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. 

Levis’ 1947 501s
Most high-end jeans on the market today are some version of a semi-low rise, slim-fit cut. I actually like that kind of cut, and wear a slim, straight-legged pair myself, but folks who want something with a higher rise and fuller leg may want to consider the 1947 model of Levis’ classic 501s.
The 501s, as many folks will know, is one of the most classic jeans ever designed, but throughout its history, it’s gone through a number of iterations (some of them being very differently styled than the others). The 1947 edition was the first one produced after the end of WWII, and as a result, featured details that were previously lost due to national cutbacks in the effort to win the war. The watch pockets were made with rivets, for example, and the back pockets had arcuates (those double needle, “bat wing” stitches). It was also made with a classic slim-straight cut - slimmer than the company’s current version of the 501, but with a bit more room in the leg than many slim-fit jeans today. 
You can find the 1947 model through Levis’ Vintage Clothing, a sub-line of Levis that specializes in vintage reproductions. Retail price is pretty expensive, coming in at ~$250, but sometimes you can find them on sale (Vente Privee had them earlier this year with prices starting at $55, but that was an anomaly). You can also hunt for a pair on eBay, where they typically go for ~$150-175.
Other good options to consider include 3sixteen’s CS-100x, which is based on the 1947 501s. That one is made with the company’s signature 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim, which is woven exclusively for them by a mill in Japan. From my experience, their denim fades well, and has the added bonus of being flannel-soft inside when you first get them (though, the denim itself is still rigid and tough). Japanese denim brand Sugar Cane also has a repro, simply called the 1947, as well as two models called the Hawaii and Okinawa. Those are cut just like the 1947, but feature crazier denim and detailing. 

Levis’ 1947 501s

Most high-end jeans on the market today are some version of a semi-low rise, slim-fit cut. I actually like that kind of cut, and wear a slim, straight-legged pair myself, but folks who want something with a higher rise and fuller leg may want to consider the 1947 model of Levis’ classic 501s.

The 501s, as many folks will know, is one of the most classic jeans ever designed, but throughout its history, it’s gone through a number of iterations (some of them being very differently styled than the others). The 1947 edition was the first one produced after the end of WWII, and as a result, featured details that were previously lost due to national cutbacks in the effort to win the war. The watch pockets were made with rivets, for example, and the back pockets had arcuates (those double needle, “bat wing” stitches). It was also made with a classic slim-straight cut - slimmer than the company’s current version of the 501, but with a bit more room in the leg than many slim-fit jeans today. 

You can find the 1947 model through Levis’ Vintage Clothing, a sub-line of Levis that specializes in vintage reproductions. Retail price is pretty expensive, coming in at ~$250, but sometimes you can find them on sale (Vente Privee had them earlier this year with prices starting at $55, but that was an anomaly). You can also hunt for a pair on eBay, where they typically go for ~$150-175.

Other good options to consider include 3sixteen’s CS-100x, which is based on the 1947 501s. That one is made with the company’s signature 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim, which is woven exclusively for them by a mill in Japan. From my experience, their denim fades well, and has the added bonus of being flannel-soft inside when you first get them (though, the denim itself is still rigid and tough). Japanese denim brand Sugar Cane also has a repro, simply called the 1947, as well as two models called the Hawaii and Okinawa. Those are cut just like the 1947, but feature crazier denim and detailing. 

"In the 1930s there was this tendency in Hollywood to portray everyone as rich. Even if they were doing a poor man’s dance, they were all so nicely clothed, gowned, coiffured. That’s why I decided to wear white socks, loafers, T-shirts, and blue jeans."  —Gene Kelly
White socks, though?
-Pete

"In the 1930s there was this tendency in Hollywood to portray everyone as rich. Even if they were doing a poor man’s dance, they were all so nicely clothed, gowned, coiffured. That’s why I decided to wear white socks, loafers, T-shirts, and blue jeans."  —Gene Kelly

White socks, though?

