A Few Good Belts
I may be wrong about this, as I don’t check the #menswear board as much as I used to (more on this, perhaps, at a later date), but I am somehow left with the feeling that a stable of solid belts as a wardrobe essential is something that gets short shrift around the internetz. Around here, it’s all about the shoes.
Of course, more traditionally-oriented fonts of menswear knowledge (the StyleForvms, PutThisOns, and DieWorkwears) can be mined for information like this, but perhaps folks who are increasingly taking their cues from the handful of #menswear editors and their friends who are beginning to dress like caricatures of late-nineteenth-century Left Bank intellectuals replete with anachronistic facial hair, berets cocked askew, and settee throws-as-outerwear-for-their-outerwear—photos generally labeled only with wearers’ names/nicknames and or the collections from whence the aforementioned items came—could benefit from some thoughts on something more—and I hate to use this term, but it does seem appropriate here—‘timeless’ than the ephemeral styles they are encouraged to sink hard-earned money into. In this instance, I’m of course referring to belts.
Cheaply manufactured belts (and these aren’t always necessarily cheap to buy), those made out of poor quality leather and/or using bonded leather—where a decent looking thin leather veneer is glued, or bonded, to a strip of leather—will begin to crack after a short period of consistent wear. You can see many examples of these at the thrift shop. Well-crafted belts will be made from a single strip of leather, and can be finished in a number of ways. My taste is for pretty plain looking belts made out of bridle leathers (like that you’d find on the straps and other leather items used on equestrian equipage; or, to use a potentially more familiar reference point [I’ve never even been closer to a horse than watching the races at Golden Gate Fields—ugh..and I really just used the term ‘equipage’] like the leather straps you’d find on a Filson bag), rather than exotic skins like ostrich, lizard, or alligator. As I’ve mentioned on this blog previously, my favorite place to get these belts is Narragansett Leathers because they’re affordable (the belt on the top left was under $40), and handcrafted in the USA by a nice guy named Alan McKinnon.
There’s something profoundly* elegant about the combination of bridle leather and brass. Yet it still retains an air of simplicity, however, that I favor over ostentation (elegance is, in my opinion, rarely ostentatious—bear in mind though that I am neither elegant, nor, I hope, ostentatious, so I may not know what I’m talking about…). These belts also, and I mean this (I know it’s an idea tossed about the menswear blogosphere like so much loose change), continue to look beautiful as they age. The leather darkens a bit, and the brass develops a lovely patina. I wore the belt on the left in the top picture nearly every day for well over a year, and it still looks—though aged a bit—in as robust a condition as it did the day I first took it out of its packaging.
A good belt will last you a long time, and that belt needn’t cost you an arm and a leg (I rarely see belts costing over $5 in the thrift shops). A buckle that stands out from the crowd functions like an accessory, but can produce its effect more subtly than a lapel pin, or these days, a bracelet or other form of ‘mewelry.’ Belts are also a relatively inexpensive way to inject some color into your wardrobe. Though the rules say to match your belt to your shoes, I think it’s sometimes fun to play around with breaking this rule, as that’s what rules are for—or so I’m told. ;-) The four belts pictured above cost less than a nice pair of new Allen Edmonds shoes, and the joy I derive from incorporating them into my outfits exceeds that I’d get from one pair of shoes (if that is an actually feasible calculation to make—I’m not sure it is…).
Try taking a break from building up that stable of shoes and delight in the joy of acquiring a belt rotation that speaks to your style and taste.
*I just died a little inside using the word profound to talk about menswear.