Ludens: Japanese belts and leather goods

Friday, August 11th 2023
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In recent years I've been wearing more belts with tailoring, as I've worn other accessories such as ties and handkerchiefs less. 

That's meant me upping my belt game, with a couple of commissions from Tightly Stitched, some great belts from Rubato, and some vintage finds (like the unusual style here). 

I'd also admired Ethan Newton's slim crocodile belts, which he usually wears with vintage silver engine-turned buckles. You can see me wearing one in the image below. 

These are made for Bryceland's by the maker Ludens (below) - a sole operator who works from home near Kobe in Japan, and also makes small leather goods for the shoemaker Spigola, also in Kobe. 

When we were in Japan earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet Fujii, the man behind Ludens, and learn a little bit about his background as well as commission a couple of belts. 

He trained with a bagmaker, starting 11 years ago, and moved to work with Koji at Spigola four years ago. But he always wanted to do his own thing, primarily focused on American-style products, made to a fine Japanese standard. 

"There are lots of leather workers in Japan, as you'd expect," he says. "But there isn't really anything you could call a Japanese tradition. They vary a lot in style - if there is one thing in common it's probably a certain finesse, a precision."

One of those styles would be very polished French-type leather goods, like some of those made by Ortus. Another would be the tough, biker-associated wallets made by the likes of Tenjin Works. And then there are those that make more in the English style, like the well-known Fugee.

The aim with Ludens is to do something a little different again, with dressier American pieces such as those slim crocodile belts. 

"It's very early days for me," says Fujii, "but we've developed a few different belt styles and these deerskin pouches that work well."

Below is the deerskin pouch in tan, and lower down in black. I also showed something similar recently on PS (actually the bag my belts from Fujii came in). 

"For the moment I'm just making these pieces for Bryceland's and selling through them, but at some point I'd like to have more of my own brand and sell direct to customers," says Fujii. 

Of course, as with many of the brands Bryceland's sells and supports, it's Ethan's taste you're buying into as much as Fujii's skill. I'd like those vintage-silver buckles if it wasn't for Ethan, but it expanded the ways I thought I could weave them into my own style. (That's Ethan below, photographing Fujii - with shoemaker Seiji McCarthy in the background.)

The belts I bought were very similar as a result. The same black and dark brown crocodile, made for a silver buckle I'd picked up on eBay. (There aren't many nice ones around - Fujii said he'd been looking at the same one.) 

Bryceland's tries to buy up these buckles itself, and sources from private dealers, in order to have some in the Tokyo and Hong Kong shops must of the time. But there haven't been any for a while. 

I can understand why some readers, by the way, wouldn't like having someone else's initials on their buckle. But I don't mind it. It feels like a piece of a beautiful object's history, like the initials you get on vintage luggage and other vintage silver.

The belts Fujii made for me are beautiful. Cut from the middle of the belly (the big square scales are unmistakable) and of course made in one piece. 

The stitching is by machine but fine and precise, and the interlining is thinner than most on this 'lined and raised' style of belt. That's the most obvious difference from something like my crocodile from Rubato, for instance.

Fujii also took an old tan-coloured skin I had (below, from a belt that was a present from Zilli, many years ago) and turned it into a similar belt, both slimming it down and adding a few inches of tan suede to make it the right length. That was expertly and tastefully done, without asking me for input. 

Of course, the nice thing about the silver buckle is that it can be swapped between belts, with each belt made with an end that folds over and snaps, to enable release and attachment of any same-width buckle. 

I don't have any pictures of my belts yet, but they're virtually the same as shown here and I'm sure they'll come up in future articles. This piece was more just about Fujii. 

I can also do an article in the future about my belt collection, small as it is, if there's interest. It could even be a 'if you only had five' piece, though that's hardly a small number of belts! 

These belts will replace a couple of western-style ones I've had from RRL for a few years, with similar buckles. Those have proven to be poor quality, growing stiff and shredding with age rather than getting richer and softer. 

It's a shame - the quality there varies so much. Perhaps like high-street brands, leather is one category where it's always worth waiting for quality. 

