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Belt Making

posted by Matt Pierce on December 06, 2010

I really love the way certain items break-in and wear in accordance to an owner’s habits and traits. I was (and kinda still am) crazy interested in the process of breaking-in raw denim. I love how wooden items change due to use. I’m dying to see some of my carpenter bags change and break-in over time. Ever see Børge Mogensen’s own brown leather couch? Leather has to be one of the materials I most adore. The way it breaks-in and takes shape and colors and character from how you’ve used it, is really intriguing. I also like tinkering with leather, so I thought of a great way to show you all something, AND start a dialogue about the break-in process and see how ordinary items can become uniquely a person’s own belonging.

I’ve decided to create a small batch of belts with untreated vegetable-tanned leather –then send them out into the wild to my readers to wear and make entirely theirs. As an untreated belt is worn, it will take on shape from the owner’s waist, belt loop location, and buckle use. It will take colors from the type of pants you wear, the denim dye, the things you rub against. Then there will be the option of choosing your own break-in method... slap it against a log, wear it into the ocean, hand-dye it, wax it... whatever you could think of. In the picture below, you’ll see my worn-in BillyKirk wallet, of natural un-treated leather.

I’ve already bought a half-hide of 10oz. leather and am getting some simple tooling soon. I’ve chosen a buckle and will give you all a couple finish choices, and you can pick your own length. It will be modeled after my favorite belt (pictured below), but each one will start as pure, natural color leather (in a 1.5in width). Because I’m not a beltmaker, and I’m not going to make this into a business, AND because there will likely be small imperfections, I’m going to make this small batch of 20 for the cost of materials and tooling. There’s ONE REQUIREMENT if you decide to take part in this... As you wear it, I want pictures in six months and then even later as it changes, and I will share these with our readers. Also, let us know if you did your break-in, and if you treated it in anyway. Hopefully you all are interested in this experiment like I am.

I’m going to open an item in the store on Friday December 10th at 11am and will have them on advance-order basis. I won’t be able to start making these until after my Christmas trip to Kansas, so know that you’ll be getting your belts sometime in mid to late January. Should something go horribly wrong and I make no belts, you will all get a full refund. I’m also allowing international shipping on these, because I don’t want to leave anyone out. Accepting advance-orders on this will let people choose their buckle finish (so I can order them) and belt size, and I’ll be documenting the make process to share with you as well.

Few rules to participate:

  1. Only one belt per order/address/PayPal account.
  2. These are not for resale.
  3. You must want to participate fully with a rigorous break-in and report back with photos and documentation.
  4. Please make sure to submit your buckle choice and size in the comments when ordering. Best way to measure is to put on your current favorite belt and measure from the belt hole you use, completely around your waist and back to that hole.
By the way, a great site about that denim thing is Denim Debate. Also, check out the episode about denim on Put this On ... one of my favorite blogs.


Tams on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Sign me up x 2. Love the idea and will happily document.

Jordan J. Lloyd on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM


I would love to participate. I have had the same belt now for 5 years which I have worn every day ( The wearing wasn’t brilliant because it was cheap leather and I actually ended up turning the belt inside out so the untreated side was showing because I liked the patina of the untreated leather.

So count me in. nb: Shipping to the UK won’t be a problem, will it? Also, what buckle choices do we have?

- J.

jill on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

oh yeah, i’m all over this. FUN idea! and I can’t wait for the photo shoot in 6 mos:)

Janelle on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

You inspired me to dig into the back of my closet for a belt I made years ago in Branson, MO. Discovered that it doesn’t fit anymore, so, thanks for that! Anyway, it did get a lot of use when my waistline could accomodate – so I snapped a few shots:

I hope to take part in this fun project!

megan on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

This is such a great project. I’ll mark my calendar for December 10th.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Thanks Tams, I really hope you’ll participate! One thing though, I forgot to mention that I’m only allowing one belt per order so the most folks can participate as possible. I’ve revised my post with a few rules.

Dusty on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Very cool idea. I’ll be keeping my eye out for these once you get a few made, as I would love to be a test case and submit some initial breaking-in pics!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Nice! Yeah, you’re a great candidate for this project. Shipping worldwide is gonna be $13.45 for International Priority service. As for buckle choice, I’m gonna put pictures in the store, and you can just choose in the ordering comments. I’m thinking antique brass or gunmetal as options. Might have more… need to decide.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Yeah, that sounds good. I can do that. I’ll give an option to make them with snaps instead of rivets, so you can use your own buckle.

Kronos on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Here’s a curve ball for ya Matt! How about adding an extra option for a ‘Buckle-less’ design for those of us who love wearing obnoxiously huge and different funky style buckles to match our moods. This could also bring an extra added dose of fun to the breaking-in documenting process. What do ya think my friend?

Jordan J. Lloyd on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Update: a much clearer shot of the actual belt itself.

Tams on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Totally understand. I thought my husband and I could be matchy matchy but I will just order for him.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Hey Tim, I’m glad you’re excited to participate! Get ready tomorrow – when I open an item in the store for it at 11am. If you’re on twitter, follow me and I’ll be sending out a reminder before.