-Pete

(Source: interviewmagazine.com)

Q and Answer: Which Sport Coats Can Be Worn with Jeans?
Kenny writes to us to ask: I wear jeans almost every day, but would like to get a sport coat for days I need to look a bit more dressed up. Are there certain ones I should be looking for? Is it even OK to wear sport coats with jeans?
The number of sport coats that can be successfully worn with jeans is much smaller than most men think. The problem starts with the motivation: most men, I imagine, are putting these things together because they’re trying to dress down a tailored jacket, which admittedly can look a bit formal in today’s world. The problem is, the more you try to dress down a sport coat, the more jarring the look becomes. In extremes, you can look like one of those children’s flipbooks, where you turn the pages to dress some character in bizarre combinations of shirts and pants. All dressy up top; strangely casual down below. 
There are sport coats you can wear with jeans though, and the key is to find ones where you don’t have to bridge such a big divide between casual and formal. In other words, find jackets that are inherently casual. Very textured jackets, especially ones with a rustic sensibility, are good choices. So, think tweeds and corduroys. The casual, rustic nature of those jackets plays well with the casual, rustic nature of jeans.
There are also slightly “fashion forward” sport coats. These are typically shorter in length, have unique details, and are made from casual fabrics. My co-writer Pete, for example, looks great here in his Engineered Garments jacket, blue button-down shirt, and dark jeans. Readers who closely follow our eBay roundups might have noticed that I list similar garments in our outerwear section. That’s because even though these have the semblance of a sport coat (two or three button front, buttons on the sleeve, notched lapels, etc), I think they’re better thought of as casual outerwear, rather than the type of sport coats you’d wear in a conservative work environment (e.g. law offices). Such jackets can always be worn with jeans.
Of course, this position is not without controversy or stipulations. Navy sport coats aren’t rustic, and they can sometimes be worn with jeans. And some people, such as Hooman Majd, look good in almost any combination. Certainly, you should always dress according to your eye, but in general, I think the rule of thumb is better followed than ignored: when pairing sport coats with jeans, choose ones that are close together in the formal-informal spectrum. Instead of trying to really dress down a jacket, you’re better off choosing something that’s a bit more casual, such as a tweed or corduroy, or swapping out the jeans for something dressier, such as chinos. Pick similarly casual shirts, shoes, and ties to go with the look (or forgo the tie altogether). Otherwise, you’ll risk looking like this guy. 
(Photo via voxsart)

Q and Answer: Which Sport Coats Can Be Worn with Jeans?

Kenny writes to us to ask: I wear jeans almost every day, but would like to get a sport coat for days I need to look a bit more dressed up. Are there certain ones I should be looking for? Is it even OK to wear sport coats with jeans?

The number of sport coats that can be successfully worn with jeans is much smaller than most men think. The problem starts with the motivation: most men, I imagine, are putting these things together because they’re trying to dress down a tailored jacket, which admittedly can look a bit formal in today’s world. The problem is, the more you try to dress down a sport coat, the more jarring the look becomes. In extremes, you can look like one of those children’s flipbooks, where you turn the pages to dress some character in bizarre combinations of shirts and pants. All dressy up top; strangely casual down below.

There are sport coats you can wear with jeans though, and the key is to find ones where you don’t have to bridge such a big divide between casual and formal. In other words, find jackets that are inherently casual. Very textured jackets, especially ones with a rustic sensibility, are good choices. So, think tweeds and corduroys. The casual, rustic nature of those jackets plays well with the casual, rustic nature of jeans.

There are also slightly “fashion forward” sport coats. These are typically shorter in length, have unique details, and are made from casual fabrics. My co-writer Pete, for example, looks great here in his Engineered Garments jacket, blue button-down shirt, and dark jeans. Readers who closely follow our eBay roundups might have noticed that I list similar garments in our outerwear section. That’s because even though these have the semblance of a sport coat (two or three button front, buttons on the sleeve, notched lapels, etc), I think they’re better thought of as casual outerwear, rather than the type of sport coats you’d wear in a conservative work environment (e.g. law offices). Such jackets can always be worn with jeans.

