The Beauty of a Naturally Aged Leather Belt

I’ve been wanting an undyed leather to be to wear with jeans for a while now. Something thick, heavy, and substantial, made from a material that will beautifully age with use and time. The Flat Head wallet I posted a few weeks ago is made from an undyed leather, and has gone from a pale tan to a handsome, golden honey brown. 

I finally picked one up from Don’t Mourn Organize. It’s a small Utah company run by a guy named Scott, who makes belts, wallets, and full-sized bags from almost every kind of leather you can think of (vegetable tanned leathers, shell cordovan, and even some exotics). Since everything is made-on-order, customizations are also usually possible. 

Saddle, Bridle, and Harness Leathers

For undyed vegetable-tanned leathers, Scott has saddle and harness. For those unfamiliar, saddle and harness, along with bridle, make up the three main types of leather used in English saddlery (the art of making leather goods for horse riding). As their names suggest, bridle leather is traditionally used for making bridle reins, harness for making horse harnesses, and saddle for making saddle seats. These are very, very robust materials - the kind of stuff that will last for decades if well taken care of.

The difference between them is simply in the “finishing.” Saddle comes fairly “raw,” meaning it has little oil or wax content. This makes it less pliable, feel drier in the hand, and be a bit more susceptible to water stains. Bridle, on the other hand, is very smooth and polished, and the leather itself is more compressed. Readers might be familiar with it through Swaine Adeney Brigg briefcases, Ettinger wallets, or belts from Narragansett and Equus. Lastly, harness is perhaps somewhere in the middle – it has more wax and oil content than saddle, but it retains a bit more grain that bridle.

My Belt

I went with harness for my belt because of how easy it is to maintain. I had Scott use a buckle I had laying around and shave the thickness of the leather down to 0.25”. That makes it considerably more substantial than most belts you’d find on the market, but leaves it still comfortable to wear. Total cost? $65, including shipping. 

In the first photo above, you can see how my belt has aged after a week’s work of use and three applications of Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP. The second photo is my belt brand new, sitting on Scott’s workshop table. The third photo is one of Scott’s own belts, which he’s had for about a year. As you can see it’s a beautiful russet brown, which I think looks terrific against a pair of broken-in raw jeans. I can’t wait for mine to get as nice. 

The Wallet I Use with Jeans

Since my post on henleys yesterday, a few readers emailed me asking for details on the leather wallet shown in my picture. That’s a mid-length, steerhide wallet made by the Japanese brand Flat Head. It’s thick and heavy, and over-the-top in terms of durability. It’s also the only wallet I’ll use with jeans, as my regular card case and money clip combination feels too insubstantial when I’m wearing a rugged jacket.

High-End Japanese Models

The Flat Head’s wallet is admittedly ridiculously expensive. Part of this is due to the materials and construction (it has a sterling silver ring, and has been handsewn with waxed cow tendon thread); part of it is the cost of labor in Japan (where it was made); and part of it is simply a result of the high-demand for Flat Head products in the hardcore denim-enthusiast community. If you’re not bothered by the price, you can find similarly nice pieces at Self Edge and Blue in Green. They have stuff made by Flat Head, as well as other high-end Japanese brands, such as Kawatako, Studio D’Artisan, and Red Moon.

More Affordable Options

There are a number of more affordable options, however, from companies based the other parts of East Asia and the United States. These include Angelos Leather, Obbi Good Label, Tenjin Works, PCKY, Voyej, Hollows Leather, and Tanner Goods. I’ve also seen some really nice models made by Don’t Mourn Organize. The man behind that operation, Scott, doesn’t list his mid-length and long-wallets on his website, but I assume they can still be made. Almost everything he sells is made-to-order. Lastly, you can search eBay for “Redmoon style wallet,” which should pull up a few models. I have no experience with those, but I did buy my braided leather chain, which you see above, from eBay a few years ago (it cost something like twenty-five bucks). There are still similar ones on eBay

Getting That Patina

If you buy one, you have the option of getting something already dyed, or something that comes in a tan “natural” color. The second will darken into that golden, honey brown you see above. All that’s really required is about a year or so of regular use. Sunlight will darken the leather, so if you want to speed up the process, you can leave the wallet out for a couple of days in direct sunlight. To get a truly nice patina, however, you’ll need to use it. Sticking it in your back pockets, for example, will give the leather a more natural, broken-in look, and transfer some of the indigo from your jeans to your wallet’s leather and threads. I also treat routinely treat mine with Obneauf’s Heavy Duty LP. Some say the hue of your wallet’s patina is determined by the kind of leather treatment you choose, while others say this is nonsense. I have no opinion on it either way, but you can browse threads like this one at Superfuture to see how some people’s leather products have aged. I have noticed, for what it’s worth, that some Flat Head wallets have developed a slightly reddish patina, while mine is more golden-brown.

Either way, if you purchase something of quality, and give it some good, hard, honest use, you’re sure to get something beautiful at the end. Just don’t let a chiropractor see you with one, as sitting on such a bulky thing all day is apparently bad for your health.

