There is a belt that I have had for over half my life. I got it back in high school. I took it to college. It was with me when I started my first job, got married and had four kids. It has outlasted dozens of shoes, a couple of cars and my dog. But last month it finally gave in, and the buckle popped off.
I was totally unprepared for the demise of this belt. Yes, I had been through a lot with this belt, but It was not a sentimental attachment that caught me off guard—I literally was unprepared because I did not own another dark brown belt as a backup.
So began the search for a replacement. I checked out a few local clothing stores on my search but was disappointed. What I found fell into one of two categories: cheaply made and expensive, or well made and very expensive. In the end I just decided to make my own belt which actually is not that big of a jump seeing as how making durable leather bags (with belts) is what we do at HYDE.
Having a belt last over a quarter of a century might sound pretty remarkable, but it shouldn't. Making a belt that is capable of lasting 25 years is not that hard. Making one last a lifetime, which is my goal, well frankly that's not all that hard either. This is what it takes:
1-GOOD THICK LEATHER
If you follow HYDE you will know that I am a fanatic when it comes to leather.
Good leather can last over a century when properly cared for. There are several types of leather that qualify as good, but not all types of leather are right for making belts. There is one class of leather in particular which is perfect for making belts. Not surprisingly, this class of leather is referred to as "belting leather." What might not be as obvious is that the "belt" in belting actually is not referring to human waist belts but to belts for machinery—we're talking like 18th century saw mill machinery here folks. Let's just say that holding up your jeans with belting leather is overkill, but it's the overkill that makes it possible for a belt to last a lifetime.
HYDE belts are made only from vegetable-tanned full-grain leather. I won't go on and on about veg-tanned full grain leather here—you can read my ramblings on the subject at KendalHyde.com if you are interested. I will just leave it with my opinion that it is the best and most appropriate leather for belts—that is if you want them to last.
The thickness of the leather you use to make a belt matters as much as the type of leather. Thin leather will stretch, deform and eventually fail. They also look cheap (because they are). Some belt makers will cheat and stitch two pieces of thin leather together, sometimes with a nylon core to bulk it up more and keep it from stretching. We are not going to do that. Nope. We are just going to use an ultra thick piece of top quality leather from the beginning and call it good because that is what it is, good.
How thick? Well, the average decent belt is made from 5-6oz. leather which is roughly 3/32 inch or 2mm. This sort of belt will run you about $40 and last 5-10 years. A better belt is made from 7-8oz. leather which is about 1/9 or 2.75mm. An 8oz. belt will last a decade or two and usually runs about $70. HYDE belts are 10oz. leather which is roughly 1/6 inch or 4mm. Chances are you have never seen a belt this thick. I suspect it is because there is not much profit in making products that never need to be replaced, but that's what we are trying to do—make a belt to last you your lifetime.
2- QUALITY HARDWARE
A good buckle should feel heavy and solid in your hand. The buckles I chose for HYDE belts are classic roller buckles that are strong enough to be used for horse tack. I chose a roller buckle because the roller reduced the rubbing on your belt as you tighten it to prevent excess rub wear on the leather and helps it look nicer for years.
The four rivets you see are actually Chicago screws. They are much stronger than quick rivets and they are also removable. So if you can operate a screw driver, you can swap the buckle out for the one you "won" in the rodeo if you don't like the one I chose.
Part of the reason for this campaign is to open a mold for a custom casting of Chicago screws. The ones I used in the prototypes are aluminum—all I could find. But aluminum is too easy to strip. The screws would be much stronger if they were made out of brass or nickel alloy. They also need some detail work on the underside of the post side to grip the leather so they are easier to tighten down—you won't see this detail, but it is really the right way to do it. As they say, "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."
3-LONG LASTING QUALITY STITCHING
"Long lasting" is a relative term that does not really apply to what we are trying to do here. Stitching is by far the weakest link in a leather project. The friction will wear at the thread until it eventually breaks. This is what happened to my belt a few weeks ago—the last stitch holding the buckle on finally blew out. If you want to insure that the thread never breaks, don't use any. All parts of a HYDE belt are riveted—no staples or stitching.
