Pigeon Tree Crafting
Founder: Isaac Paul
Ah belts. Belts are what got me into the world of leather. I was researching online for a new belt because of department store one had yet again, died and it was a rabbit hole! I learned about the kinds of leathers, leather tanning, leathercrafting, and so on. The first item my eyes (and fingers) gravitate towards upon stumbling upon a new leather shop is, you guessed it, belts.
Pigeon Tree Crafting
I forgot how I came across Pigeon Tree Crafting, but it was probably due to Isaac's presence on Instagram. Isaac loves denim and leather, as do I. What's neat about his shop is that many of his handmade goods use indigo dye... The same stuff on the jeans you are wearing! So leather + indigo dye= awesome products!
Yes, I have a boot addiction. Anyways, the belt's quick release buckle really helps keep the most used hole from damage. Add to that the tear drop shape of the holes, which are designed to make the buckle lie flat, and there is not much strain put on the leather. Having said that, the belt is made of vegetable tanned, full-grain leather and definitely feels like a solid strap so even without those (awesome) features, this belt would last! Some of Isaac's other belts are made with the famous Sedgwick Bridle Leather and look just as beautiful. If you are a fan of raw denim and quality leather goods, check out Pigeon Tree Crafting!
Horse & Oak Leather
Originally, the color of the belt I ordered from Andrew was Horween #8 Burgundy. However, he was out of that color :(. Andrew graciously offered a refund or a percentage off of a different color belt. That was awesome and I never say no to belts so I ordered a brown one instead. Great customer service!
While Andrew's belt has the same kind of buckle and similar hardware as Isaac's (both brass, PTC uses custom rivets and H&O has Chicago screws), the leather used for this belt is Horween's Horsehide, which compared to Isaac's bovine, veg. tanned leather, is vastly different (break down of leathers). For starters, it is much thinner, but that does not mean it's weak because it holds up a good pair of denim, pockets full and everything, just fine. *Update: Andrew reached out to me and told me that the leather used for this belt comes from Horse Butt Strips that are tanned for 45 days with the infamous Shell Cordovan before being separated. Interesting stuff!
The belt has such a smooth finish to it and feels soft. I haven't owned any horsehide items prior to this belt but it is unique in its own way compared to cowhide. One difference that isn't the greatest (initially) is that it does wrinkle quite easily at first. I did talk to Andrew about it and he said that as I continue to wear it, the wrinkles will change and help develop a nice patina. Horsehide is used in many leather jackets as well and wrinkling is just part of the breaking in period. Personally, it has grown on me and I can't wait to see it change overtime. Plus it feels cool to run your hand over it (I'm weird).
This belt goes so well with all my other brown leather accessories and shoes. In fact, it is perfect match for my Brown Thursday President Boots! I am interested to see how this belt changes and holds up overtime compared to my cowhide belts. Be sure to check out Horse & Oak Leather!
Good to Know:
For me, I sized in at 38" for PTC and 35" for H&O based on their respective measurement techniques. While my indigo belt is longer, both fit just fine and both methods of measurement seem pretty accurate.
More great American Leathercrafters have been found! Here's to many, many more! #findingcrafters
For my full list of leathercrafters so far click here. I literally find new ones almost everyday!
Company: Mio Marino
Products: Clothing and Other Accessories
Founder(s): Isaac Fulop
Products in Article: Oxford Wingtip Lace in Cabernet and Ratchet Belts
Mio Marino is a small company based in Yew York City. While they do not sell handmade, full-grain leather shoes and belts, I do think their products are worth a shout out. Especially at their prices.
Now Mio Marino does not do any manufacturing in the States or other well known leather countries (Italy, Spain, England, Mexico...) and their products are made in China. However, they don't try to hide this fact either. I have seen them answer the "where are they made" question on Amazon with no hidden details: "Designed in New York City, leather is sourced from Africa. The shoes are manufactured in China, assembled and quality checked in New York City." I have mentioned before that I like a company who is transparent and as they grow, who says they won't start looking to make goods here in the States?
When it comes to quality, I am not stating that I think Mio Marino's shoes are up there with brands like Allen Edmonds, but they certainly are not these Target atrocities either! If I had to compare them to another shoe company in terms of quality and price, I would say Clark's and their own line of dress shoes.
The pair I have by Mio Marino, the Oxford Wingtip Lace, is a beautiful shoe. They can be purchased for around $70-$90. Of course with that cost point, there are some corners cut with the materials. The leather is Genuine Leather grade (which to me, is still way better than bonded leather or polyurethane) and the sole is cemented on, not welted, with a rubber heal. There are some rubber pads for transaction and no shank.
One thing I like about the cemented sole on the Mio Marino's is that they don't put that fake stitching on the topside to given the illusion of a welt. To me, that is ridiculous and false advertising. While the no welt instantly turns people off of some shoe brands, I would like to point out that some new companies on the scene, such as Wolf & Shepard, are making high priced, cemented dress shoes that can be resoled.