For $50 You Can Buy …
Following on my “style for college students" post, I thought I’d suggest some "under $50" options that I think would work well for students. Above is what I sometimes wear on weekends if I have errands to run, but I think it can also work for someone in college. 
Shoes: The canvas shoes are a collaboration project by Billy Reid and K Swiss, and they’re on sale right now at J Crew for $30 (use the code OURTREAT). I think they work well with casual chinos and jeans. If you want other options, LL Bean Signature sometimes discounts their blucher and ranger mocs to about $50, and I think they can be worn with the same things. 
Sweatshirt: The grey sweatshirt above is by Onassis. The fit on their website looks skinnier than how mine wears, but perhaps they had the model size down (or maybe they changed the cut). Either way, it’s a decent, casual sweatshirt, albeit thinner than other models on the market. For other affordable options, check out Uniqlo and J Crew (the second of which offers them in grey and navy). J Crew’s cost over $50, but hardly a thing in their store doesn’t make to their end-of-the-season sales.
White tees: I usually wear my sweatshirt over a Levi’s 1950s pocketed tee, but those don’t seem to be online at the moment (they might have them in-store though). A similar model seems to be the pocketless version. If you wait, those go on sale for about $9. Hanes’ beefy tees are also good, cheap beaters. For more options, look into Alternative Apparel (which I know Jesse likes), American Apparel, Uniqlo, J Crew, and Velva Sheen. 
OCBDs: You also can pair the grey sweatshirt with an oxford cloth button-down, which in turn will give your collarline some more structure. The cheapest ones I know of are at Uniqlo, but Brooks Brothers and Land’s End Canvas will often discount theirs to about $35. Here’s some striped ones from Brooks now for about $40.  
Jeans and chinos: My preferred jeans are 3Sixteen’s SL-100x, which I think are one of the best values on the market right now. They’re expensive, but the fit and quality of the denim and construction are excellent. For something cheaper, check out Uniqlo’s Made in Japan line or Gap’s selvage jeans. For something cheaper still, Levis has a bunch of options, so long as you stay clear of any pre-distressed stuff. The non-raw, non-selvedge stuff won’t age as beautifully, but they’re also much more affordable. Alternatively, you can wear the above with Uniqlo’s vintage chinos, which are on sale right now for $40. Jesse has recommended them in the past. 
Belt: Finally, I bought the belt above for $20 at a local jean shop, but you can buy nicer belts from Voyej, Corter, and Don’t Mourn Organize.
The best thing about everything here is that nothing requires much maintenance. I know most college students don’t have time to iron their clothes, polish their shoes, or do any of the other recommendable things for clothing care. The stuff you see above are all items you can throw on, not pay too much attention to, and not worry if things get stained. These are the kind of clothes that look better beat up than brand new anyway. Pretty much ideal if you sleep in libraries, go to parties where cheap beer is often spilled, and don’t even own an iron. 

For $50 You Can Buy …

Following on my “style for college students" post, I thought I’d suggest some "under $50" options that I think would work well for students. Above is what I sometimes wear on weekends if I have errands to run, but I think it can also work for someone in college. 

  • Shoes: The canvas shoes are a collaboration project by Billy Reid and K Swiss, and they’re on sale right now at J Crew for $30 (use the code OURTREAT). I think they work well with casual chinos and jeans. If you want other options, LL Bean Signature sometimes discounts their blucher and ranger mocs to about $50, and I think they can be worn with the same things. 
  • Sweatshirt: The grey sweatshirt above is by Onassis. The fit on their website looks skinnier than how mine wears, but perhaps they had the model size down (or maybe they changed the cut). Either way, it’s a decent, casual sweatshirt, albeit thinner than other models on the market. For other affordable options, check out Uniqlo and J Crew (the second of which offers them in grey and navy). J Crew’s cost over $50, but hardly a thing in their store doesn’t make to their end-of-the-season sales.
  • White tees: I usually wear my sweatshirt over a Levi’s 1950s pocketed tee, but those don’t seem to be online at the moment (they might have them in-store though). A similar model seems to be the pocketless version. If you wait, those go on sale for about $9. Hanes’ beefy tees are also good, cheap beaters. For more options, look into Alternative Apparel (which I know Jesse likes), American Apparel, Uniqlo, J Crew, and Velva Sheen
  • OCBDs: You also can pair the grey sweatshirt with an oxford cloth button-down, which in turn will give your collarline some more structure. The cheapest ones I know of are at Uniqlo, but Brooks Brothers and Land’s End Canvas will often discount theirs to about $35. Here’s some striped ones from Brooks now for about $40.  
  • Jeans and chinos: My preferred jeans are 3Sixteen’s SL-100x, which I think are one of the best values on the market right now. They’re expensive, but the fit and quality of the denim and construction are excellent. For something cheaper, check out Uniqlo’s Made in Japan line or Gap’s selvage jeans. For something cheaper still, Levis has a bunch of options, so long as you stay clear of any pre-distressed stuff. The non-raw, non-selvedge stuff won’t age as beautifully, but they’re also much more affordable. Alternatively, you can wear the above with Uniqlo’s vintage chinos, which are on sale right now for $40. Jesse has recommended them in the past. 
  • Belt: Finally, I bought the belt above for $20 at a local jean shop, but you can buy nicer belts from VoyejCorter, and Don’t Mourn Organize.

The best thing about everything here is that nothing requires much maintenance. I know most college students don’t have time to iron their clothes, polish their shoes, or do any of the other recommendable things for clothing care. The stuff you see above are all items you can throw on, not pay too much attention to, and not worry if things get stained. These are the kind of clothes that look better beat up than brand new anyway. Pretty much ideal if you sleep in libraries, go to parties where cheap beer is often spilled, and don’t even own an iron.