Leather Belts. The Best & the Worst – Buyer Beware!


Full grain verses other leather belts

How often have we bought a ‘real leather belt’ or a ‘genuine leather belt’ from a market or quite often a reputable company for £15, £20, £30 even £40 and why do they end up splitting or falling apart within 3-6 months of wear?

As you may know, there are a few misleading terms out there and they’re usually stamped on the inside of the belt, such as ‘real leather’ or ‘genuine leather’ they both use the word leather but what are we actually getting?

Different types of leather belts

An example of a cheap bonded leather belt

Different types of leather belts

Cross section of bonded leather belt with a cheap material filling


In many if not most cases, what you are actually buying is a bonded leather belt. Bonded leather is made from leftover scraps, dust & shavings of leather which is collected, wrapped and packed then shipped overseas where it is processed and bonded using polyurethane or latex, to make a material to resemble leather. This material is a fraction of the cost of real leather,  it is the lowest grade you can buy and needless to say, it does not last. The belts are generally mass made in Asia and sold over here as genuine or real leather belts.

We feel belts made from this bonded leather are quite the con as they are seldom disclosed and quite frankly, many of them a waste of money. One good thing we could think of is that the scraps are being used, keeping them out of landfill.. for a while anyway.

A bonded leather belt will do if you are only wearing it very occasionally but if you wear a belt most days, if you can, it really is worth investing a little bit more on a full grain leather belt.

Difference between bonded and full grain leather

A bonded leather belt next to a full grain leather belt


There are a few other main grades of real hide used to make different leather products. For example ‘top grain’ leather which is generally used to make fine leather goods such as wallets & purses. This is made by splitting a piece of full grain leather & sanding away any imperfections, a fake grain is then generally stamped on it & is then treated & coloured to provide a uniform look. Belts are often made using this leather but as it is thin, it is backed & sewn together using a firmer material. This leather doesn’t last so long & looks worn quite quickly.

Widely recognised as the best & highest quality leather you can buy is ‘full grain leather’. Even better still is vegetable tanned full grain leather which doesn’t use any nasty chemicals during the tanning process. Then, there is an elite version of this which is ‘aniline dyed full grain vegetable tanned leather”. It is the most natural and the most soft vegetable tanned leather you can buy & this is what we use to make our leather belts.

Using the entire surface of the hide, this leather is dyed in a drum with a translucent, water soluble dye called aniline.  During this process, the natural grain including all the markings, scars and wrinkles are brought out in each hide, giving the hide wonderful, natural texture & character. It is a pure vegetable tanned leather which is untreated, natural and unspoilt with the most strength, beauty and character. It makes up approximately 5 per cent of the leather available on the market and it is the most expensive, but it is quite simply the best!

Full grain leather belt

A Hip & Waisted handmade full grain leather belt


When you buy a handmade leather belt from Hip & Waisted, feel assured you are getting a full grain, aniline dyed, top quality leather belt. Hand cut, handmade and hand finished here in our workshop in Devon that will take on a lovely patina and get better with age, as we all do!