The following is an article from Eric Lo of Classy Chap.

Have you ever seen a belt with an $80 price tag and wondered what in the world could make a belt so expensive? After all, what’s the point of spending as much as I’d pay for a decent casual pair of shoes on a strip of leather with a buckle on it that I could buy at Target for $15?

On the inside, I always knew that the quality of belts varied, but not until now did I know the real reasons behind the differing leathers.

The different types of leather

The varying types of leather are produced in different ways, which lead to their differing qualities. There are significantly more types of leather than I’ve listed, but these few are the main ones involved in the making of belts.

Synthetic Leather Belts

Synthetic leather is exactly what it sounds like – fake leather. Belts of this material are usually created with different polymers and fibers to create the “feel” of leather. However, they aren’t real leather and don’t last very long.

Bonded Leather Belts

This type of leather is 100% real leather. However, the making of these belts involve waste scraps of unwanted leather left over from other products.

The small fibers are glued together and then covered to still create the same look of a leather belt. These cost manufacturers only a fraction of the price it takes them to make higher quality belts.

Genuine Leather Belts

What many people believe to be the top quality leather belt. These belts are also 100% leather, and also occasionally include leftover leather scraps. The belt will consist of layer after layer of inferior leather (leftover leather scraps, etc.) glued or sewn together.

Then, the outer layers will be covered with a top-grain leather surface or sometimes even synthetic leather material. The inferior leather layers on the inside help reduce the cost of these belts, making them much cheaper than full-grain leather belts.

Full-grain Leather Belts

These are the highest quality leather belts out there. This “natural” leather is made from the top layer of the animal’s skin. Occasionally, strips of this leather will have blemishes that were marks left on the animal’s skin.

This type of leather belt is straight up leather – no crummy leather leftovers on the inside – and as a result, is the toughest.

True, its leather quality makes it more prone to showing scratches, but in terms of lifespan, durability, flexibility, and strength, full-grain leather belts cannot be beaten.

(Editor’s note: The scratches and marks you make on your belt [or anything you own, really] are what give it a special uniqueness and are a testament to the quality of that item. Don’t be scared to beat up your most-loved, highest-quality pieces.)

What’s the belt for me?

I believe you should select a belt based off your personal preferences and lifestyle.

Do you only wear a belt a few times a week? A genuine leather belt should do the job just fine. They’re not as durable as full-grain leather belts, but they’re significantly more affordable and as a result, more popular.

If you don’t use a belt often, there’s no need to shell out extra money for a full-grain leather belt.

However, if you’re like me and wear a belt basically every day, a full grain leather belt might be the right choice.

How much?? For a BELT?!

Now you may be wondering, how can you possibly justify spending $80 on a belt?

Well, some nice fellows have put in the effort to create an unbelievably simplistic guide to creating your own full-grain leather belt for less than $25. A simple Google search should do the trick. (Editor’s note: Here’s a great tutorial from our friends at Primer Magazine.)

As always, the final choice is up to you! Genuine, synthetic, and bonded leather belts are significantly cheaper than their more durable relative. However, I believe the recent guides regarding full-grain leatherworking are a great opportunity for you guys to go out and acquire a long-lasting belt for cheap.

Thanks, Eric. So let’s hear from you guys. Worth it to spend good money on a quality leather belt, or a subpar one you can just replace in a year or two?

To be honest, I had a few cheap belts in my day. Some lasted, some fell apart. Recently I purchased a great one from Tanner Goods that I expect to have for a very, very long time. To me? Totally worth it. I’d love to hear from both sides. Leave em in the comments below!

 

[photo, photo, photo]

PUBLISHED July 26, 2012


Classy Chap is an up-and-coming site that frequently posts great deals on classic American clothing from numerous retailers. Classy Chap appeals to high school- and college-aged men working with limited budgets by writing articles that help them in their quest to looking great!



  • Jacques

    You should really just link to the original Reddit guide for that belt-making guide. http://www.reddit.com/r/malefashionadvice/comments/k6uro/how_to_make_a_100_belt_on_the_cheap/

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Thought about it, but it’s not as easy to follow (all words vs words + pictures). Thought Primer’s was more illustrative. Appreciate you linking it though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SineApps Matt Riddell

      The reddit link doesn’t have any of the photos?

