I haven’t always invested in nice things. In some arenas (suits) it was because I couldn’t afford any better than department store quality, but in others (belts) it was because I didn’t know better.
The #menswear universe is all about quality, about investing in well made items that last as long - or longer - than the wearer. This “craftsmanship above all else” mentality is pressed on #menswear enthusiasts through countless cliches and aphorisms: the most expensive item in your wardrobe is the one you never wear; invest in classic items and they’ll never go out of style; if you buy quality in the first place you won’t have to replace it every couple seasons. Only recently have I really started to understand the vernacular.
I think the problem most young men face when outfitting themselves for campus life or the workplace for the first time, is that they actually have no idea what “quality” means. If prior to their dive into the heady world of oxbloods and chinos the shelf-life of their t-shirts and tennis shoes was a couple semesters, then of course they’ve never turned their minds to the question of “how will this______ look in a couple years?” In short most young men don’t actually know it means to have well-made clothing.
The unhappy result of not understanding the difference between well made accessories and department store fodder is showcased in the photo above. This Perry Ellis belt probably cost me $30.00. Sitting on a hook in the store I am sure I thought to myself that this looks just as good as every other belt here, and at a fraction of the price.
I wore the belt above a couple times a week for last the year. Now it is literally falling apart, revealing a gooey and synthetic interior. This is what not buying quality accessories looks like. Even the holes in the belt I rarely use are cracking open. Paradoxically the rest of the belt is just as stiff and shiny as the day I bought it - which is another knock against it. A belt made of actual leather will age and slowly contour to the wearer’s body, picking up some character along the way from nicks and scratches.
I spent $100 to replace this department store belt for a properly made one. I went with an Allen Edmonds belt: made in America, out of real leather.
The moral of the story is this: if you wear a suit every day, you will likely wear a belt every day, so invest in a belt that will last. I do mean invest. I expect that with time my new belt will become softer and more pliable, and like all well made and cared for leather products will only look better over time.
Perhaps at first blush spending $100 on a belt seems a little rich, but if the alternative is spending $30 on a new belt every year (that will never look or feel as good as a nicely worn in one) then you are much worse off in the long run. Buying cheaply made goods, only to watch them fall apart, is not a satisfying feeling. It’s not good for the environment, and it probably didn’t look that good in the first place anyway.
A black or brown leather belt is a workhorse in any wardrobe. It gets almost daily wear, and it will never go out of style. When your current “leather” belt splits on you, do the right thing and replace it with a belt you can be proud of. That is fundamental.