Alligator belts - quality, makers, construction, etc

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by dieworkwear, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    On the advice of Hardy Amies, who once said that a man should buy the most expensive belt he can afford, I'm thinking about getting an alligator belt.

    In my search, I found this company, Artisan. I just spoke the with the owner over the phone and he seemed nice enough. Of course, I had to ask him how he's able to sell alligator belts at such a low price. He claims that everyone gets their skins from the same farmers, and that in the end, it just boils down to brand name. I asked him if there was any difference in constructions, and he said no, which made me suspicious. As many of you know, a single piece construction for such things demands a much higher price than something that has been pieced together. It seems like he should have at least mentioned that.

    He allows returns, so I might try him out anyway. However, I thought maybe we could start a discussion on how to determine the quality of alligator leather belts (or crocodile, if you prefer). I assume characteristics such as fewer pieces sewn together are desirable (a belt made from a single strip being the best) and stitching should be fine and neat. Are there other dimensions?

    I've read somewhere that the variations in scale is something to look for. Some people like larger scales, but this seems like a matter of preference. Tail leather, as I understand it, has larger scales, while the belly leather will go from big to small. Seems like just an aesthetic choice.

    Thoughts on other makers are welcomed as well.

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  2. lee_44106

    lee_44106 Senior member

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    My search for alligator accessories (belt, wallet, card cases, briefcases, name tags, bracelets........to name a few) have taken me to precisely the type of establishments that you've featured.

    The online ones appear to offer such deals: inexpensive, easily accessible to most, and large variety.


    BEWARE.........in my experience, PRICE is an indication of quality
     
  3. The Thin Man

    The Thin Man Senior member

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  4. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Cyber Eliitist

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    ^great thread
     
  5. justinkapur

    justinkapur Senior member

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    I just ordered a croc belt from Mezlan. I will post pictures when it comes in but from my understanding Lee is correct about price vs quality in skins. I mean that logic applies to everything but with skins if its not American Alligator then the quality is quite inferior. Please correct me if I am wrong
     
  6. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    I've only started looking into it, but from my understanding there's only one type of alligator leather that's legally traded - American alligator, which mostly comes from Mississippi and Louisiana. These can be either farm raised or wild. Farm raised alligators tend to be smaller. As the animal gets bigger, they become less profitable for the farmer since they take more time to grow. Large farm raised skins exist; they're just more rare. Wild alligators, on the other hand, almost all come from Louisiana, and they tend to be much bigger. Their hides are generally more expensive because their bellies have larger, rectangular surfaces, which can be turned into purses and bags. Whether farm raised or wild, the leather from bellies are also generally more expensive because they have larger workable surfaces, more pleasing patterns, and are less stiff and scarred than the animal's tail.

    Perhaps also worth noting that larger animals are prized because their scales transition from large to small in a more gradual manner.

    On the other side, there are crocodiles. The most expensive is Porosus, which Ron Rider mentioned in the thread that Thin Man linked. The cheaper stuff is Caiman, which is less durable. In my very cursory research, I must have come across something like a dozen types of crocodile hides, but I didn't delve into the nuances very much. Almost everyone I read noted, however, that well finished Porosus leather will exceed well finished American alligator.

    Perhaps worth noting that the trade isn't very standardized and regulated. What some people call crocodile, others call alligator. Caiman is also frequently passed off as American alligator. Peter Brazaltis, the assistant curator at the NY Zoological Park, wrote a short chapter on the identification of crocodilian hides and products, which you can read here.

    As to be expected, the value of these things are much more than whatever animal they're drawn from, however. Those are just the raw materials. The value of the final good is really much more about the skill and labor that has been put in. This includes how the skins have been tanned and finished and how they've been cut, sewn, and designed.

    I've always thought that it would be incredibly worthwhile if on SF, we could have artisans explain some of the technical details behind the making of silk, tanning of leather, weaving of fabric, etc. Frankly, the discussions of hand basting and suit construction have been beat to death (not that I tire of reading it). It would be good to understand some of the other areas. What goes into the tanning of leather, for example? Why is Horween's shell cordovan better than, say, the stuff that comes out of Japanese and Argentinian tanneries? The same questions can probably be asked about silk farming, weaving, and printing. If we could develop some good conversations on that, I think we'd be more equipped to answer questions like "what makes a good alligator belt?" There's certainly more to it than the animal.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012
  7. Equus Leather

    Equus Leather Senior member Affiliate Vendor

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    Well I can contribute a link that may be of some help as to how really good leather is tanned. This article from the BBC shows in pictures some of the process underlying oak bark tanning which is arguably how the very best leather is made. It isn't an in depth technical description, more of an executive oversight but really interesting none the less. Leather produced like this is stronger, more flexible and more beautiful than a more normal industrially vegetable tanned leather, but also more variable in character, colour and markings than a more industrial process. Many of you who are into really good (and expensive) shoes will be wearing Bakers sole or lining leather without realising it.

    I appreciate this isn't anything to do with Alligators but an interesting way of learning something of the tanning process and a very good illustration of why really good leather is really expensive and also why really good leather isn't as homogenous as the stuff the luxury goods people would have us believe is the best..

    Regarding the alligator leather, not my area of expertise but I know from bitter experience that goods that are suspiciously cheap are rarely good and that the pain of buying something expensive and lovely fades years and years before the pleasure of owning it has...

    Charlie
     
  8. F. Corbera

    F. Corbera Senior member

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    I'm pretty sure that tubo belts in alligator ordered through Jay Kos are the best.

    In-house artisan iroh has detailed guides to his processes...these could serve as the model for other artisans.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012
  9. SpooPoker

    SpooPoker Internet Bigtimer and Most Popular Man on Campus Dubiously Honored Affiliate Vendor

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    Heres a few recent ones - Versace, Dingman, Dingman
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  10. dragon8

    dragon8 Senior member

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    Brooks Brothers used to have a shiny alligator belt which is probably one of the nicest belts I've seen but for one reson or another they've discontinued it.
     
  11. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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  12. dragon8

    dragon8 Senior member

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    Thats freaky!
     
  13. matty long legs

    matty long legs Senior member

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    Good read, but way too technical for me. I've been looking for alligator belts for about a year now and have yet to come across something that is very good quality that I can afford. And I'm open to the fact that it might not exist if I don't raise my budget.

    Derek, please keep us posted if you decide to purchase a belt from Artisan.

    Finally, in the latest issue of GQ they recommended Sid Mashburn's alligator belt at $325. I checked the site and it's not on there. Either it already sold out or they haven't debuted it. Ideally, I'd like something a little dressier, but it looks good.
     
  14. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Cyber Eliitist

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    They have them in-store. There's more than 10 (in black and browns) wound up just sitting under the suits (almost like someone forgot about them). Call them and they'll get you one.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  15. whochrisliu

    whochrisliu Well-Known Member

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    For all you Croc' lovers my mom bought my dad a belt a long long time ago, its this tan/orange colored baby crocodile from head to tail. The head has a buckle device behind it (under the "neck" area) and the belt extends all the way out to the tail. I never worn it its just for novelty not even sure if this stuffs legal or not anymore. If anyones interested sent me a tell! Im going to go dig it up its here somewheres...
     

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