OK, so you walk into a store, straight up to the belt rack, grab one that matches your style and your idea of how much a belt should cost, cinch it to the second hole and look in the mirror - "perfect" - you tell yourself. But, do you think about what that forty five dollar strap will look like a year from now? “Heck yeah,” you say, “it's genuine leather. It's gotta be good and last a long time, right?" Not so fast cowpoke. Let's take a minute and get real about leather.
Here are three definitions common to the industry which, by consensus, are generally accepted as accurate. There are a bunch more, but here's the ones that are of concern to most belt buyers like you and me:
1. Full Grain or Top Grain (As rugged as it gets). This is the outer layer of the hide minus the hair. It shows the scars, imperfections and hair cell patterns of the animal's original outerwear. It's what they make those $400 baseball mitts out of...the ones that get passed down five generations. It's the titanium of leather.
2. Corrected Grain (If Full Grain is the T Bone, this is the Filet Mignon). Sometimes those lovely scars and imperfections are not wanted, so the hide is split to the desired thickness and then sanded to a smooth finish. It can be used in that form or embossed with a perfect (fake) grain pattern and then dyed. It's commonly used for expensive shoes, hunting boots, handbags, belts or wherever long wearing or even weather proof leather is needed. Not as strong as No.1, but close.
3. Genuine Leather (The Smoke and Mirrors). Now, at first glance this one would look like the real deal, right? Wrong. This is like the words “Natural Flavor” on the "Fat Boy's Knuckle Sucker Barbecue Sauce" bottle – you're not really sure about it, but you're like, “they wouldn't say it if it weren't true”, and you slather it on and wonder why you get a Texas sized gut ache. Only in this case, leather scraps and remnants are recycled, ground up and applied with adhesive to a suede or fabric backing then stamped with a grain pattern and dyed. Technically, it is 51% leather, but it literally is now the particle board of leather. This is that overpriced, imported item that cracks and separates like sled dog's paws in six months. Yep, the one that says “Genuine Leather” - and you're gonna be genuinely p.o.'d when it falls apart. So, there you have it cowgirls - your three minute leather education. Hope it helps!
I want to talk to men out there like me: you're in that 50 to 65 age slot, you're a little bit set in your ways (although you're open to adventure if it comes in the form of a younger red-head or an older red Harley), you have a little bit of testosterone left in the tank because you take reasonably good care of yourself and last but not least, you have a little money to spend 'cause you've worked hard and learned how to manage it. Now, hold that thought - the one about the money...not the red-head.
Open a new window in your browser and google "men's fashion". Got it? What do you see? If your browser is similar to mine it will display a group of photos across the top that relate to the search term you just plugged in. In this case, you'll see men in current fashion apparel. But look at the images again - every one of the "men" in the photos is younger than 30. What's this tell you? It tells me that on-line retailers primary marketing focus is on Millennials. (If you don't know what a millennial is, that's a person who reached young adulthood around the turn of this century or that offspring of yours that can't seem to land that CEO job, thus he's still hanging out at your crib). Now that's all fine and dandy, only problem is this group of people spend the least amount of money on clothing than any other demographic! In fact they spend less than the 65 and older group! Now, that's either because the marketing gurus think that young bodies and wrinkle-less faces sell products better that anybody else or they're just plain ignorant. Might be a little of the former, but I think more of the latter. Maybe these budding geniuses were lined up waiting for the new LeBrons the day they talked about who spends the most money in Marketing 101.
Still holding that thought? Well, surprise, surprise! (apologies to Gomer Pyle) it's you and I that they should be targeting...at least as much as those kids...we spend most of the cash! We don't buy just Harleys and F350 turbo diesel duely pickups, we buy clothes and belts and wallets. Ever feel forgotten or left out in the cold when it comes to fashion? Like you're an afterthought in the world of rags? I don't know about you brother, but I just don't feel like I'm in my zone when both thighs and knees are ripped out of my skinnies.
There are trend setters and there are followers in marketing just as there are shepherds and sheep when it comes to consumers. Seems like a lot of ad people are having a hard time thinking outside the box - still targeting the young and restless who in reality aren't even listening, let alone buying, while ignoring the guy riding the scooter with the red head firmly hugging his slightly oversize midsection...and wallet. Well, take heart, my mature friends, they are slowly getting the message that the ones who are, in large part, keeping the cyberspace registers ringing are everyday Joes like you and I and the companies who go after us will be rewarded.