Of course, this position is not without controversy or stipulations. Navy sport coats aren’t rustic, and they can sometimes be worn with jeans. And some people, such as Hooman Majd, look good in almost any combination. Certainly, you should always dress according to your eye, but in general, I think the rule of thumb is better followed than ignored: when pairing sport coats with jeans, choose ones that are close together in the formal-informal spectrum. Instead of trying to really dress down a jacket, you’re better off choosing something that’s a bit more casual, such as a tweed or corduroy, or swapping out the jeans for something dressier, such as chinos. Pick similarly casual shirts, shoes, and ties to go with the look (or forgo the tie altogether). Otherwise, you’ll risk looking like this guy

(Photo via voxsart)

Packing for a One-Week Trip to the UK
I’m headed to the UK later today to do a few comedy shows. Folks are always emailing for examples on how to pack a decent wardrobe, so I thought I’d share what I’m bringing. All of this fits comfortably a carry-on bag (or on my back), along with socks, underwear, a dopp kit and a couple of soft white t-shirts to sleep in.
I’ll be casually dressed in the UK, and while the weather’s pleasantly warm in London at the moment, it’s still a bit cool and damp at night; in my other destination, Edinburgh, it’s actually a bit cold. I won’t be doing laundry on this trip.
All the pieces above go together and can be switched out for each other or layered, and the shoes are comfortable for walking. Those, along with “fits in luggage” are my main criteria when packing for a trip.
Coats
I’m bringing a leather A-1 jacket and a workwear-ish cotton blazer. The leather’s fine in actual cold, especially layered, and the blazer I can wear whenever it’s not actually hot hot.
Shirts
I brought two t-shirts and five oxfords. I love oxfords for travel because they look great right out of my suitcase - slightly rumpled is their natural state. The t-shirts will be great if there are particularly warm days.
Trousers
I brought two pairs of jeans, though I often bring only one, simply because I had the room. I also brought a pair of khakis for warmer days or days when I want to look a bit more put-together.
Shoes
I ended up bringing two pairs of sneakers on the trip. It’s always a good idea to have backup shoes in case of soaking or blisters or what-have-you, and canvas sneakers aren’t too heavy. If it weren’t summer, I’d likely bring a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers.
Etc.
I grabbed an Ebbets Field Flannels 8-panel cap, which is soft and packs easily, along with a favorite gray sweatshirt (for layering) and a white silk scarf that will keep me warm on the way to my 11PM gig in Edinburgh. Hopefully.

Packing for a One-Week Trip to the UK

I’m headed to the UK later today to do a few comedy shows. Folks are always emailing for examples on how to pack a decent wardrobe, so I thought I’d share what I’m bringing. All of this fits comfortably a carry-on bag (or on my back), along with socks, underwear, a dopp kit and a couple of soft white t-shirts to sleep in.

I’ll be casually dressed in the UK, and while the weather’s pleasantly warm in London at the moment, it’s still a bit cool and damp at night; in my other destination, Edinburgh, it’s actually a bit cold. I won’t be doing laundry on this trip.

All the pieces above go together and can be switched out for each other or layered, and the shoes are comfortable for walking. Those, along with “fits in luggage” are my main criteria when packing for a trip.

Coats

I’m bringing a leather A-1 jacket and a workwear-ish cotton blazer. The leather’s fine in actual cold, especially layered, and the blazer I can wear whenever it’s not actually hot hot.

Shirts

I brought two t-shirts and five oxfords. I love oxfords for travel because they look great right out of my suitcase - slightly rumpled is their natural state. The t-shirts will be great if there are particularly warm days.

Trousers

I brought two pairs of jeans, though I often bring only one, simply because I had the room. I also brought a pair of khakis for warmer days or days when I want to look a bit more put-together.

Shoes

I ended up bringing two pairs of sneakers on the trip. It’s always a good idea to have backup shoes in case of soaking or blisters or what-have-you, and canvas sneakers aren’t too heavy. If it weren’t summer, I’d likely bring a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers.

Etc.

I grabbed an Ebbets Field Flannels 8-panel cap, which is soft and packs easily, along with a favorite gray sweatshirt (for layering) and a white silk scarf that will keep me warm on the way to my 11PM gig in Edinburgh. Hopefully.

