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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.