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?
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!
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