I was interested to read about Pointer Brand in today’s New York Times. The brand is owned and made by L.C. King Manufacturing, the oldest clothing factory in the US still owned by its founding family. They’ve had a reputation for years now; I bought some Pointer hickory stripe overalls and a railroad cap for my boy a year or so ago, and have been very happy with them.
I took a look at their overhauled website (they recently hired a new marketing department/guy), and while its aesthetic is more of the same Americana, at least it’s earned in this case.
Most interesting is that they’ve developed some five-pocket jeans for their Pointer brand. They look like a pretty traditional straight fit, and are made from American denim. They cost just under $65, which is a bit more than the alternative, a pair of 501s from Levis, but is nonetheless a lot less than fashion-y selvedge alternatives, even on the low end. If anyone has any experience with them, drop us a line and tell us what you think of the fit.

I was interested to read about Pointer Brand in today’s New York Times. The brand is owned and made by L.C. King Manufacturing, the oldest clothing factory in the US still owned by its founding family. They’ve had a reputation for years now; I bought some Pointer hickory stripe overalls and a railroad cap for my boy a year or so ago, and have been very happy with them.

I took a look at their overhauled website (they recently hired a new marketing department/guy), and while its aesthetic is more of the same Americana, at least it’s earned in this case.

Most interesting is that they’ve developed some five-pocket jeans for their Pointer brand. They look like a pretty traditional straight fit, and are made from American denim. They cost just under $65, which is a bit more than the alternative, a pair of 501s from Levis, but is nonetheless a lot less than fashion-y selvedge alternatives, even on the low end. If anyone has any experience with them, drop us a line and tell us what you think of the fit.

Repairing Jeans

As many readers know, the point of buying jeans made from high-quality denim is to get something that will age well and look better with time. In the process of wearing your jeans hard, however, you’ll find that certain stress points can “blow out,” particularly around the pockets, hem, crotch, knees, and buttonholes. A tailor or denim repair specialist can fix these for you, usually by using a technique called “darning.”

Darning is a process where you essentially “reweave” new yarns into an area that has been worn thin or completely blown out. A friend of mine recently darned my 3sixteens, and I just got them back this weekend. The first photo above shows my jeans before they were repaired, and the second shows them after. The jeans were getting a bit thin after about eight months of effective wear, but after some darning, the weak areas have been reinforced and they’re as study as they day they came. 

Generally speaking, you want to repair your jeans at the first sign of danger. Like all fabrics, denim is woven with yarns running lengthwise (called the warp), and transverse threads running the width (called the weft). On denim, the blue warp yarns are typically the first to give out, so you know what areas are in danger of “blowing out” when you only see the white weft yarns holding an area together. If not taken care of soon, the area can suddenly just rip. The worse the damage, the more noticeable the repair will be. (Though, even with a badly ripped area, a good tailor can perform a pretty good repair. Here’s a particularly impressive job over at Superdenim, posted in a thread about just this topic.)

Many tailors can darn your jeans for a reasonably small fee, but if you’re not sure who to go to, or if your jeans are particularly dear to you, you may want to go to a specialty shop. Operations such Self Edge, Blue in Green, Denim Doctors, Denim Therapy, Schaeffer’s Garment Hotel, and Denim Surgeon are commonly recommended in the denim community. Some of these places might charge a little more than your local tailor, but you can be sure they’ll also do an excellent job. 

If you’re feeling up for the challenge, you can also learn how to darn your own jeans. These two ladies have a tutorial on YouTube, and The Bandanna Almanac has a post on how to darn by hand. I imagine the second technique won’t give you something sturdy enough for jeans, but it looks like a neat thing to learn.  

Real People: A Light Palette for Summer Denim

In the summer swelter of the mid-Atlantic, I try to hang in there with jeans but eventually succumb and put on a pair of shorts. I enjoy the comfort of shorts and even like a lot of styles (fatigue shorts!), but I try to dress to my advantages and pants are more flattering on me, and they keep the mosquitoes at bay.

