English Bridle Leather Belts. Day 2: Worcestershire Leather Company
About the author: Chris (aka bruschetta) is an America-born university researcher and teacher based in Glasgow, Scotland. His sense of style is inspired by a childhood dressed in Ivy league trad, and the fact that he is enormously well bred. He’s the moderator that the Dappered Threads deserve, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian of style. A watchful pro… Joe, are you writing this down?
My second foray into the world of custom English belts was an attempt to find the perfect belt for my work outfits. I work as a teacher, so I navigate the murky realm of business casual style. Because I live in the UK, work attire is slightly more formal than a business casual setting in the United States. A typical work day’s outfit consists of a nice pair of trousers, brown derbies, a vneck sweater, and a jacket. Tie optional.
I stumbled upon Tim Hardy’s company, the Worcestershire Leather Company, after searching for custom leatherworkers in the United Kingdom. Tim Hardy has been in the highend handmade leather trade for over thirty years. He boasts an impressive background as a designer, craftsman, and supplier for Gieves & Hawkes, Dege, Purdey, Paolo Gucci, Denime, Nepenthes & Needles, Jay Kos, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and others. Despite this impressive history, his personal line of belts aren’t priced for the millionaire/billionaire only crowd. They’re an investment for sure, and maybe too spendy for some, but this is the search for the “perfect” belt… so I was willing to splurge.
His website is clean and easy to navigate, and his product photographs are among the best that I’ve seen among online retailers. However, for some reason Tim has not enjoyed the same level of hype that similar companies have received from the style community. I have some thoughts on why, but more on that in a bit.
Tim has organised his belts into three categories: Benchmark, Thoroughbred, and Strand. His Benchmark belts are classic and timeless. The Thoroughbred belts are edgier and stray into the territory of fashion. The Strand belts are wider variants of the Benchmark belts with added features such as brass or nickle loops, Sam Browne buckles, and nickel tips. Each belt sports its own product name.
Tim’s method of categorization can be a source of confusion: the long list of product names and categories serves to obscure the fact that each of these belts is custom made to custom specifications. I suspect that he could condense all of the belts in the Benchmark category into a single belt offering with a long list of customizations.
Want a 1 1/4th inch belt with a circular brass buckle and a brass loop in Newmarket Tan? Tim can make one, but which product name do you choose as a base? That brings me to another interesting point: Tim offers more leather colours than any other company offering custom bridle leather belts. You can choose any colour on any of his belts. He has some beautiful, exotic colours on there too. I notsosecretly lust after a belt made in British Racing Green or Newmarket Tan. Worcestershire belts are made with J & E Sedgwick bridle leather (Sedgwick leather is also used by Equus Leather).
Great packaging and fantastic service.
I chose the Cropthorne West End belt in Australian Nut. Australian Nut bridle leather is a mid-to-dark brown with a slight red tone. It’s also the most popular choice at all of the companies that I reviewed. The belt costs £63 shipped to the UK, or £67.50 shipped to the USA ($112). Yes, a hundred and twelve dollars.
Editor’s note: WHOA. That’s… a lot of money for a belt. Leather is sorta like denim though. Some guys won’t settle for anything less than the best, and that’s what Chris is going for here. But it’s fair to acknowledge that $112 for a belt really doesn’t fall into the realm of “affordable” for plenty of us.
Tim contacted me shortly after I placed my order to personally thank me, confirm my order details, and ask if I had any questions. I told him that my waist measures 34” (I’ve lost some weight since ordering my Journeyman Leather belt; feel free to compliment me in the comments) and he offered to customize the belt holes so that the second tightest hole would perfectly fit my waist. Wonderful. He followed up twice to update me on the progress of the belt, and I received it after a little over three weeks.
The belt arrived in a beautiful orange box with the Worcestershire Leather Company logo embossed on the top. The belt itself was wrapped in tissue paper. There was a personal letter included that thanked me for my purchase. These little details added to the overall experience, and betrayed Tim’s extensive experience with selling his belts under high-end brand names.
Love it. Highly impressed.
The belt is flawless. I’m trying to be careful to avoid hyperbole when describing Tim’s work, but this is quite honestly the nicest bit of leatherwork that I’ve ever seen. The stitching, edge work, dying, finishing, and decorative line are all perfectly crafted. The leather is smooth, polished, and without any imperfections. The decorative lines come together to meet perfectly at the tip. “Worcestershire Leather Company” is meticulously stamped under the belt buckle. I was not expecting this level of quality for around one hundred U.S. dollars.
My honest assessment is that the quality of Tim’s belts is second to none. And many might be surprised how expensive high quality belts can get (I’ve seen £500- £600 belts on some of Styleforum’s more pretentious threads). So why are these a little closer to attainable than those other stratospheric price points? I strongly suspect that it comes down to marketing. Tim has not been successful in marketing his own name in the style community. Worcestershire Leather Company seems to be a pretty well kept secret.
A few readers may question the simple appearance of a $112 belt on a site that specializes in “affordable” style. To preemptively respond to this criticism, here’s my stance on the cost of all of the custom belts that I have reviewed. Middle income workers such as myself (and most of Dappered’s readers) have few opportunities to experience the best in the world simply because they’re too expensive. We can’t afford the highest quality luxuries. And that’s what these belts are: luxuries. They are luxuries that are within the realm of affordability for a teacher (me) on a tight budget.
After I recieved my belt, I asked Tim about the philosophy of Worcestershire Leather. His response was the “Company philosophy summed up would be: ‘The best quality we can produce at an affordable price’”.
It just depends on what you consider “affordable” when measured against the quality you receive.
Company: Worcestershire Leather Company
Style: Cropthorne West End
Width: 1 1/4th inches
Colour: Australian Nut (“Brown”)
Cost: £63 shipped within the UK, £67.50 shipped to the USA ($112).
Coming up tomorrow, the third and final installment of Beltman Bruschetta’s search for the perfect bridle belt. Same belt time! Same Belt Channel!
Editor’s Note II: So a question for you guys… is $112 for a belt just not something you’d ever consider, no matter the quality? Gotta say, my jaw dropped a bit when I saw that price. Or is it something you’d potentially save up for? Leave it below in the comments.