All The Best,
What is it about leather that makes it so alluring? What is it about tanned and dyed animal skin that fascinates? Is it the texture? The smell? The feel? Is it the comfort in knowing it's the one product in this age of carbon fiber and high tech polymers that's still produced pretty much the same way as it was 200 years ago? Or 2000 years ago? I can't quite put my finger on why, but leather is almost sacred to me. Maybe it's because that wallet or belt or catcher's mitt was once a living, breathing creature and as you hold it in your hand you think about how special that fact is – or, maybe you don't - but I do and always have.
I still remember that first brand new baseball glove. Ah, the fragrance! The texture of real full grain cowhide. The stitching. The knots in the end of the lacing. No man made materials here, mister! I was born again! If there was a more perfect item ever produced for the benefit of mankind I couldn't imagine what it was. It was the gold standard of everything I owned. As I caressed it, I thought about not only how gorgeous it was but how utterly indestructible it would be. I knew I would be passing that mitt down to my kids and they would pass it down to their kids. Shoot,that hunk of hide would last 100 years at least! Well, It lasted one summer and then I lost it on some playground, somewhere.
Now, every time I hold in my hands a quality piece of leather I still press my nose against it and take a deep breath and I'm ten years old again and I smile inside and the world seems a little more friendly.
How about you? Ever think about when you first discovered the beauty of leather? Feel free to add your comments – we'd love to hear from you.
Trade deficits. Now, there's a subject that everybody seems to be gassed up about - and, we should be. But, the average Joe thinks there's nothing he can do to level out the playing field. We feel helpless against a system where we buy roughly 200 billion dollars more in Chinese manufactured goods every year than they buy from us. We elect government officials on promises that this practice will end, but it never seems to. In fact, it gets worse every year while the politicians keep talking and the products keep rolling off the ships and piling up on American shores. Want to get some extra overtime? Be a dock worker - seems they're the only ones getting any! But, you don't want to be a dock worker. You like your job. You just want to see that deficit balanced out and more jobs come back to us and America's manufacturing base start to grow into what it once was. I know what you're thinking, "How can buying a set of brake shoes made in New Jersey make any difference in a world where hundreds of billions in deficits exist? Remember that four dollar yearly purchase of a U.S.A. made product and how many jobs it could and will create? I'm pretty sure brake shoes will cost you more than four bucks. Forget the empty promises from Washington. We can turn the tide in trading just by talking with our wallets. Remember, the economy is consumer driven. We are the boss and if we want domestic made products and back it up with our purchases, companies will oblige and more jobs for Americans will follow. You and I have the power to change this thing. Companies spend millions on marketing research to find out what consumers want. Let's make it real simple for them - give us American made products.
Want to help the planet? Buy products made in American factories instead of Chinese where there are virtually no regulations on emissions. They dump millions of tons of dust, carbon and ozone into the atmosphere, choking major cities and on some days blotting out the sun at noontime. Oh, and in case you think that doesn't effect us, think again. Powerful global winds called westerlies can carry pollutants across the pacific within days where it accumulates in the western parts of the U.S. We've spent the better part of my lifetime cleaning up our own air, we don't need somebody else's smog, right?
Remember that little boy working in the Chinese factory under horrible conditions for long hours at a dollar a day? If we stop buying from these companies until he is treated with a shred of kindness, his conditions will improve. Not only that, the price of foreign goods will increase, further leveling the playing field. But, until we do, he and millions of others are doomed to slave away under conditions that were abolished in America 120 years ago.
So, there you have it, Average Joe. Oversimplified a little? Perhaps, but the concept is something we can get our collective head around and if we follow through on that 100 dollar a year commitment, good things will follow...and we will have done it ourselves.
Here we are - February 2016 will soon be in the books and Spring is less than a month away. The sun's getting higher in the sky, daylight hangs around till after six PM here in the Northeast and winter's grip on us is slipping away like a man clinging to a ledge. Go outside, face the south and breath deeply. No charge for this anti-depressant!
Now, let's talk more about why it makes sense to buy American and why the answer to America's economic woes are most certainly within our power as individual consumers to turn around. But, it's going to take a commitment - and not even a large one - you can even keep your Toyota. In fact, foreign cars have actually made Detroit products better because US car makers have had to keep up with Japanese and German quality to the extent that domestic autos are nearly on par with them. The Big Three have responded to the competition - and the results are beautiful and reliable.