Details on Ludens and prices: 

  • Belts and cross-body bags available made to order
  • Wallets and watch straps coming in the future
  • Only currently in Bryceland's Tokyo and Hong Kong stores
  • Crocodile belt, buckle not included, ¥138,000 (£765) +tax
  • Leathers available: smooth crocodile, nubuck crocodile, kudu suede (all in black or bark brown)
  • Deerskin crossbody bags, ¥54,800 (£305) +tax
  • Bag currently available in beige, black in the future
  • @ludensjp

Note: Ludens uses both crocodile and alligator for belts and other goods, with the top end crocodile the most common. That's what I bought, but had originally described it as alligator; this has now been corrected. Croc and alligator look a little different, but at the top end of quality neither is necessarily finer. 

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Can I ask what jeans you are wearing in these photos?


Last week, I decided to follow your example and try denim jeans again.. I found a pair of 501s in the 54 cut which were only £55 in Fenwick’s sale. They are the classic indigo rinse, sit higher on the waist higher and have tapered (rather than straight) leg. The fit is excellent but it’s too hot to wear them.

It’s disappointing that puzzled most new 501s, including the other 54 options, are very faded, ripped and/or patched. I’d try a black pair of 501 54s but it seems that they are/were available in the US. The 54s seem very hard to find in Britain so any suggestions would be welcome.

It would be very useful if commenters could compare their 501s, especially the fit, with those sold by British brands such as Blackhorse Lane, Hiut, Hebtroco and Community Clothing.

Peter Hall

After reading a stimulating piece on Derek Guys Twitter,I tentatively found a pair of vintage buckles. Both size and colour really change the look of an outfit. I never thought I would like the bigger Western buckle,but ,unsurprisingly,great with jeans.

Would it be possible ,in the future,to write a longer piece about belts and buckles ,Simon?

Lindsay McKee

Could you not perhaps add a piece to the Guide to Wardrobe Building – Belts – and how the various types should be worn!

Lindsay McKee

Then there are the woven and elasticated belts for jeans and chinos and the like,sometimes in various colours, canvas belts..if I’m correct, Argentinian ,Cadiz belts, reversible belts large bridle hide belts,dress belts in calf leather and maybe even exotic leather.
That was my ‘train of thinking’ on these variations in belts and their correct place in the wardrobe.

Aaron lavack

That would be swell. Knowing some of the ‘classes’ can help a lot with google shopping when you live in the antipodes.


I manage fine with bridle, oak bark, dress calf and suede belts in black and brown shades that are made in the UK by companies such as Tim Hardy, Buck, ESB, Oakside and McRostie. My dress belts were bought from my shoemaker, Crockett & Jones. With the manufacturers’ custom and belt options too, there is no problem in getting what I want at an affordable and reasonable price.

Lindsay McKee

To Simon & Gary
Many thanks for these suggestions.
Some absolutely beautiful makers that you list here. Some using J & FJ BAKER & SEDGEWICK leathers.
A review on some of these makers would be nice at some stage.


I guess that for the same reason you find yourself wearing more belts, people may need guidance. As we’re wearing less other accessories, the belt becomes more important to add a touch to an outfit. Where as we use to be able to dress down a suit with a less formal tie, perhaps we’ll dress down tailored trousers with a western belt in the future.

Aaron lavack

Hooray!! Good ones are so hard to find.


Agreed. It’s not my usual style, so I would appreciate you writing up a piece


I’v been looking for months for a silver engined-turned buckle (impossible to find in Europe, extremely complicated to find online a quality vintage one). As for the American stores that sell this type of buckle new, they generally don’t deliver outside the USA. I finally found what I was looking for at Maida’s Belts and Buckles in Texas: A few exchanges of emails, and Maida’s kindly agreed to send me a buckle accompanied by two straps (chocolate brown and black). Quality is excellent, and the two belts (worn every day, alternately) are as good as new after more than two years. The buckle can be hand engraved. Silver develops a patina quite quickly but the buckle comes with a polishing cloth, so you can choose between a fairly shiny buckle or one similar to the (rare) vintage models available. Hope this help.



