Guest blogger Moncef Nasri is a specialist in sourcing the very best and most obscure items for some of the world’s most demanding people, using his knowledge and experience to fulfil the brief, no matter how specific. Here he tackles the subject of bespoke belts.
There is a time when penitentiary style – as in wearing your trousers loose and hanging down from your waist to mimic jailbirds denied a belt during their time - is no longer befitting age, nor status or position. Trousers, which might have once fashionably sagged, ultimately need support.
When one of my younger clients agreed that a heightening of waistline was overdue I moved swiftly to source something literally to raise standards. My longstanding bespoke belt maker is based in Paris. His buckles are a strong hint to his roots. Prior to going out on his own he mastered his trade at Hermes. A particular buckle of his that I favour, military in style, almost mimics Hermes’ calling card “H” design.
As a casual belt was required – that is one to be worn with jeans and no jacket – the width could exceed an inch. Less than an inch and the strap would be moving towards “classic” dimensions that would normally accompany the trousers of a suit, or separates. As for length, a belt fits when you feel comfortable using the middle of what should be five holes.
Indeed, if the length is right a single loop is all that is needed for a neat finish. In contrast, the best watch straps have two loops because most timepieces are for a range of wrist size rather than customized for the individual.
With all these apparent rules and conventions what is there to call bespoke? To begin with there is the choice of leather. The belly of a belt and anything between this and the outer layers is usually from breeds of calf. But the outer layer offers a chance for even greater personal expression.
In this case, I sourced from the US some Louisiana crocodile – they farm the animals there in the state’s wetlands – to set the client apart. Incidentally, with crocodile the size of the scales indicates the age of the animal when harvested, with the bigger the blocks the older the beast.
The military-style buckle I mentioned and usually favour – understated and brass – complemented the choice of rouge for the belt’s belly colour. This particular shade of red, achieved from using a red organic dye, was too strong for more precious metals that are an option (and can be engraved).
If in choosing a belt you opt for classic, the belt’s thread for stitching can potentially provide a further means of individual expression. Shades such as marron fonce, moyen and clair can, for example, match with shoes or watchstrap. Likewise, bleu electric and marine or bordeau for more eye-catching footwear suitable for the summer months.
Within all this there is a paradox. For all the personal traits of the belt I sourced, immaculately incorporated by a specialist craftsmanship, what made the finished article truly bespoke were actually the imperfections. Machine-made belts have flawless stitching. Hand-made ones have tiny little quirks in the detail. It is these that sets one apart.
Words by Moncef Nasri