That commitment? Oh yeah, here it is: Resolve to spend one hundred dollars this year on products made in America by Americans. According to an ABC News report, if each of us would spend about four more dollars per year on USA made products, it would create 10,000 new jobs. The average person spends about 700 bucks a year on gifts alone, so if he/she would spend just 1/7th of that on American products...well, like my high school algebra teacher would say, "It's somethin' big!" I'm talking manufacturing jobs. Jobs that earn a living wage. Jobs that you can raise a family on. Want to stop this sickening trend of America becoming a service based economy? This is the answer. And, it is all within our power to do it! According to The New York Times, more American manufacturing jobs will not only reduce the unemployment rate (Duh..), but also pour more money into the tax base to pay for benefits like Medicare and Social Security. And, if you do buy that new Detroit made car or truck, even more jobs will actually follow. The Center for Automotive Research estimates that for every new job in auto manufacturing, nine more are created in everything from replacement parts to dry cleaning. Now that's something you can hang your lunch bucket on! We don't need some shifty politician promising to make our economy strong again or to give us free stuff (which we all know is not free...tax payers bought it) - we can fix this ourselves. It just takes a little discipline. Corporate America is working to make it easier to buy domestic made products, too. Why wouldn't they? The majority of shoppers, when given the opportunity, would rather buy American - even if it means paying a little more. Even Walmart has a campaign to attract American companies selling American made products because their customers are starting to demand it. Yep, that's right, Walmart.
Next time we'll talk about how buying American helps us and our world in ways that you may not have thought of.
So long for now, leather lovers!
Hey leather lovers! Well here it is February 3 and it's 57 degrees in Ohio! Don't you just love that el Neno? Don't know about you, but I'm saving a ton on utilities this winter and I love it. You don't know who el Neno is? He's that little Spanish lad that comes around about every seven years to make our winters a whole bunch more bearable and give us a reason to live until April.
Now, let's get semi-serious. So...you go out shopping with your wallet (hopefully a BHL wallet!) full of cash. You're looking for new jeans or maybe shoes or a Valentine's Day gift for your boyfriend (plug, plug) or whatever. But, you're no ordinary shopper, you are looking to buy American. You find it , buy it and you feel good about yourself and you should. But, do you really know what it means to the bigger picture? How that purchase you just made helps workers here in America, strengthens our economy, helps exploited workers in China and even helps the environment?
I know what you guys are thinking: this guy just wants us to buy his American made products and to help him build his brand. Well, of course you're right about that. After all, we're in business to make money. But it goes beyond that. We also care about this great country and about our kids and grand kids. We want them to have a country that is secure and a middle class that remains strong (without which, America as we know it ceases to exist) and working people to have that wallet full of cash in order to buy those well made American products. You will be surprised at how many ways the world we live in is impacted when we “buy American” and this isn't just about our little company. It's way bigger than that.
To quote MC Hammer, we'll “break it down” in our next segment.
All the best,
Greg, Mark and the BHL Team
When we first got the idea to produce and sell buffalo leather belts, wallets and accessories, we wanted to do it ethically and in a way that would be morally acceptable to the online buying public. Actually, we wanted to make sure we didn't wind up in prison for participating in something illegal like, trading ivory, for instance! We knew buffalo (actually, American Bison) leather was a beautifully grained, durable product that lent itself to all sorts of applications, but to us the word buffalo was shrouded in mystery and we, like most Americans, were in the dark. Weren't they almost extinct and at the very least still endangered? How could any good American kill an animal so sacred, so scarce, so synonymous with all that is good and wholesome be able to sleep at night? After all, wasn't it like shooting a bald eagle, for crying out loud?
So, we did some homework and what we learned was surprising. Yes, American bison were hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1800's. When the American settlers came here from Europe there were roughly 30 million bison roaming the prairies but by the turn of the century only about 1,000 remained. But today, through careful management and modern farming methods more than 400,000 graze the pastures and grasslands on ranches and farms throughout the US. It has been an amazing story of restoration.
What has spurned this comeback? In a word - consumers. Bison production as a food product began in about 1960 when ranchers learned that these animals can thrive on any type of grass and were resistant to nearly all disease, not to mention the meat was delicious and lower in fat and as high if not higher in nutrition that beef. Since that time, more and more ranchers have gotten into the bison business. In fact, the industry is experiencing phenomenal growth with the last six years showing double digit increase in production. Raising bison for food has become a profitable and sustainable industry. Another important thing to mention is that bison production is closely monitored and strictly controlled. Groups like The National Buffalo Foundation work to insure responsible raising and humane slaughter of the animals.
Bison hides are a by-product of this growing industry, not the the chief product. Rest assured, none of these magnificent animals is wasted just to make a belt or a key holder, but to support the growing demand for a highly nutritious food source and we will only source from reputable leather producers and only use vendors which promote and encourage the responsible and gentle treatment of these beautiful, iconic animals.
Greg Dallas and The BHL Team