In interviewing hundreds of men about the belts they have bought and owned we learned a great deal but before we list the reasons you may want to reconsider buying a designer belt lets understand why people choose designer belts in the first place
Two reasons why people choose designer belts
You love the brand and what it represents
You are happy with any opportunity to demonstrate allegiance to that brand by buying and wearing anything they make which invariably has their logo all over it. We call this 'logo fashion' and if this is your motivation in buying a designer belt then who are we to suggest otherwise. We believe that logo fashion is horribly unsustainable so wrote an entire post about that title 'Why fashion brands will struggle to truly become sustainable fashion'
You are using brand to shortcut decision making
Most men we spoke to want to buy a belt and own it as long as possible. They aren't actively trying to 'go shopping' but instead are solving a problem. They want a quality, long lasting product so are choosing a brand so they don't have to become an expert on leather, metal and manufacturing just to buy a great belt. Designer belts represent a hope that they have chosen something long lasting and for the majority of men who are looking for a long lasting, well made, versatile and great looking belt this hope is usually misplaced.
5 reasons why designer belts aren't that great
We're sure there is more but these 5 reasons were the main observations we had from looking at dozens of belts from designer belt brands in detail. Looking at how they are made and what materials they are made with.
Designer belts don't use long lasting materials
Most designer belt brands use what is termed real leather or genuine leather. This sounds great but its what they are NOT calling it that is the giveaway. The best option for durability are full grain leather belts or as a secondary option top grain leather belts. Some of the very top end designer belts will use calfskin leather, which is a more expensive version from the younger cow. This has some appealing qualities but again is less durable than full grain leather from a cow (ie an older animal).
Additionally any designer belt that doesn't tell you the material the buckle is made from is using a cheap material that will not be durable. You may also see things like 'Palladium plated' or 'something plated' which means they are using an expensive material on top of a cheap metal. These metal platings will scratch or disappear with time.
Long lasting materials are Stainless Steel or Titanium, no plating, the entire buckle is made out of the material.
Designer belts have zero innovation
This might sound like an odd thing to call out but the majority of belts are made the same way they have been made for hundreds of years (stitched leather, frame buckle). The technology has moved on and newer designs of belts, especially belt mechanisms that make them interchangeable, reversible or adjustable, are available. The vast majority of designer belts are made by third party companies to specification (ie put our logo on it) in a factory that makes belts essentially from a catalogue.
Newer companies who focus solely on designing and making belts have created far more versatile, durable belts by applying design and fabrication advancements such as 3D printing to their process. This has created a better product than the 'off the shelf' options provided by designer belts (even if they do use high quality materials)
Designer belts are covered in logos
For people who actively want to advertise the designer brand this is no issue but around 9 out of 10 men we spoke to told us they would prefer no visible branding on their belt. Designer belts overwhelming fail in this respect, not having a logo on their products is counter to their entire marketing and business model. There are also non-designer belts who plaster their logo on their product so it's by no means unique to designer belts.
Designer belts carry fashion brand costs
Fashion brands work by spending excessively on marketing to create the appeal for their brand and they sell the product to generate revenue to cover this cost. In short, what you pay for the belt has to cover the marketing spend. This means less money is going into creating a high quality, long lasting product. It's just basic maths. It doesn't mean you can't buy a high quality designer belt. You can but you will pay hundreds or in some cases thousands of dollars for it (and it will still probably have a logo on it).
Smaller brands/companies, especially ones that are focused only on belts and sell predominantly online are spending way less money on marketing per belt sold. You are getting a better belt for the same money.
Designer belts are on a fashion cycle
The number of men we spoke to who had a great belt that they had owned for years was in the minority but they all shared the same fear 'if I lose this belt or it eventually breaks I'll never be able to buy it again'. The nature of the designer fashion brand is that they operate in fashion cycles. What is in store now will not be available next quarter, next year or next decade. The only thing worse than buying an average belt is buying a great one and never being able to replace it. Belts for these brands represent an add-on rather than their core product so designers belts, even if they are good, are for a limited time only.
The only option is to find a high quality, long lasting belt from a company that only makes belts and specifically that belt or in some rare cases a larger brand has created a belt that they have been selling for over a decade and thus have made it core to their brand.
Designer belts might look good in the pictures but for men who want a long lasting, high quality, versatile belt that comes without all the visible branding they just don't stack up. Your best bet is to find a brand who is focused solely on belts, making a belt in a style that you like from materials that are highly durable.
YOKU is a men's leather belt made from stainless steel and full grain leather. It is completely interchangeable with no moving parts and no visible branding. At YOKU the only thing we make is belts and our unique design has both won design awards and is patented.