Belts have long been overlooked in menswear, but thanks to the newcomer Awling, with its commitment to Made in England manufacturing and fresh take on the accessory, the idea that they're an afterthought is being proven wrong.
What exactly bestows a product the well-designed certification is an interesting question however for Chris Goldstraw, founder of the belt-specialist Awling, it’s a rather simple and straightforward answer. “A well-designed product that is brought to be used, firstly has to work, be useful, with a good aesthetic. But also has to be simple, thoughtful, long-lasting and honest. A good idea doesn’t always lead to a good product...,” he tells Mason & Sons.
The Original Collection, in walnut, tan and pitch black.
For years now, belts have become something of an afterthought in the accessory game, however, the role that they can play is a critical and, of course, an incredibly useful and embarrassment-saving one. “I feel that belts are an undervalued asset in a wardrobe – rather than just being the ‘thing that holds up trousers’, they can add texture, colour and form to an outfit,” Goldstraw adds.
Awling works with England's finest leather-maker and produces its belts in small batches to ensure a premium, long-lasting quality.
In 2017 he founded the business after struggling to find a belt that was made well by experienced hands. Not just that though, as he sought one whose design was considered, functional and individual. It’s a classic set of ingredients and as the old adage goes, ‘if you want a thing done well, do it yourself’.
A typical workstation whereby traditional techniques and processes are carried out by hand.
Goldstraw’s credentials for finding a belt with those specific traits are typical given his illustrious in architectural photography. “As an architectural photographer, I study buildings, spaces and interior design to capture their core characteristics. Patience is key as the light and environment have to be perfect to get the shot you want. This approach is the same for Awling, knowing about all the different elements coming together perfectly,” he informs us.
Well worn and used tools of the trade underline Awling's Made in England ethos.
Each and every Awling belt is Made in England in small batches, which is one of the reasons why we felt compelled to add it to our arsenal of the best of British brands. There are two main ingredients, the most crucial one is, of course, leather. Awling uses vegetable-tanned full-grain leather and sources it in Florence from the renowned tannery Lo Stivale. The beauty in vegetable-tanned leather is its lengthy tanning process and how it ages and develops a charming patina. The hides are suspended in pits filled with a tree bark solution and the absorption of the tannins alters the chemical structure of the leathers resulting in an incredibly strong but supple handle. They’re then finished with various waxes and oils which pay dividends in time.
Each buckle is carefully filed and polished by experienced and skilled hands, giving each one a unique personality and the three dots on the buckle is the brand's signature.
For buckles, Awling works closely with a renowned foundry in Cheshire, and Goldsraw says that “their attention to detail and creativity is outstanding, they’re all handmade and no two buckles the same.” What’s impressive is that the foundry is versatile enough to produce evergreen brass styles that undergo an ancient and time-honoured process as well as the more contemporary and colourful ones made from pewter. Regardless of the style, each one is carefully filed and polished by hand to reach the desired finish before entering the next stage of production.
The buckle and strap are firmly assembled by hand using thread passed over a wax block for a long-lasting finish.
The components then meet in one of the UK’s oldest leather workshops where, he adds, “they combine traditional handcraft techniques with contemporary equipment to produce high-quality products that are second to none”. The skins are scanned by highly-trained eyes for any imperfections before being cut by hand using a tool that’s unique to each craftsman. They’re then attached to the buckle using a thread passed over a wax block before several quality checks.
The Original in black with pewter buckle – a timeless piece if there ever was one.
In terms of the styles, Awling has positioned itself as an upcoming leader in this market for its breadth in options and of course commitment to Made in England manufacturing. The Original and Braided collections are emphatically classic, suitable for more formal trousers but also weekend attire, too, especially when in Tan or Walnut calf which would both look handsome with denim and corduroy trousers.
Another classic, the intricately-woven Braided belt in walnut and brass.
There’s then the Modernist and Modernist Exposed collections, both of which are reflective of Goldstraw’s experience in architectural photography and modernist buildings. The buckles are slightly thicker than its more classic counterparts, however, some of which have been rendered in eye-catching and fresh tones such as Citron and Terracotta with contrast stitching but also more tone-on-tone iterations.
The Modernist collection shows a clever evolution in belts for the 21st-century man, with a slightly larger and tone-on-tone buckle
The Modernist Exposed takes this contemporary approach one step further, due to there being the contrasting element of the brass roller on the buckle, which you can see below, and is a great and subtle point of difference.
The Modernist Exposed collection has the addition of a contrasting roller on the buckle that's decidedly eye-catching.
While its Made in England credentials rank high on our checklist, the fact that Awling has such a diverse range of belts to suit all kinds of trousers and personalities is what spoke to us. With Awling we wanted to give customers the choice to make their belt the statement piece of their outfit," Goldstraw adds.
The Original in black works for both formal and casual outfits, the latter of which can be seen above.
So, whether you prescribe to the classist or modernist ethos in life, Awling is conveniently here to keep matters in check – both literally and mentally – and reasserting belt's importance and usefulness in the modern wardrobe.
Explore the entire collection, here.