Bespoke braided belt from @Tightly_Stitched: Review
Given we talked recently about wearing more belts, it seems timely to review a belt I recently had made by Russian maker @Tightly_Stitched.
I did so because I find there is a relative lack of good belt brands out there, and I couldn’t find the style I wanted.
Most belts are sold by brands that specialise in other things, and belts are a bit of an afterthought. They tend to be fairly standard. Not that you want a range of belts in red, green and with exotic buckles; just like shoes or coats, it’s best to play it safe.
But it is nice if a brand has a view on its belts, just like they do with the rest of their clothes - suggesting that a one-inch width is nicest, for example, or that western styles do or do not work with their aesthetic.
The other issue with belts is that most individual makers only have a small range of styles and materials.
Most British makers use bridle and other heavy leathers. Bridle is great, strong and characterful, but a particular look and not the best with smart trousers. Most French and Italians, on the other hand, use only fine calf and suede, with a few exotics. The first also tend to only use more rugged buckles, the second sleeker ones.
I was recommended to try Sergey @Tightly_Stitched because he uses a large range of leather and belt designs, and has the awareness to know what is interesting or relevant with guys online. This meant he could make the rough-out braided style I was after.
Sergey (below) also knew lots about western styles, about buckle shapes and makes, and we had long conversations about things like engine-turned styles and untreated brass.
I always find a little surprising when leather-goods makers don’t know much about, or experiment with, their hardware. They just offer what their supplier offers. Sergey has developed his own method of creating an aged look, oxidising the buckle in ammonia vapour and then lightening it with a weak acid solution to bring it to the desired shade.
And with the braid of my leather, he had a dozen different pattern options, which he’d seen online from brands and then recreated. I hadn’t even thought about braid patterns, but suddenly I had to think through which I liked best.
However, there are downsides to working remotely with a craftsman, and commissioning something from scratch, as I was to find out.
The belt Sergey sent me was great in most ways. It was the perfect colour of suede, and the buckle was a great shape and colour.
But I found it hard to use: the prong was difficult to get through the braid, and the keeper was both rather small and close to the buckle. The combination was awkward.
Sergey and I got into a conversation about the style of the braid. (The points about the keeper were more straightforward.) It turns out that most braided belts are made on a particular machine (below) which makes them in a particular tension. When you make one by hand, as Sergey does, that tension is unavoidably tighter, and the prong is harder to get through.
I also noticed that the direction of the braid pattern Sergey had used was the reverse of the one on my reference belt - an old leather one from E Tautz.
On mine, the ‘V’ in the middle of the belt pointed away from the tip. On the one Sergey had made, that V pointed towards it. I suggested that perhaps that made it harder to use as well.
Sergey sent me a few images to show that both directions were common in ready-made belts, and that is true. See image below showing both directions.
However, Sergey agreed to make me a new belt to replace the first one, with the braid in the other direction. And when I received that, it was much easier to use. So perhaps on handmade braids, the direction is more relevant.
The replacement belt didn’t make much difference to the keeper, which is still a little awkward, but it’s a minor point compared to fastening with the prong.
I also found that the first belt stretched - again, probably due to being handmade - with the length going from 110cm to 114cm after a few wears. So with the second belt we made it that much shorter.
Sergey also suggested a good use for the first belt, which was to turn it into a style with two rings (below) because this doesn’t require a metal prong. The belt would still be rather long, but to an extent that’s the style with that kind of belt.
I’m just not sure I’d hang it down quite in the manner in the photo below.
Despite these issues, I think I would use Sergey again. He dealt with my questions and problems well, and reacted in a positive and open manner.
It’s easy to be defensive when someone criticises your work, particularly when it’s a product on which you haven’t had negative feedback before. But Sergey was open to it, interested, and learnt from the experience.
Also, frankly, there is still that lack of makers with a wide range and interest. I should note that Sergey also does distressing on belts, works with a silversmith that does various designs of western buckle, and makes some bags.