  • ChrisReetz

    I have had mixed results with genuine leather belts – had two from Old Navy that were passable and my one from Target, which I am wearing now, that feels and looks like plastic. I am now leaning towards spending a bit more to get something that will last and looks quality.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yeah Chris, if you’re simply looking to hold your pants up, any old belt will do. I felt that way but after a while, I had drawer full of shitty belts. A few years ago I got rid of 90% of them and replaced them with two quality belts that I know will last for years to come. Plus they shape to your body with age, and that makes it all the better.

      When you have the funds, consider putting $ down for quality and I know you won’t be disappointed.

  • http://thedapperscholar.com/ Rogin

    I bought my first nice belt last December – hoof pick from Narragansett Leathers. Didn’t push be back more than $50, I think. But it’s such a huge difference from belts you’d find at department stores. I had a Levi’s belt from Kohl’s for at least a year, and the entire time it was stiff as a board.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I did the same a few months ago, I picked up my first belt from Tanner Goods. Set me back about $90 but I love that strip of leather. I wear it practically every day. Glad you found one you love!

  • Markus

    I bought a nice plain leather belt from a Western store in a small town in Oklahoma for 20 bucks and it has been my trusted belt for over 4 years now. The leather has formed to my waist like all belts do, but other than scratches on it from wearing it so much, it is still in very good condition, and that was wearing it almost every day for 2 and a half years straight!

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I think the scratches and dings are what make quality pieces awesome. They last and hold up despite the beatings they take, and in the process, you create these unique things that could tell a story the longer you own them.

      I have this old green leather wallet I’ve been using since 2004. It’s practically black now and has developed this crazy patina from years of use (and layers of indigo dye from my denim), you can’t even tell that it was once green unless you really examine the edges and the leather near the stitching.

  • jay

    I have to admit that I splurged last year on my trip to Germany and spent $600+ on a Hermes black and brown reversible leather belt. I have worn it pretty much every day for over a year and it still looks practically brand new. I plan on wearing it for many years to come.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Whoa! That’s a helluva splurge :) As long as you love it and use it, that’s all that really matters. Personal style is all about those pieces that mean a lot to you. Glad you get plenty of use out of it.

  • Dan J.

    There’s a difference between a $15 belt and a $50 belt, and it’s often worth the price. But when you start paying more than $50 or so, you aren’t paying for the quality of the belt. You’re paying for brand name.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Yep, and like I mentioned above once you’re over that threshold, it’s just about preference. When it comes down to quality though, I don’t think there’s much of a difference past that dollar amount… all that matters is the type of leather you have.

  • Jorge M.

    True… if you spend more than 50 bucks on a belt, you’re paying for the brand…but considering that your belt is right there, in front of you, I do think that having a nice belt (Montblanc, Ferragamo, Hermes, etc.) is worth the price… it becomes somewhat of your “presentation card” when in a business situation. In the end, I think that expensive belts, pens, cufflinks, etc. are just men jewelry.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      And there’s nothing wrong with paying for the brand at all, if one can afford it / one wants it. Same goes for shoes, suits, and everything else worth paying top dollar for. Totally agree.

  • Nick

    I did something similar recently. Got a plain belt blank from ebay, already finished in tan. Cut the buckle holes and shaped the ends, then stitched the buckle in and also made up a keeper from extra leather pieces. Buckle salvaged from an old belt. Burnished the edges with mink oil. Pretty happy with it for only about $15 in material and some well spent free time.

    https://p.twimg.com/Av-GU0jCQAAM3zl.jpg:large

    https://p.twimg.com/AwOerZXCIAED68Z.jpg:large

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      That’s pretty Rad Nick! Nice work.

  • Doug Mayorga

    If it is of quality, it is always worth the money if you use it enough to justify the price point. I do not believe in frivolous purchases, or returning an item, you should always only buy what you truly want and love enough to spend money on and take home.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Amen, good sir!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=728052063 Andrew Clelland

    I picked up a Hugo belt on clearance for $20 three years ago. It is 100% cowskin. I had no idea how much difference that would make. I wear it almost every day and they will have to pry it out of my cold, clenched hands.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Not a bad find. I’d hang onto that as long as possible too if I were you.

