Anson Belt was kind enough to send me one of their "belts without holes" set to review.
Writing an article about belts for me would be a travesty if I don't include a little background. I have a love hate relationship with belts, generally more hate than love although there was a period of peace and prosperity.
Growing up I was a skinny runt, I had a BMI of virtually zip, nada, zilch. On face value I was severely underweight but in reality I had a stupidly fast metabolism that kept me thin as a rake. For years I could thump my nose at everyone stuffing my face constantly when I clock in at almost 178cm tall and a waist line between 25 - 27" and never heavier than 52kg. That was a glass ceiling that was finally broken by the aging process.
For a long time, I could either get pants that fit the length of my legs, or fit around my waist, but never the twain shall meet. Even the shortest belt my parents could find, they would need to hack off at least a third of it and punch a few extra holes so that I can use it. Now that I am approaching mid 40s, age is catching up with me along with a significant change in circumstances. My weight has gone up and my waist has expanded. Actually my waist has yoyo'ed to the point where I struggle to have pants that would fit so I am scrounging around in what possessions I still have only to find I have a single lousy solitary belt that would fit me ... at the very last hole.
Accessories can be intensely personal items to each individual. My partner swears by a small(er) number of clothing items and focus on accessories to create "the look". Where once upon a time my clothes and accessories are a mishmash of factory seconds (because it's the only way to get things that fit me), a couple of decades on I certainly have developed an eclectic taste.
The Anson belt buckles certainly caught my attention. Their "traditional" line of buckles drew me in to look at their offerings for a bit longer. The minimalist style as well as two versions of gun-metal finish pretty much had me hook, line and sinker. I did resist, I looked around offerings from other vendors but I kept coming back to Anson. In the end, I opt for a 1.25" chocolate leather strap matched with a traditional buckle formal gun-metal.
My partner, who is the fashionista between the two of us, was quick to comment on that the buckle is really nice and solid, and the leather strap has a good quality finish to it.
Anson uses full grain leather with all their leather belt fronts as of 2015. There is an important distinction between full grain and top grain leather. In the most simplistic view, full grain is the part closest to the hair of the animal with all the natural imperfections, fiber strength and durability - as befitting a layer that has to withstand whatever the animal will come into contact with - weather, predators, tree branch, etc. Full grain leather also develops a patina from use over time.
On a traditional belt, there are usually 5 holes spaced 1 inch apart. The only guarantee I had growing up was that it never fits me without surgery. With the Anson belt, the back of the belt has 31 ratchet-style notches that are spaced 0.25 inch apart. The traditional belt also puts all the stress in the single hole which inevitably stretches and distorts from use. The Anson belt buckle is held in place on both sides of the leather strap which mitigates that issue.
The instructions to trim the belt to fit are clear and easy. It did not take me very long to have the belt ready for wear. Anson Belt stresses that you should be conservative when trimming the leather strap. You can't undo the damage if you take too much off in the first place!
The slide in and ratchet design works beautifully, it keeps the belt straight and smooth, passing through the ratchet with a reassuring feel. The traditional pin into the hole forces you to bend the leather back on itself creating creases and distortion. Over time it weakens the leather, and if your usage changes, it can leave an unsightly blemish in the belt that is no longer hidden.
I have to admit, I have never been more comfortable with a belt throughout the course of an entire day. The ability to micro-adjust at any time is simply the greatest thing since sliced bread. Instead of limited to an inch of movement, you could just discreetly tighten or loosen the Anson belt as required. Decadent Christmas meals and Chinese New Year celebrations is less of an issue as long as your actual pants are not too tight already.
The buckles are made from Zinc-Aluminium alloy, Anson states it is 95% Zinc with 3-4% Aluminium and a mixture of other metals making up the balance, with nickel plating in the finish. ZA alloys have high as-cast strength and has a low energy requirement for melting. For those who have a nickel allergy, there is one nickel free option available.
All straps come long enough to fit up to 50" waist, and can be trimmed down to any size.
Anson Belt & Buckle Company was founded by father and son duo Frank and David Ferree. You can read their story here. What I can say is, when I first approached the company on Monday morning Eastern Australian time, I was more than a little shocked to receive a response from David less than an hour later, at 9.25pm Sunday evening his time. Our conversation underscored just how seriously the company takes their customers service.
Many thanks to Anson Belt & Buckle for making this review possible. I have been wearing my belt daily since it's arrival and ... where have you been all my life?? I certainly will be back for more. Now my big problem is my partner is looking on with envy because there is no ladies style available.
Anson Belts are available here: belt only USD$24.99, buckle only USD$24.99, Complete set of belt and bucket USD$49.99, or Box set of 3 & 2 - either 3 straps and 2 buckles or 2 straps and 3 buckles USD$99.99.