It would just be easier, and more predictable, if it were possible to see the product in person - for example through trunk shows. And the fact Sergey is based in Russia does make sending goods back and forth difficult - the options are either an expensive courier (UPS is the cheapest, $95) that takes 5-7 days, or regular post ($20) that takes 30-40 days.
Sergey does make for a few shops, including The Armoury, Decorum and Leather Healer. But that is under their brand. He says he might look to do trunk shows himself some time in the future.
My belt, in rough-out suede with an aged brass buckle, cost $150. Most of Sergey’s work is visible on his Instagram @tightly_stitched, but there is also a Russian blog with the imagery here.
Photography: Alex Natt @ad_natt and @tightly_stitched
I can very much recommend Kreis: https://www.kreis-ledermanufaktur.de/belts, pretty sure they can also accommodate special wishes that go beyond their configurator (though I don’t really see the point about being overly specific about something as basic as a belt).
Thank you Ferdinand.
I certainly don’t get too finicky about it, though I do find it makes a big difference if at least the width of the belt and look of the buckle are what you want. They do draw the eye.
Hi Simon, yes, that of course I absolutely agree – leather, width, and buckle make the difference. But beyond that I find that some other details don’t matter that much, things like the shape of the tip etc. …
Btw I see that Kreis from my link above can indeed do virtually anything you want upon request, including leather accessories – apparently some people need an alligator face mask case 🙂
Lovely belt and at a great price.
Indeed: I was steeling myself for an eye watering sum after reading about all the detail and handwork involved! Seriously considering ordering something similar myself. As you say, Simon, it can be difficult to get more delicately proportioned belts for smart trousers from British manufacturers and I’ve generally ended up wearing cheap belts from the high street which don’t offer much beyond holding up your trousers (and in the case of braided belts disintegrate within a year or so)
The herringbone jacket seen in the images is by The Anthology, I presume?
Yes. Same shoot as the one for our exclusive Begg scarves last year
How is best to get in contact if we don’t have instagram? Does he have an email?
Good question. I’ll see if he wants to reply here
Hi, please contact me at [email protected]
Do you know where in Russia he is based?
maybe in Chelyabinsk
Does Sergey have a visitable workshop?
If anyone else has any info about craftspeople in Russia do post about it as I am curious what else might be going on that I am unaware of!
You can search this forum
I have bought a number of Crockett and Jones Belts of late – they are beautiful and elegant. I I believe their belts (like their driving shoes are made in Italy). Carmina belts are nice but not at the same level of finish. Have you any experience with Edward Green belts? Are they worth the extra over Crockett’s?
I don’t I’m afraid, sorry
What’s your take on selection of belts Anderson and Sheppard Haberdashery offers?
They look very nice, but I’ve never tried one. I think if I remember they don’t have any as narrow as I’d like
Anderson’s have incredible variety in terms of materials, colours, buckles, styles and also widths (from 2.5cm). You should check them out!
Thanks Frank. Yes I know Anderson’s, they’re pretty widely sold.
I haven’t seen a 2.5cm suede braided belt from them though. Checking now I can’t see one on their site, Mr Porter etc. But let me know if you’ve seen one somewhere.
Anderson’s definitely made one. I think Trunk may have had them for a while Simon and Stuartslondon stock a good range, although don’t have that type in currently
Thanks Colin. I didn’t ever see a 2.5 inch, but maybe I just missed it.
Thanks Simon. This one is a bit lost on me and I think it’s beyond the limit of what I’d pay for as I can’t see the “extra” it gives me. It seems to be for people who are looking or something to have made for them, than for it to be genuinely better. That may well just be me though!
I’d recommend Pickett for belts. Lovely uncoated brass.
I agree on it being better – it’s more when there’s a fairly basic aspect of a belt you can’t find anywhere, as with me here, finding a slim braided belt
On the subject of belts I noticed that some retailers sell them in centimetre measurements and, having not brought a belt for many years, was puzzled as to how much ‘extra’ one needs on a belt ?
So for a 38 inch waist how many ‘additional holes’ or length of belt is required ?