These shots from Kyle in New York (left, with hat) and Tom in Toronto show that heavily washed denim (a.k.a. dad jeans) and a lighter overall color palette can make for more interesting warm weather wear than the default cotton shorts and a tshirt or polo. Tom’s shirt jacket is an ideal summer layer (at least in Canada) and his vintage Levi’s (Not LVC or big E or anything, just plain old old Levi’s) are an underrated blue the shade of a June sky.  The lower contrast among the pieces suits the season, and there’s nothing left to the mosquitoes.

The jeans Kyle is wearing are more heavily distressed in a way I’d like my raw jeans to get, but they always fall to pieces before they make it. They’re a defense of predistressed denim, or maybe just washing your jeans. Like Tom, he’s wearing several interesting items but only one strong pattern.  Both Kyle and Tom stick with lighter colors that won’t absorb as much light or emit as much heat as darker tones, and so are more likely to be comfortable in direct sunlight, although Kyle relaxes victoriously in the shade of a backyard patio.

The danger with heavily washed jeans of course is the “full dad”—avoid wearing them with shapeless polo shirts and walking shoes, comfy as that might sound. Simple white canvas sneakers like Tom’s chucks are ideal, or suede shoes in the vicinity of tan.

-Pete

White Denim Season
I have one pair of white blue jeans - some 501s not unlike the ones above - and this is the time of year they come out. Despite their weight, they actually wear reasonably cool, and end up being a great option on days when the sun’s out and it feels like summer, but it’s not quite hot outside.
Our friend CBenjamin’s in the picture above, and his outfit has a lot going on. He pulls it off well, but I find that I have good luck pairing my jeans with very simple compliments. Even as simple as a plain navy t-shirt and canvas sneakers. (I avoid white tops; white-on-white is a little too Andrew WK, though Andrew always looks great.)
White jeans also make a nice compliment to a summer blazer. With tan bucks, like CB is wearing, and a pale blue shirt, you have a relaxed look that’s surprisingly pull-off-able.
One note: CB’s white 501s, and mine, are tapered slightly by a tailor. This will cost you about $20, but I find that a trendier, slimmer fit is more appropriate with a jean like this. It helps drive home the point that you’re wearing white denim on purpose.

White Denim Season

I have one pair of white blue jeans - some 501s not unlike the ones above - and this is the time of year they come out. Despite their weight, they actually wear reasonably cool, and end up being a great option on days when the sun’s out and it feels like summer, but it’s not quite hot outside.

Our friend CBenjamin’s in the picture above, and his outfit has a lot going on. He pulls it off well, but I find that I have good luck pairing my jeans with very simple compliments. Even as simple as a plain navy t-shirt and canvas sneakers. (I avoid white tops; white-on-white is a little too Andrew WK, though Andrew always looks great.)

White jeans also make a nice compliment to a summer blazer. With tan bucks, like CB is wearing, and a pale blue shirt, you have a relaxed look that’s surprisingly pull-off-able.

One note: CB’s white 501s, and mine, are tapered slightly by a tailor. This will cost you about $20, but I find that a trendier, slimmer fit is more appropriate with a jean like this. It helps drive home the point that you’re wearing white denim on purpose.

3sixteen Sample Sale (in Los Angeles)
One of my favorite brands of denim, 3sixteen, is having a sample sale this Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. The event will be held at 144 N. La Brea Avenue from noon until 7pm both days. Cash and credit card payments will be accepted. Word is that they’ll have jeans, shirts, outerwear, and accessories, all discounted between 50-80% off retail price. 
My favorites from them are their SL-100x jeans, which is a slim straight-legged model made from a 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim. Above is a pair that one of the company’s founders, Andrew Chen, wore for about a year and hand washed every two to three months. Beautiful stuff. 

3sixteen Sample Sale (in Los Angeles)

One of my favorite brands of denim, 3sixteen, is having a sample sale this Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. The event will be held at 144 N. La Brea Avenue from noon until 7pm both days. Cash and credit card payments will be accepted. Word is that they’ll have jeans, shirts, outerwear, and accessories, all discounted between 50-80% off retail price. 

My favorites from them are their SL-100x jeans, which is a slim straight-legged model made from a 14.5 oz raw selvedge denim. Above is a pair that one of the company’s founders, Andrew Chen, wore for about a year and hand washed every two to three months. Beautiful stuff.