Despite those cost cuts, the leather stitching on the vamp, toe, and heal is quite well done from what I can tell and I haven't had any problems with loose threads. While the leather lining is also stitched and the back half cushioning on the insole is very comfortable, the lining stops about halfway into the shoe. Most likely another way to keep this beautiful shoe under $100. See the picture below:
Now onto Mio Marino's belts. Just like their shoes, they are made of Genuine Leather and are not full-grain. Again, I do not wear them as much as my custom made belts or my personally crafted belts, so I have not had a problem with wear and tear. The belts feel soft and don't have that plastic look like some other cheaper belts. The back of the belt is also finished nicely compared to most ratchet belts out there. Now I know that might change overtime, but again, I do use these as an everyday belt.
The two belts I have from Mio Marino are the Gold Vintage Ratchet Belt in brown and the Stony Matte Linxx Ratchet Belt in blue. The Gold Vintage has a beautiful buckle and your standard quick release mechanism with a button that are on most ratchet belts, such as the more known Mission Belt. The Stony Matte Linxx has a different release mechanism on the buckle, one that I have only been able to find on the Slide Belts. You just simply pull the top of the buckle up and it releases. This method is much easier to use in my opinion, especially if you want to adjust your belt midday and you don't want to make it so obvious (like in a meeting). Plus, they are cheaper (around $30 at most) than Slide Belts and a better quality when you match their Genuine Leather belts against each other.
Mio Marino is a company that helped me get into the world of leather goods. While they are not a top notch in quality, they don't market to be either. They offer a variety of accessories and clothes that are much better quality than you can find in department stores and with very competitive prices. While I do not wear my belts and shoes everyday, I certainly get my values worth out of all three items. If you are on a tight budget but still want something more unique to add to your wardrobe, I highly recommend Mio Marino products.
Company: Obscure Belts
Product(s): Leather Belts
Founder(s): Bryan Schultz
Obscure Belts is one of the best belt companies out there. It is a small company in Wisconsin run by the Founder, Bryan Schultz, and his partner, Christina. What makes Obscure Belts stand out? Their belt buckles! Check out this design (the "Fractal") below:
Awesome right?! I think so. Everything about their buckles is top notch. They are unique, strong, and even award winning! They are truly art. I myself own the Excalibur in black. Some of the styles come in different variations as well. Check out all their different models:
Fractal, Outlaw, Sundial, Micron, Beetle, Enigma, Android, Dial, Excalibur, OHM
Another great feature is the sizing stud. With normal belts, you will start seeing wear and tear in the end tip due to constantly pulling the buckle in and out, but the stud prevents that from happening. The sizing stud is easy to remove and you can quickly change it out and put it in a different hole if need be.
Now a great belt buckle would be absolutely worthless if it was attached to a low quality piece of leather. However, being such a small company and how much time goes into making and designing each buckle, I would have understood if they did have to cut corners on the strap. Lucky for us, they didn't!
Each belt comes with a 1.5 inch full-grain strap from a tannery in Milwaukee. So not only is it full-grain, Obscure Belts tells you were their leather is from. I am always suspicious when a company who specializes in leather goods is vague or won't say where they get their leather. It makes me question the actual quality, even if it is full-grain. I am confident that my Obscure Belt strap will last a very long time. Not only by inspecting the quality of my own belt, but also thanks to the transparency by the company itself.
You can get the leather in standard colors: black, variations of brown, navy, variations of gray. They recently have introduced a black canvas strap as well (which is cheaper, but it's just not leather!). The strap is one piece of leather, there is no stitching and the edges aren't really burnished. Some people like that more polished look, but this is not a dress belt! I have not had any issues with fraying from the lack of burnishing but if you really want that, you can DIY.
The hardware is steel and magnets. The buckle doesn't have that cheap, "plastic" feel like some belts. Again, that is a testimony to Obscure Belt's commitment to quality. They could have shaved off some pricing by using cheaper, but weaker, materials. The steel adds a lot of weight and is easily the heaviest belt I own. However, the buckle does not sag and pull my pants forward due to the design. Which sometimes happens with heavier belt buckles.
With all of these features: local full-grain leather, steel hardware, handmade designs, I could easily see these belts being around $200. "What?! $200 for a belt?!" Yes, many quality end belts will cost a good amount of money. Take a look at another belt by fellow Wisconsin company Allen Edmonds: Midland Ave Belt. That belt is handmade in the United States using quality leather and is $98.00. No special unique buckle. If you add an Obscure Belt's buckle to that belt, the cost would shoot up!
In Obscure Belt's case, you are getting the same quality (if not better) for only slightly more. All their belts go for $105.00 and to me that is an insanely good price. For the amount of work that goes into each buckle design and the fact that it's a two person company, the $105 price tag, compared to another well built belt like the $98 Allen Edmonds, is a crazy good deal!
Despite being such a small company, customer service was great. I emailed Bryan some questions and he got back to me right away. The belt was also shipped and received all within the same week of ordering. Not bad for a two person crew!
Check out my own Obscure Belt, the Excalibur in black, below:
I love the sea monster design on the back of the buckle. To me that just adds to the art and uniqueness of the belt!
For leather care, I use Saphir Renovateur Cream to condition and make it shine with Lincoln Stain Wax Polish (Black). To clean it I just use your standard horse hair shoe brush.
From the design to the quality, my Excalibur belt by Obscure Belts is hands down my favorite belt I own... And I own way too many! It goes great with denim and boots and really adds something special to your outfit when you wear it. I am planning on buying another model in a different color soon (hopefully, working in the social service field doesn't pay that well)!
Conclusion: Highly Recommended