You might remember seeing some photos of Heyou Art and Craft Department on this blog a little earlier, as part of a collection of photos taken during my trip to Taiwan last year. A small but very cool space full of vintage and vintage-style garments & goods near the centre of Taipei, Heyou is run by Jordan and Penny.
As I mentioned in that earlier post, besides trading in vintage and work-style goods, Jordan himself is a leather craftsman. He creates a variety of carry goods and accessories under the house brand of Heyou Handmade, influenced by early century work-styles.
Jordan’s belts, in particular, caught my eye whilst I was shopping for some Adjustable Costume work pants in his store. In particular, the belts utilise high quality and somewhat unusual buckles, with unique designs to complement to flavour of the hardware.
So once again, to continue this blog’s tradition of introducing to you high quality made-in-Taiwan leather goods, we’ll be taking a look at Heyou’s Sailor belt today!
This Sailor belt came nicely packaged in a solid box, further protected by plastic casing and paper shavings.
How the product is packed is not the most important aspect of the belt by any means, but these smaller details to give hints as to the level of craftsmanship.
I did appreciate the sturdiness of the packaging this time, as it was shipped to me by family members via SeaMail, and so the belt has spent a bumpy couple of months at sea – as you can see, no damage whatsoever!
Let’s take a look at the leather first.
The Sailor belt is available in many different leathers, the one being reviewed here is the waxy brown leather. Whilst I don’t have the exact details as to the origin of this leather, it does seem like a English Bridle type of leather to me.
Indeed, Heyou uses leathers usually either from England or Italy.
Measuring around 3.6 mm (9 oz), this is not the thickest strap, but the high density of the leather makes it sturdy nevertheless.
The colour varies from hazelnut to coffee, depending on the lighting, which works nicely with the waxy bloom on the grain. Like any English Bridle, the bloom is not permanent, and does fall away with heat and friction.
The grain is very tight, and the pores are not visible to the naked eye. The strap is supple but not overly soft, with enough rigidity and weight to give the leather some heft.
You can also see that, under the wax bloom, there’s a fine variegation in the colour tone of this leather.
All things considered, this waxy brown leather is smooth and sturdy. Certainly, higher quality than what you might find on an average Americana style belt.
Styling, Hardware, Details & Construct
The Sailor belt has a very unique design; I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it before.
There’s a curious combination of visual factors: huge hardware juxtaposing a relatively thin (32 mm) strap, vintage gun-belt style design, and well-framed edges.
The buckle is probably the major feature of the belt – a solid brass hook-buckle measuing almost 10 cm in length!
This isn’t just any buckle from the local craft store. This is solid, un-plated brass that will patina nicely with wear.
The hook opens with movement at a single joint, and is closed by slipping through a brass ring.
The lateral pulling force as the belt is worn secures the buckle by ensuring the the flared portion at the end of the hook secures the ring tightly.
The Sailor belt comes at a standard length which will accommodate waist sizes between 30 to 36 inclusive.
My waist size is between 35 to 36, and you can see here I’m using the final hole – no ice cream for me!
This juggernaut of a buckle is attached to the strap via a narrowing in the strap which passes through the ring on the buckle.
The resulting shape of the buckle fold is quite unusual but elegant nevertheless.
The buckle fold is secured by a solid brass screw.
The brass screw used here is much nicer and sturdier compared with the average Chicago screw.
The strap itself features full-length edge creasing, which is very neatly executed.
Edge creasing helps to frame and focus the leather, and creates a peculiar aesthetic on narrower belts.
The edge creasing also features on the secondary strap, which weaves through the main strap to create a series of looped holes which allow the buckle to be attached and secured.
The length of this secondary strap is carefully cut so that there is only enough extra length for one loop to protrude and be used as a buckle hole.
Precision in cutting and measuring is important here, as loose loops would make the belt look sloppy. Jordan has done fine work here.
Again, you’ll notice brass studs/screws securing this secondary strap.
The screw which will sit under the buckle is a flat screw rather than a stud, so as not to clash with the buckle when the belt is worn.
The tip of the belt is curvy and neatly cut – there’s good symmetry in the finish of the tip.
I like how the creasing runs off as the strap curves into the tip, creating a cleaner look.
Notice, however, that unlike conventional belts, the strap does not go over the buckle, and hence the tip of the belt is tucked below the buckle fold and cannot be seen when the belt is worn.
The flesh side of the leather is compactly finished and show traces of waxy bloom too.
Heyou’s logo is neatly stamped.
The edges of this belt is very nicely burnished, and features gentle beveling too, creating a smooth and slightly rounded look.
Overall, the detailing and finishing at the edges are very well executed, and certainly contribute to the elegance and refinement of this Sailor belt.
Keep in mind to that Jordan does a version of the Sailor belt that’s fully machine stitched rather than edge creased, if a stitched-belt is more your style.
In this hobby of ours, despite the proliferation of leather crafting in Western countries over the past few years, the top end of this hobby remains Japanese. However, if you’re a long time reader of this blog, you’ll remember that I’ve had many good experiences with Taiwanese leather crafters – guys including Angelos, Ken, Tim, etc, all offer well priced leather goods that are exceedingly well made.
Stylistically, the leathers coming out of Taiwan are very mature and the designs are mostly quite advanced – unlike rougher products that you might sometimes encounter coming out from other regions. One factor here is that leather craftmen from Taiwan have been, in general, inspired by the Japanese masters, who have elevated Americana and work-style leather goods to a level that has never been seen even during the heydays of American manufacture that inspired these styles of clothing.
The market in Taiwan for work-style leathers is small and competitive, and local hobbyists have been following Japanese trends closely for many years now, so in general you’re unlikely to find roughly or poorly made leathers in Taiwan. Jordan, who has entered the market relatively late in 2012, continues this fine tradition of excellent leathers being crafted in Taiwan.
All in all, I’m very impressed with my first Heyou Handmade belt. Not only is the belt very well made, but the design is spectacularly unique. Almost anyone can cut a strap and attach it to a buckle, but to come up with new belt design that is aesthetically pleasing and functionally uncompromising is truly an achievement. My hat’s off to Jordan for this very cool belt.
Whilst many of Heyou’s products would be very suitable with a matching wardrobe of more “gentlemen’s style” of work wear (i.e. early century rather than mid-century Americana), they are nevertheless compatible with denim in general.
Focusing specifically on this Sailor belt, not only is the workmanship impeccable, Jordan has utilised some of the best materials available. The solid, un-plated brass hook buckle is simply incredible, and of course the waxy bridle leather is uniquely suitable for belting – being strong, resistant and flexible – being much more luxurious compared with the average veg tan or latigo style leathers that you’d find on a basic work belt.
Would you believe that this belt has a RRP of only $2680 NTD (~$92 USD)?
The value offered here is incredible – this Heyou Handmade belt is one of the most well made sub-$100 belts I’ve ever seen.
There’s certainly no more excuses for wearing a roughly made, $50 strap for a belt, when, for a few extra bucks, Jordan can make for you a truly artisan-crafted belt that will become a centerpiece in your outfit.
If you’re a work-wear fan or interested in vintage style clothing, you’ll certainly want to have a look at Heyou Handmade’s leather goods. Check out Heyou’s website to see the Sailor belt as well as their other really interesting offerings.