Yes I would be very interested in an article on your belt collection. My office keeps getting more casual, so I like you, have been wearing more belts and less ties.

On another note, I’m glad you pointed out that RRL belts have been disappointing and I now won’t be getting one. I love the brand, and for its clothes they generally fit me well which is of course one of of not the most important thing. However, I’ve found quality to vary greatly among the products. I suppose that’s the risk buying from a designer as opposed to an artisan…

Eric Twardzik

After spending years avoiding belts with anything tailored I’ve started to come around to them. I think the key is width-that 1” or so that marks belts from Rubato, and with enough extra length to hang a little past the keeper.
The young guys from J. Mueser do this look well, and the combination of a thin belt with an engine turned buckle, a striped repp tie and a blazer has a certain Ivy style cache.


I half agree with you. I think the thin belts are eminently more wearable and elegant in the process. But can’t help but feel like this look that I see everywhere with guys with belts too long and flopping about always looks so indecent to me. I’ve double taken more than once genuinely thinking I’ve seen someone strolling a long with the old chap just hanging out. Not a good look!


Empathise on the belt buckles! Other issue is that nice ones can often be a bit too big and you end up looking like a cowboy. One solution can be found in the USA – Tiffany used to make a specific silver buckle largely worn by kids who went to Princeton / Yale etc., wherein you put your initials. The ones from the 60s can be found in lots of American antiques shops and look quite good now, if, as you point out, you’re ok with other people’s initials on you…


I get that buckles can differ and that there are quality differences in leather. But how much differs a cheap and an expensive dark brown suede belt from each other. Is Rubatos 2x the quality of Anderson and 4x the quality of the cheaper brands?


It looks like these are a pair of faded back jeans, correct? What are your thoughts on black vs. blue jeans? What about the versatility of a faded black pair vs. a faded blue pair?


Simon, wouldn’t some cream/grease solve the problems with the RRL belts?


Hey Simon,
I mean no offense but did you get the prices switched? The last time I talked to Janet, the bags were $300-400 and the aligator belts were $900-1000. Of course they could have changed or I misread.


Simon, what type of belt would go as well with chinos and colour 8 cordovan boots, as with flannel pants and very dark brown oxfords? I think I’m looking for some dark colour, potentially even black, but it should have some texture and remain elegant enough. I guess something like hatch grain from Rubato could work, but maybe some subtle alligator too?


It’s Alden, so pretty dark. It seems that two belts is a better option, but I find a plain black belt to be not very interesting and not that useful. What types belts would you wear with chinos/jeans and dark cordovan shoes?


It would be very useful if you could write an “if you only had 5 belts” article, especially discussing how to match various leather belts with various types of shoes, such as cordovan, textured leathers etc.

Zak Wagner

I’d love to see how he extended your belt with the suede. That sounds very unique.
Dissapointed to hear about the RRL belt. I was eyeing one that supposedly used suede from his cattle in Telluride CO. But maybe its better to go with a different option.
I’ve always gone with a vintage brass buckle, but I got a vintage silver one from my great grandpa. The style is loud, but subtle all at the same time. I’d love a slimmer alligator belt/buckle combo. Even the the alligator is very fine, I feel like you can wear it very casually.
Also, I am interested in seeing a belt collection inspection haha. Belts are something that I think we choose the boring option of, far too often.

Barry Goldwater

I noticed Mr. Fujii has his belts listed as crocodile on Instagram instead of alligator. Is there a significant difference between the two? Or perhaps there’s a translation error?

Barry Goldwater

Thank you Mr. Crompton for the update and the ping back. Your attention to detail is appreciated.


Mr Crompton
Do you wear belts for the utility of holding up pants that are too big in the waist or are belts more of a fashion accessory to you?


Braided belts? Don’t you have one in your rotation?

I own quite a few belts, but recently a mid-dark brown rather narrow (2,5 cm) braided belt w brass buckle has been my go to casual trousers and jeans.