4-STRONG BUCKLE ATTACHMENT
Most belt makers thin the part of the leather out where it folds over to 1/2 or less the original thickness. This has always confused me why one would thin the leather at the point where there is the most stress. So I didn't do it. (see below)
You probably noticed that something looks a little different about the way I attached the buckle. Instead of wrapping the leather under the belt it folds out. This looks a little unique if not downright wrong. I got the idea for this belt from an 70 year-old military belt I have. I don't know exactly why they chose to do it this way or why I have never seen anyone else do it like this since. The only logical reason I have come up with is that it might be more comfortable to have the surface that faces your body flat when you're marching all day. Personally I think it has a unique and cool industrial look to it, but if you don't like it, all you need to do is loosen the screws and reverse it (either way it doesn't show when the belt is buckled).
SO, WILL THIS BELT OUTLAST YOU?
I think so. If you think so too, I would be happy to send you one. If you are not convinced I'll slap on a guarantee to replace any belt you outlast providing you use it as it was intended to be used—as a belt and not as a chew toy for your pet dingo, a tow strap for your caravan or some other creative use that, though it may perform admirably, was not my intended use.
That's why you are here after all right? I am going to keep this simple. To fund the launch of this line of belts we are going to offer the belts we will be producing as rewards, but for $10 or more less than we will be selling them for at KendalHyde.com after they are produced and shipped. You can get one, two, three or four in any color combination or sizes you wish. (When the campaign finishes, you will be asked for the size and color of each individual belt you back.) That was easy.
1 Belt: $60 ($70 later—$10 savings)
2 Belts $115 ($140 later—$25 savings)
3 Belts $170 ($210 later—$40 savings)
4 Belts $225 ($280 later—$55 savings
5 Belts $280 ($350 later—$70 savings)
6 Belts $335 ($420 later—$85 savings)
In my opinion you only need three colors of belts and you are covered. Black when you wear black leather shoes. Dark brown when you wear dark brown leather shoes and light brown for everything else that doesn't require you to match your shoe leather (or if your shoe leather just happens to be light brown).
Leather is a natural product so there is always some variation in color from hide to hide and batch to batch. Add to that that we use vegetable-tanned leather which does patina and deepen in color over time. All that said, this picture above is reasonably close to what you should expect.
Also note that the "natural" will change color dramatically with use and exposure to the sun. Over the years the "natural" will darken to be between the light and dark browns, but it will do so with a far deeper patina than the other browns for a real antique looking piece of leather. Below is an approximation of the aging of the "natural" color over time.
Belts will be made in two inch increments. 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52. The measurement is taken from the center hole. There are seven holes one inch apart which will allow you to gain or lose three inches and still be able to use the belt. If you measure between sizes round up.
To measure yourself for a belt, the best way is to measure your waist with tape measure. Second best is to measure the belt you wear from the most used hole to the center of the buckle. If you don't own a belt or a tape measure, get a belt the same size as your best fitting pants, but keep in mind that pant sizes are not always accurate and both shrink and stretch (best to use a tape).
You will be asked your size preference and color preference in a survey after the campaign has completed.
STRETCH GOAL NUMBER 1 AT $20,000: Natural harness leather color option
For those leather junkies and purists, I will also make a natural harness leather version. The harness leather will start out a light tan and quickly mellow and patina to a honey color with use and exposure to the elements. The natural harness leather can also be stained, dyed or carved by you if you are up to customizing your belt.
Weeks 1-4: Kickstarter campaign
Weeks 5-6: Make custom Chicago screws
Week 6: Funds are made available to HYDE
Weeks 6-10 Purchase/order leather and wait for delivery
Weeks 10-11 Production
Weeks 12-14 Ship finished belts to fulfillment center
Week 15 Belts ship to backers
If you want to see some cool charts that track the progress of this project over time and break it down with day-by-day totals, click here.
Risks and challenges
This is our second Kickstarter campaign. We learned a lot in our first campaign that will help us tremendously in this campaign. We have set a very generous timeline that I fully expect to beat. I will keep backers updated as to the project progress and the expected shipping timeline. Should we experience any delays I will likewise inform the backers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)