Why a real leather belt still wins for sustainability (for now at least)
YOKU is committed to creating a belt that will outlast its owner. To achieve this we needed to ensure the materials used in our men's belt would stand the test of time. Stainless steel and full grain leather being only options initially, you can read more about that in our post dedicated to sustainable belts, but these two materials are not the only options.
Expect to see a wider range of materials used over time, as long as they meet the stringent specifications we have for durability, usability and sustainability we see nothing as off limits.
'Real leather belts' can mean a lot of things
Before we can dive into some of the alternatives it's important to call out that the term 'real leather' unfortunately isn't that helpful when trying to find a quality or sustainable belt. The term is basically a catch all that is used to describe any leather product that is technically made from leather but isn't made from the highest quality forms of leather which have very specific names.
Think of it like saying a burger patty is made out of 'real meat' when the reality is it's been made from the lowest quality parts of the animal. Technically true but the word real is being used to hide the fact that you are getting a sub-standard ingredient. If you see any belt described as a real leather belt you should run a mile unless the specific type of leather is also described. The terms you should look for are Full Grain Leather Belt or Top Grain Leather Belt
Alternatives to real leather belts
Our concerns with Vegan leathers are two fold. Firstly, the most durable vegan leathers are essentially made with fossil fuels and a range of harsh chemicals. So whilst durable they are not really environmentally friendly or sustainable in the traditional sense. The less harsh vegan options are unfortunately not that durable or come in thicknesses that would require glues/bonding to be the required thickness which again impacts durability
Leather from other animals may have the durability we're after but again typically doesn't come in the thickness we need so bonding of leather is required to make it work. This bonding becomes a weak point so while the leather itself may last the two pieces that are glued together come apart under the heat and humidity a belt is under. This leads to a belt that is discarded after only a few years.
The other issue with alternative leather is it comes from animals that aren't typically farmed so not broadly available. This makes them more expensive in a lot of cases which increases the price of our belt which makes it less available to people. If we have a highly durable product that only a small percentage of people can afford then our ability to reduce the number of belts sold globally each year is impacted.
The YOKU belt requires a stiffness that woven materials may not possess so whilst this is an interesting avenue we're not sure it will work functionally. Textiles tend not to age as well either, they wear out as opposed to wearing in and developing a patina.
The unique YOKU design allows our mens belt to be made from a wide range of materials in both the strap and the buckle so we remain open to new materials and fabrication options as the technology continues to evolve. As long as they are aligned to our commitment to build the most durable men's belt that will outlast its owner we will consider them.
If you have or know of amazing new materials being developed please contact us via our social channels or leave a comment