Not enough length from the used hole often looks childishly wrong and too much is untidy.
Any sartorial rules that could help here, Simon ?
As a very rough guide, and looking at belts I own, I’d say something like 10cm beyond the last hole is normal, perhaps 7-8cm at the least. On a smarter belt anyway.
Usually a smart belt with have something like 5 holes, with the assumption that the middle one is the one you’ll use the most. The distance from there to the tip would be then about 12-15cm
Also note the type of belt is relevant as well. A suede, braided belt will “flop”. A leather belt won’t. The issue isn’t the last hole but the last belt loop.
And yes good point on the belt loops too. Although that might vary with trousers as well, so good to have a length you like on the belt regardless of loops.
Sergey made me two belts so far and both are top notch work. One is a braided brown bridal leather and the other is a two ring canvas belt. His buckle selection and stitching quality is just great. A pleasure to work with as well as you stated Simon. I highly recommend his work.
I will add in to my previous comment that his canvas belts are also uniquely well made for the type. A real gem in the rough and a totally underrated style. The double rings really stay tight and help cinch up the waist.
Hi Simon, to me the belt is like the herbs or spices of a great dish, and if its not right the meal can be ruined. The right belt is crucial to finish off an outfit. Anderson’s belts hand made in Parma are exceptional and offer everything your heart desires. I’m sure Riccardo would be more than happy to show you how a beautiful belt is made.
Thank you Andrew. I know Anderson’s well – they make for quite a few others, as well as being sold in a few places in London
Might I also recommend Maximum Henry (https://www.maximumhenry.com), a belt maker based out of Brooklyn, NYC, who, while offering significantly less customization than the above, still offers a solid range of brass and silver buckles and Belgian leather, in a large variety of colors, all made by hand.
I have 6 belts made by Sergey. They are all my favorites. I particularly love the brown roughout one he made for me. I highly recommend ppl give him a try.
Hi Simon. Would a soft leather belt keep on stretching if you kept wearing it a little tight? If so wouldn’t it eventually cause a problem?
No, I don’t find any of my other belts – even braided ones – stretch like this, so there isn’t a problem. On non-braided ones the stitching will often stop much chance of stretching as well.
I have purchased many leather braided belts over the past 30+ years. I find that regardless of the maker the belts that are braided from end to end all stretch and wear out after a few years. The woven/braided belts that I own with six inch solid leather tabs with holes at one end all last for decades. These belts are USA made Coach or Dooney and Bourke belts. I also still have a couple of LL Bean brand braided belts with six inch tabs that were made in GB and state that they “are hand plaited in Great Britain.” I think I paid about $20 each for them many years ago. While belts that are braided from end to end look nice especially with jeans or khakis they have a limited life span.
Thanks. For what it’s worth, I’ve had the E Tautz one I mentioned (likely made by Anderson’s) for about 12 years with no issues of stretching or wearing out.
Can any one recommend a really nice dark brown brown leather woven leather belt with a brass or rose gold hued buckle ? Thank you
I have this one from C&J, very nice
Beautiful belt. Off topic, opinion/review on cad & the dandy?
No current plans for a review, no
Sergey made a woven belt for me, with a beautiful aged buckle. I used standard leather rather then suede. For a casual/workwear look it is perfect, and filled a need that I couldn’t find elsewhere. In particular, the combination of being able to make it slightly slimmer (3cm, but the braiding pattern at the edge makes it look slimmer), aged buckle (not shiny) and in a colour I could choose. Only complaint was the high shipping cost for courier and having to use PayPal to pay. Put all that together and it’s not really cheaper than Drakes/Rubato. Sergey responded through IG very quickly and was easy to communicate with. For casual belts he is great and I wouldn’t hesitate to use him again.
Did you use the 25 mm or 29 mm buckle? Is there a general rule for belt widths?
The buckle is probably 29cm – certainly a touch bigger than the belt itself.
Do you mean, is there a rule about the relationship between buckle and belt width? Or do you mean about belt width in general?
Belt width in general.
