A couple of weeks ago, we were provided with an interesting belt by J. Hilburn which we want to present to you today. Recently, we also previewed one of their sweaters.
Today, we want to focus not just on any belt, but a hand made caiman crocodile belt in English Tan .
The Crocodile Belt
Our belt was made in the USA (Texas) from the flank hides of a caiman crocodilus – a species traditionally found in South America. Generally, the belt is sized in 2” increments, which means you can get the belt in 28 inches, 30, 32… Our belt came in size 34” and happily it fits true to size.
Caiman Crocodile Hide – English Tan
The caiman crocodile belly hide was chrome dyed in a nice English Tan color with a glazed finish. It is rather glossy and is achieved by rubbing an agate stone over the leather. Personally, I prefer a matte croc finish over a glazed one, however J. Hilburn only offers a glossy finish. Overall, the pattern looks very nice, and only upon very close inspection can you see that the croc leather is not made of a single piece, but rather of five pieces that were all carefully put together. On average, a caiman crocodile hide is about 14-16 inches wide and about 2.5 – 3.5 feet long, and has a very pointy end. In case you wanted to cut a belt in one piece, you would probably only get one or maybe two belts out of every hide. By cutting smaller pieces across the width of the belly hide, you could make considerably more belts. Now, one could assume that multiple pieces were used in order to save cost. However, the scales in the center part of the caiman belly are bony and uneven. Hence, the center part is rather undesirable for leather goods such as belts, and only the skin flanks are used, which only come in smaller pieces. You can see, using smaller pieces is not a way to cut costs but much rather an aesthetic necessity.
In our case, the flanks were hand cut and so the pattern matching of the flat scales is very good. Only in one area the pattern is not matched perfectly, but I am certain that under conditions of normal wear most observers would never notice that. One must also bear in mind, that it is a natural product with all its imperfections, and as such a perfect match is hard to achieve, nor is it desirable.
Leather Lining, Measurements & Workmanship
On the inside, it is lined with brown calf leather that was pigment dyed. The lining is made out of leather and was neatly flattened towards the edges. The machine stitching is very accurate throughout the belt; just on the tip, it seems like they missed one stitch.
When holding the belt in my hand, it felt rather lightweight. The scale confirmed that with 4.5 ounces. , including the buckle, it is very light indeed. It measures 1 1/8 inches in width and is exactly 34 inches long measured from the end of the leather piece to the middle hole.
The Exchangeable Belt Buckle
Finally, my favorite feature of this belt is its buckles – yes, in fact it comes with two buckles! Both buckles are casted in brass and while the gold buckle is simply polished, the other buckle is finished with nickel in order to achieve the silver look.
When you look at the belt from the front, you would never think that the buckle can be easily exchanged.
However, a look at the back of the belt reveals two very sturdy snap buttons that enable the wearer to exchange buckles within seconds. Personally, I think this is a fantastic feature because you can adjust the color of the buckle to other metal accessories like cuff links or a collar pin.
You basically have two belts, each with a different look.
In the following months, I will thoroughly wear and test the belt, determine how it holds up to everyday wear and find out whether it is worth the retail price of $250. We will see how well the leather is dyed, and how well the skin looks especially around the buckle and holes, where it experiences the most wear.
If you are now interested in exotic skins, you should take a look at exotic leathers.