  • Bryan

    Just curious what you thought of shiny belts vs matte. Are there any occasionas (e.g. wearing a suit, business casual) where ‘shiny’ would be preferred? Matte belts look nicer, but Im not sure how they go with a shiny pair of dress shoes.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Shiny? Do you mean like patent leather shiny? I’d probably choose a belt that has an average amount of shine, but nothing where you can see your reflection clearly. Perhaps the shine is just due to the newness of the belt? Guess I’d have to see it in real life.

  • Rohan

    Full-grain is definitely worth it. I’m seeing here in the comments that anything over $50 is just a brand-driven preference, and I tend to agree. I just picked up a full-grain brown leather belt on Zappos for about $30. You definitely don’t have to break the bank to get some quality. Just run “full grain” and “full-grain” for your searches on some big web retailers and take it from there. You’ll find something at a fair price.

  • http://www.careNfashion.com/ Adil

    Nice post, but missing the photos of said belts

  • Dickman

    Okay, as far as it goes for belts – there really isn’t much you can pay for a simple piece of leather. It is cheap and technically shouldn’t exceed $40. However, what differs in more expensive belts is the brand, name, and DESIGN. Yes, DESIGN of the belt buckle specifically. Notice how Rick Owen belts are actually carved from WOOD. This adds to the price. When you are wearing an expensive, well designed belt, then it shows and you are paying for that.

    • TheSheriff

      Very true. I have a 325$ gucci belt. Don’t get me wrong, its very nice. But CERTAINLY not like it 300$ better than many other belts.

  • Craig

    I bought a Levi’s belt 8 years ago. I still have it, and it has only faded at stress points a little. It cost me $18 then, and it has no stitches except to hold the loop on, and 2 rivets for the buckle. Full grain leather, I assume? It looks like it to me, and I work with leather as a hobby (mostly armor commissions).

  • kettlepatcher

    I’m wearing a belt I had made at the l,ocal flea market April 4 2002–charged me $15.00 for it. He quarreled the whole time while making it that I had made him ruin a whole side pelt because it had to be so long 56″. I didn’t hold him at gun point just told him about the bunch of guys that had sent me to him and that I knew he’d not want them riding his a__ for not making me one.He didn’t and He did make me one.

  • Dave Hahn

    Great article. I’ve thrown out a lot of the “leather” I’ve previously owned. A great resource for cheap full grain leather is Etsy. There is a vendor there, Lakeside Leather, from Ireland that hand makes all her (name is Ger – not sure if it was a guy or girl) belts and they sell for about $30 and come in a variety of colors and sizes. Check ‘em out… Also beware of J Crew belts – they’re usually genuine leather but retail at prices that would indicate otherwise.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Interesting find on Etsy, appreciate the rec!

  • Jimsday

    This article helped me a great deal. I have been buying belts uninformed. Now I have knowledge!

  • Concerned

    What are the rules for disclosing the components of a purported ‘leather’ belt

  • globalteckz

    genuine leather belts are 100% purely made by leather although now a days they are mixed with other materials to reduce the cost – for genuine leather belts you can shop from
    http://www.shop72.com they offer variety of products for men and women

  • Lawrence

    Learn to differentiate real leather from the fakes before you buy them, not after. More reads: http://blog.classifiedads4free.com/leather-belts-identifying-real-leather-before-you-buy-them-not-after/

  • TheSheriff

    $80? That’s nothing. Try $325 for a Gucci belt! That is legit

  • TheZ

    I just buy Gucci. The price is truly painful, but ten years with one of their belts that’s worn daily and it’s still in almost perfect condition. If you can afford it I’d reccomend buying one when it’s on sale for about $235 from their website

  • SkittlesOverMnM

    What are you thoughts on Ted Baker and Hugo Boss belts? Are they high quality grained leather belts? Some Ted Baker belts say “100% Bovine Leather”, which I’m not sure if it’s grained leather or not. And Hugo Boss belts some say “textured leather”. Should I go for these?

    • gareth luke

      Ive had two of both and dont recommend them. You see these conventional designers and expect quality but they dont deliver.