OK. It’s mostly fashion driven, but anything finer and smaller tends to be smarter, so a 1 inch belt with a slim buckle smarter than a 1 1/2 inch with a chunkier buckler, for example
Simon I seem to recall Foster and Sons had a made to order option for belts via in person visits to their Jermyn Street showroom. Have you tried their belts? What about the offerings from Gaziano and Girling, Trickers, Cleverley and John Lobb who presumably offer either existing or made to order belts?
I haven’t tried those I’m afraid, no.
I’m not sure all do MTO though – it will depend a lot on who they use to make them, and most don’t make their own
I cant imagine this business is going to be to viable outside of Russia after today…
Let me contribute with another ultra fine belt maker for our friends here. He is located in Paris. https://duret-paris.com/?v=04c19fa1e772
Great article Simon, and quite some deep diving you did into belt details.
What always irritates me is that most braided leather belts have a piece of leather sewn around the tip – it looks kinda odd. I don’t know whether this leather cover is there to protect the tip from wearing out or to actually hold together the strings of the braid if they would otherwise unwind?
Your belt on the other hand is braided from the tip to the buckle, therefore no need to cover the tip with an additional piece of leather – very elegant.
Another elegant variation is the one Drake’s does on their braided belts – they start with a solid piece of leather that splits up into the braid after a few centimeters.
Any idea if there’s more of these belts with elegant tips out there?
I believe the tip is covered because it’s easier and therefore cheaper. That plaiting is hardest at the end point, as it all loops back on itself
Hi Simon, is there any chance of a PS braided belt!? What I struggled to find in a belt is: 1) a brass buckle that is aged and not chunky, 2) something that is 3-3.5 cm in diameter i.e. neither wide nor narrow. I had Sergei make me this belt and I am very happy with it. I can never wear a shiny belt again, after this.
I have not seems such a belt from Drakes, A&S, Rubato, Anderson’s etc. Most commonly they use a shiny buckle, and/or it’s way too chunky/wide. Perhaps two options: suede and standard calf. A possibility!?!?
Hmm, possibly John, yes. I wonder whether the makers of the braiding just don’t do it in that width. I can try and check though
For the record, I would be interested in such an offering as well. A dark brown suede braided belt in the 3-3.5 cm range with aged brass buckle.
Me as well
Would you wear the Versailles belt from Silver Ostrich in brown suede in a casual wardrobe? Wide jeans, chinos more of a workwear wardrobe?
Sure. It would be a bit of a showy piece, with an obvious western vibe, but it depends what look you’re after
I am considering to order a belt from Kika N Y (a maker recommended by Die, Workwear a few months ago) to be worn with workwear chinos (RRL and Japanese brands). There is a choice between 1″ width and 1,25″ and like you I prefer the narrow look. But the loops of all those workwear chinos are clearly made for wider belts (even wider than 1,25) so I am afraid a narrow one would look a little lost. As you write 1″ belts are rare and I haven´t found one to try on and Kika´s are made to order so they can´t be exchanged. What would you say? And my second question would be: what is your opinion on oval buckles? A little less understated than regular ones, aren´t they?
I’d say you might be better with a 1.25 in that case, yes. One inch wouldn’t be bad, but the less normal look.
Oval buckles are a little more showy, yes, and perhaps have some western associations. It’s a question of how much you want that to be noticed probably
Simon, I’m currently also in the process of commissioning one of Sergey a beautiful belts. He offered me some – ark East in pictures – beautiful leather from the tannery “Ruskozhprom” located in the city of Volgograd and said, that you also have had a belt made in this leather.
May I ask you about your opinion on this leather? How does it compare to bridle leather for example?
It’s nice – not really like bridle (not as oiled or hard) but a substantial leather, perhaps halfway between that and what you imagine a fine French calf to be like
This sounds like the leather is “dressier” in appearance to say a bridle leather.
As I am looking for a belt that goes with everything but especially darker jeans: would you still recommend this leather or should I look at something that is leaning further away from French calf?
No, I’d still recommend it