Tim Yarborough on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM


A friend passed along this belt breaking in proposal to me and her hunch that I’d like in was right! Have two belt that I use for everything right now one is thickly woven webbing-ish material with two rings as the buckle and then another old leather belt that was my sister’s I think forever ago. Don’t know how it holds up so well. My favorite bit about the aging process for each: the brass rings get a softer and more lustrous golden color each time I cinch the webbing tight around and between them, the leather one makes a sideways smiley face hanging on the door from the years of conforming to my waist (this observation helped my sister, a jean maker, tweak the yoke on her pants to come back in after accommodating the butt).

my current belt is 35.5 inches from the very end of the buckle to my most used hole.

would you like to know anything else?


Tim Yarborough
130-H Cox Ave
Raleigh, NC

Kronos on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Rock on. See you Friday.

sarah may on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

i am on the same boat as jill. i just found your blog and so missed the deadline. is there a chance that you will be doing this project again in the future? man, oh man. what a perfect concept.

jill on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

well shoot. i just went to buy my belt and you’re SOLd out. any chance you’ll do more matt?

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Hi Shane, in the top nav, there’s a button to the store. Belts are $17 and as of now, there’s only 2 left! Thanks for asking.

Shane Swift on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Would love to try this… how much?

wood & faulk » cowboys & cadillacs on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

[…] The cool thing is- he is making belts out of untreated, vegetable-tanned leather, and asking his readers to participate in an experiment. […]

James on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Any chance you would disclose your buckle source?
Maybe a hint? Are your making them yourself?

John on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Please do let us know if there is left over. I’ve wanted to make one of these myself but never can find the time. I slept on the ordering thinking there would be time. Woooops.!!! Won’t wait next time.

nahbois on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

phooey! Alas, my crack will get its daily dose of vitamin D. Here’s to hoping you have at least 30" of run over…. or 26" <—-wishful thinking.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Ah, you DO need a belt! Sadly, I’ve filled all the spots for this experiment. Sorry, but they went very fast! If I have an over-run when I cut straps, I’ll let everyone know. Thanks!

nahbois on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

How does one sign up for this? I’m a new mother, and have lost all of my baby weight and my pants won’t stay up. Just today I went to buy a belt but couldn’t find one.

When the baby wakes in the middle of the night, sometimes I peruse flickr and look for craft ideas to make things for the baby. Somehow your flickr set popped up. I became intrigued by your chair collection, came to your website, noticed you were in the portland area too, and then saw this belt thing. Very serendipitous don’t you think. This must mean that you are holding my belt :)

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Thanks for your interest Sarah! I’m sure there will be another similar project in the new year, so hopefully we can get you in on that one.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Thanks Jason, I buy most of my supplies at Oregon Leather Co, here in Portland. They’ve got lots of stuff and some great, thick hides for the belts.

jason on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

hi matt. absolutely love these belts. these are exactly what i’ve been looking for. shame i missed the batch. can you please send me some more information on the leather and buckle sourcing?

love what you’re doing, thanks for sharing!!

James on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Much obliged.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Ha! Not making them myself… no one wants to see my ugly blacksmithing. James, I’ll send you a note.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Hey Patrick,
I don’t have an email list or anything yet… but I’ll definitely announce on twitter or facebook when I do it. As for most popular, it was gunmetal… about 15 of the total. Next was antique brass.

Patrick on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Hi Matt —

How do I sign up for updates so I don’t miss out on another one of these opportunities?

What style buckle ended up being most popular?


Chris on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Dare I inquire on buckle sourcing? I am making my own out of jealousy and I love those buckles.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Thanks Kevin, I might put together another run, maybe late Spring.

Kevin on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Hey I just stumbled onto this a little late. Any chance of a second run at this? I am excellent at breaking in leather!

Peace either way!

Devin on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Oops, I meant, “or similarly nice BELTS”

Devin on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Sad I’m just seeing this now – looks like all the orders have been filled. I lost my favorite belt (and house) in a fire a few months ago and have been bummed trying to find a similar replacement. My jaw dropped when I saw your belt up there because it’s nearly (and uniquely) identical to my old favorite 50’s belt. If you could steer me to the buckle maker or another place making similarly nice buckles I’d be forever greatful!


Coop on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

I feel like this is a shot in the dark to be the third to request where you get those sweet buckles? I would like to throw one on my western belt for my job as a ranch hand this summer.

I love your stuff. I actually just posted on my tumblr because I own the timex weekender and was going to try and make a leather strap over Christmas but ran out of time making other projects. I guess it will have to wait till summer.

Keep up the good work!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Thanks Lee, sorry if this wasn’t mentioned before, the belts are 1.5inches wide.

68LBS on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Hi Matt

As these are now in the store, can I assume they available to order for all of us who missed the initial run? I was also wondering what width these belts are as I can’t seem to find any mention of this anywhere.

Superb blog by the way! This is just my kinda thing and I’ll be stopping by regularly…

Many thanks.


MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Renee, I’m working on some for the store… stay tuned!

Renee @ on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Crap. Am I too late? I love the idea of a natural untreated leather belt. It would be the perfect waist belt for all my summer dresses.

justin on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

damn, just found your blog. hope you end up doing another order, i’ve been losing weight and undergrown (what’s the opposite of outgrown??) my old belt

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:17AM

Thanks for the kind words. The buckles that I used on the project belt have dried up unfortunately.

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