poor quality leather belts are typically made from synthetic polymers, which give the belts the look of leather but are nowhere near as durable as the real deal. Poor quality leather belts can also be made from bonded leather, which is a manufacturing process whereby scraps of waste leather are glued together. Although bonded leather belts are generally better than polymer belts, they are still nowhere near as durable as 100% full-grain leather belts.
I should also mention that you may often see belts claiming to be made from “genuine leather.” What this really means is that the outer most layer of the belt may be made from real leather, while the interior layers of the belt are made from cheaper leather scraps or even synthetic material. This allows manufacturers to reduce the cost of their belts while still touting the “made from genuine leather” label, so be aware of this.
The significance of pliability is that a belt that is more supple and/or pliable is going to be more resilient over time. You have to remember that a belt is going to be wrapped around your waist, with onerous the duty of keeping your trousers in position. As you move about during the day (sitting/standing/bending over), you are placing stress on the belt. A belt that is made with 100% full-grain leather is better able to withstand this everyday wear and tear, whereas a poor quality belt is not. A belt made from inferior materials is typically too stiff and no match for the everyday rigors of wearing a belt.
Have you ever seen a pair of patent leather-like pants or patent leather-like shoes? They are ridiculously shiny aren’t they? Although there really is such a thing as genuine patent leather (which is made from real leather), there are also a whole host of patent-leather like products made from petroleum and vinyl that give off the appearance of patent leather when they are not. I’m not a huge fan of genuine patent leather as I find the unnatural, high gloss shine to be a distraction and something that takes away from the quality of the belt. That’s why for me a really shiny “leather” belt, whether it’s genuine patent leather or not, is a dead giveaway of an inferior product. If you see a leather belt that looks extra glossy and almost feels like plastic to the touch, back away slowly.
Frankly speaking, when purchasing a belt you generally get what you pay for…up to a certain point. Much like quality dress shoes, belts have a point of diminishing returns. After a certain price threshold is met, I feel that the extra cost of a belt does not yield and equal rise in product quality. I feel that a good quality, 100% full-grain leather belt can be purchased somewhere in the $50-$100 dollar range. Anything lower than $50 (presale) means you sacrifice some quality for a cheaper product, while anything over $100 (presale) does not yield anymore quality for the extra cost. My recommendation, as always, is to buy quality belts when they are on sale.
A good example of this would be the two belts I purchased recently. The inferior belt that more or less disintegrated after a month of wear cost me $20 from a department store similar to a TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. It was made from bonded leather. The second belt I purchased 7 months ago from Nordstrom is still going strong. It is made from full-grain leather and cost me around $40 (discounted from $60). While it is on the lower end of the continuum of quality leather belts, it has still been a much more economical purchase than the $20 belt that wore out on me in less than 2 months.
So the next time you are in the market for a new leather belt take these three factors into consideration before making a purchase. If after reading this article you are still left scratching your head, my advice to you would be to simply look for the words “made from 100% full-grain leather” somewhere on the product as this is generally indicative of a good quality belt.
Here’s to looking sharp!