Speaking of casual belts, how about canvas ones?
I believe you hd a feature with a russian maker at some point?
I really liked the style, but I’m not sure if you can actually buy anything from Russia these days or am I wrong?
Where to find something similar?

Best regards


Hi Simon,
Interesting report on what the japanese are doing in this area of menswear. Apparently, many items that belong to men’s classic wardrobes might have become irrelevant today, weren’t dedicated craftsmen in Japan diligently focused on reviving and upgrading them.
I’m delighted that you wear more and more belts. To be honest, I’m depressed by the current ubiquity of side adjusters making those interested in style really look like sheeps under the guise of being well dressed. Actually, this is a very dangerous trend with respect to the standing of the craft associated with the production of belts.
So for those who lean to smart casual as a matter of style, the real issue is not either belts or ties, but either belts and side adjusters or sadly, solely the latters.
And just deciding to wear a belt shouldn’t be an excuse to eschew a tie


I dipped for a belt from silver ostrich recently, one of the more restrained western styles (Versailles) – very happy with it so far and I’ve already received a few compliments about it!


Very nice article, Simon.

I was born in Japan, and my earliest memories stem from there. To me, Japanese product has simply always been a part of my household. Interestingly, all these years later, many of the clothes, accessories, and the like still are in excellent quality despite their time spent in the dusty basement of my boyhood home.

Just recently I found a marvelous army surplus shoulder bag, an alligator belt, and a pair pocket of scissors.

If I were to return to Japan a big part of that journey would be dedicated to purchasing boutique products of similar quality.


One vote here for a belts piece


What a coincidence.
This morning I have received my new hánd made to measure belt.
It”s a hánd stiched calf brown leather belt, with an sterling silver old stock Tiffanny buckle (the second I have commisioned this summer: the other in lighter brown and with a line pattern engraved Tiffanny silver buckle)


Would really appreciate a piece on belts, thank you Simon.
How much extra length do you think there should be in the belt past the buckle / belt loop?


Thanks Simon

Gerald Wallette

Simon, please tell me the source of the double breasted, herringbone jacket. Thank you.


Hi Simon,
Mind providing the dimensions of the vintage sterling buckle you’re wearing? I’m trying to find a nice one on EBay, and the sizing would be helpful in figuring out what looks good.
Relatedly, I second another reader’s endorsement of Maida belts in Texas. I haven’t bought anything from them yet, but they’ve been very responsive to my queries and the product looks great online.


If anyone is looking, I can highly recommend McRostie. I bought one of their belts recently and they’re beautifully made. Really nice people to deal with too

Lindsay McKee

Hi Rick & Simon,
Those are beautiful belts. I’d prefer them without logos.
Simon, it might be worth heading up to bonnie Scotland and meet this talented team of leather workers, all British made!

Lindsay McKee

As I said in a recent post, I’m having a struggle with side adjusters on their own but I can abide braces, the feel doesn’t bother me all that much, but in my “heart of hearts” I do go back to belts.
Tailors may differ on side adjusters and factoring in waist height may contribute to comfort. Something to consider if I decide to visit Whitcomb & Shaftsbury or another tailor when I can discuss these options in my next trousers commission.


Any thoughts regarding bison leather belts? They seem a bit more casual than alligator/crocodile, but the slight color and texture variation (and relative lower cost) are appealing.



The crocodile belts look great, but how versatile are they? I can see how they can dress up denim, worn with the right shirt and shoes, and relatively unfaded pants. I can certainly see how they’d work with something dressier. But do they work with dressier chinos, such as the Rubato officer chino? Regarding shoes, I can’t see them pairing with anything more casual than a loafer (maybe/maybe not suede if the loafer isn’t too casual?)


I suppose a matte belt (rather than the shinier leathers) would also be somewhat more versatile. Would you ever wear yours with a chino?




Belts are great accessories for men so had to weigh in on this topic. I’m a buckle and belt junkie so an overview of the various styles most welcome. Including where to get new buckles and straps or just get them polished, restored or repaired.