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Distressed Leather Belts - What They Are and How They're Made

by Cristina Carrera July 03, 2021 3 min read

grey distressed leather is a trending type of belt for men. vintage style belts built to last.

Distressed leather belts are a trending style right now, and it is easy to understand why. They are just as versatile as other types of belts out there, but they have a unique style that sets them apart. They are perfect for a laid-back casual looking wardrobe or as part of a vintage steampunk outfit. In this blog post, we will explain what distressed leather is, why it's so enticing, and take you through the process of making our signature Grey Rough Rider distressed leather.


What is distressed leather?

Distressed leather is new leather that goes through a tanning process to make it look like vintage leather. The term "distressed" refers to a process where different techniques like sanding, scraping, and various tanning treatments are applied to enhance the natural markings on the cowhide. Distressing the leather softens the belt, giving you a better experience and comfortable worn-in feel from the very first day.

distressed leather is made to look like vintage leather using special techniques at the tannery

Distressing can leave the original color intact, or it can create an aged appearance with colors ranging from light brown to dark black. It's a great way to make new leather look like vintage leather with a distinct leather patina that usually only comes from years of use. The result of the distressing process is an uneven texture with no two pieces looking alike.


How is distressed leather made?

Every leather tannery has a secret recipe to make distressed leather, and the results will vary based on the quality of the rawhides. We worked closely with our local tannery in Milwaukee as we developed our signature Grey Rough Rider distressed leather. We chose to make a grey color because it is a less common color for belts but versatile enough to work with almost any outfit.


Choosing the Right Cut of Leather

We start with a raw double butt cowhide. In our experience, this type of leather hide yields the best leather belts. It has an even thickness throughout, and the more rectangular shape means less waste. The cowhides go through the tannery's "secret sauce" vegetable tanning process to get to the soft grey color that we wanted. After that, they could go one of two directions - leave them as-is to make full-grain leather or continue with the distressing process.

Check out our other blog post if you're interested in learning more about the best types of leather for belts.


Distressing Time

The tanned hides are distressed by a specialty machine usually used to make suede. Since our hides are full-grain leather until this point - not the soft, stretchy undercut material suede is typically made of - the distressing process yields a very different result. The machine is like a giant sander that gently runs over the surface of the leather, lightly scuffing and scratching. The finished leather hides look fifty years older and are ready to make vintage-style belts.

the price of a leather belt is a sign of its quality. better materials add may add to the price.


Transforming Leather Hides into Vintage Leather Belts

As you can see, each hide of Grey Rough Rider leather is has a distinct look. Before we can turn the distressed cowhide into individual belts, we need to square it off. The edges of a double butt cut hide are more uneven and tend to deform. Think about it this way - the edges used to be the stretchy belly skin of the cow and are not good material for making belts.

bryan squaring off a leather hide to get it ready to make into handmade belts

The variations in color and texture are more visible after we hand cut each belt strap. Some pieces are lighter, some darker. The cow's natural scars and wrinkles shine through to give every leather belt a unique character. At this point, we cut the leather into 1.5" width casual men's belts or 1.25" width dress belts.

stack of hand cut distressed leather belts next to squared off sheets of leather


Pairing the Right Belt Buckle with a Distressed Leather Belt

We make several cool belt buckles that perfectly complement the vintage feel of the Grey Rough Rider belt straps. Grey leather is gender-neutral and can be used for men's belts and women's belts. We personally love to wear our belts with jeans and a t-shirt, but feel free to get creative and wear them however you like!

Stone Dial on Distressed Belt | Cool Locking Belt Buckle

Stone Dial Buckle on Grey Distressed Leather Belt


Excalibur Handmade Belt with Industrial streetwear outfit

Aged Excalibur Buckle on Grey Distressed Leather Belt


Stone Fractal 2.0 belt buckle has an easy way to open, just click the button to open your belt

Stone Fractal 2.0 Buckle on Grey Distressed Leather Belt


wear the sundial belt with a nice pair of vintage jeans and a tshirt

Aged Sundial Buckle on Distressed Leather Belt


Your search for a vintage-style leather belt is over!

If you're looking for a new belt built to last or just the perfect gift for him, we have some great options in our distressed leather belts collection. Head over to our shop to browse all of the high-quality leather belts we make. If you don't see your size, give us your waist measurement and we'd be happy to make your leather belt in a custom size.

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