Leather or no leather, that is the question. For some, leather is just one option among many, for others leather belts are a world unto themselves. Whether it’s cow, buffalo, or python, leather is still a very popular choice, so it’s no surprise that even today, most belts sold are made of leather.
But not all leather is created equal – and there are solid alternatives to the tried-and-true leather belt. What to look for when choosing a leather belt, how to ensure that you’ll enjoy your new accessory for a long time, and which alternative materials you can use for a bit of stylistic flair – all this and more, in this article.
What are the main types of leather used in belts? The No. 1: Tanned cowhide
Tanned cowhide leather is by far the most popular choice for belts. This is down to its excellent properties: It’s durable, supple, and fairly easy to source: A single hide yields several belts.
To give the leather the right strength, it is tanned. This is done by immersing the hide in a tanning bath. A variety of tanning agents, both pleasant-sounding and vile, can be used, though the most typical process uses vegetable tanning agents, such as those made from oak bark. Tanning gives the leather the desired properties needed for further processing.
What should I look for in a premium leather belt?
A belt is used and abused day in, day out. It is opened and closed, pulled through straps and loops and subjected to constant friction. Therefore, the leather used should be as durable as possible. Flexibility and tear resistance are paramount.
How to identify quality leather in a belt
- Made from a single piece of leather – Cheap leather belts are often constructed by layering different materials (such as cardboard or plastic) to reduce manufacturing costs. Concealed by the outer layers of leather, a variety of non-leather materials are hidden from view – and certainly not to the benefit of the belt. A belt made from a single piece of leather will be much stronger and more supple.
- Stay away from split leather – Many commercially available “leather belts” are made from inexpensive split leather that is coated to look like top-grain leather. What appears to be leather is actually a plastic coating. To see the difference, try bending the belt – an uncoated full-grain or top-grain leather belt will quickly return to its original shape due to its homogeneous fibrous structure, while a coated belt will crease, ripple or tear with repeated bending, as the coating responds differently to stresses from the leather body. In no time at all, the belt will be visibly damaged. No true luxury belt should be found to use such laminated split-grain leather.
Alternatives to the classic leather belt – robust synthetics such as nylon and beyond
Naturally, leather is not the only material that can be used to make belts. Just as today there are a range of different traditional and innovative belt buckles, you can now choose from various other materials besides leather for your belt strap.
One of the most popular is nylon. Nylon is known for its durability, which rivals that of even the finest leather. If you are looking for a cool and athletic look and a belt with a lot of versatility, nylon is worth considering.
Our JET BELT® is available in both leather and nylon variants. Its signature feature: it’s chrome buckle. This buckle, whose safety-belt technology is inspired by the seat belt buckle found on every commercial airliner, ensures you are safe and comfortable. It’s seamlessly adjustable and can be opened and closed in milliseconds – you’ll feel just like you’re flying. Not only can you choose between the leather or nylon strap, but also between a matte or glossy chrome buckle.
The different JET BELT® models at a glance:
- JET BELT® Nylon Chrome Glossy
- JET BELT® Nylon Chrome Matte
- JET BELT® Leather Chrome Glossy
- JET BELT® Leather Chrome Matte
Belt strap materials: conclusion
Whether you prefer a leather belt or one made of other materials such as nylon depends on your personal taste. But no matter which material you choose: Make sure it is high quality. Only then will you find a belt that will last a lifetime.