obenauf's

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The Wallet I Use with Jeans

Since my post on henleys yesterday, a few readers emailed me asking for details on the leather wallet shown in my picture. That’s a mid-length, steerhide wallet made by the Japanese brand Flat Head. It’s thick and heavy, and over-the-top in terms of durability. It’s also the only wallet I’ll use with jeans, as my regular card case and money clip combination feels too insubstantial when I’m wearing a rugged jacket.

High-End Japanese Models

The Flat Head’s wallet is admittedly ridiculously expensive. Part of this is due to the materials and construction (it has a sterling silver ring, and has been handsewn with waxed cow tendon thread); part of it is the cost of labor in Japan (where it was made); and part of it is simply a result of the high-demand for Flat Head products in the hardcore denim-enthusiast community. If you’re not bothered by the price, you can find similarly nice pieces at Self Edge and Blue in Green. They have stuff made by Flat Head, as well as other high-end Japanese brands, such as Kawatako, Studio D'Artisan, and Red Moon.

More Affordable Options

There are a number of more affordable options, however, from companies based the other parts of East Asia and the United States. These include Angelos Leather, Obbi Good Label, Tenjin Works, PCKY, Voyej, Hollows Leather, and Tanner Goods. I’ve also seen some really nice models made by Don’t Mourn Organize. The man behind that operation, Scott, doesn’t list his mid-length and long-wallets on his website, but I assume they can still be made. Almost everything he sells is made-to-order. Lastly, you can search eBay for “Redmoon style wallet,” which should pull up a few models. I have no experience with those, but I did buy my braided leather chain, which you see above, from eBay a few years ago (it cost something like twenty-five bucks). There are still similar ones on eBay

Getting That Patina

If you buy one, you have the option of getting something already dyed, or something that comes in a tan “natural” color. The second will darken into that golden, honey brown you see above. All that’s really required is about a year or so of regular use. Sunlight will darken the leather, so if you want to speed up the process, you can leave the wallet out for a couple of days in direct sunlight. To get a truly nice patina, however, you’ll need to use it. Sticking it in your back pockets, for example, will give the leather a more natural, broken-in look, and transfer some of the indigo from your jeans to your wallet’s leather and threads. I also routinely treat mine with Obneauf’s Heavy Duty LP. Some say the hue of your wallet’s patina is determined by the kind of leather treatment you choose, while others say this is nonsense. I have no opinion on it either way, but you can browse threads like this one at Superfuture to see how some people’s leather products have aged. I have noticed, for what it’s worth, that some Flat Head wallets have developed a slightly reddish patina, while mine is more golden-brown.

Either way, if you purchase something of quality, and give it some good, hard, honest use, you’re sure to get something beautiful at the end. Just don’t let a chiropractor see you with one, as sitting on such a bulky thing all day is apparently bad for your health.

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Impatience and Natural Vegetable Tanned Leather

The idea of a well-aged leather belt that’s been tanned using only the oils of one’s hands in combination with the sun is very intriguing to me. That’s why I went to my local cobbler and had him make me a natural vegetable tanned leather belt for me to wear and make my own. But this was something like 2 years ago and I’ve since become impatient. Help me, Jesus.

Though my melanin is at such a level comparable to snuff suede, my belt is just coming out of a long stage of jaundice and has yet to even reach a color that might be classified as brown. This awkward stage of color makes it difficult for me to match my belt with any of my shoes. (First world problems, I know). I’ve never had use for self-tanning lotions or tanning beds being of the darker complexion, but this cow skin I wrap around my waist is a different story.

I used some Obenauf’s leather oil which is pretty heavy stuff that I normally only use on my Wolverines. I applied a total of 3 coats and left my belt out in the sun for a couple days. Although the color seems to be uneven throughout the belt (probably because of the points of hand contact over the years and the fact that I didn’t distribute the coats evenly), I’m pretty satisfied with the results overall. Okay, now you try.

[Sidenote: I totally had this topic saved as a draft for a couple of days, so it was kind of funny to see that Put This On had published a similar article yesterday. *shrug*]

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Rugged Belts For Jeans

There’s probably a theory about why a guy my size would like such rugged belts (overcompensating for something, perhaps?), but regardless – lately I’ve come to really like Don’t Mourn Organize, a small, one-man operation based in Utah that makes custom leather goods. Eight months ago, I had Scott, the owner of the company, make me a harness leather belt cut to a 0.25” thickness. It’s thicker than your average belt, but not so thick that it’d be too tough to break in. The color of the leather was originally an unwearable pale beige, but quickly darkened to a light brown after I applied two or three coats of Obeanuf’s LP. It’s since darkened further, to a solid mid-shade of brown, after eights months of regular wear and use. You can see how it looks now in the photo above.

I’ve enjoyed the belt so much that I recently ordered another – this time a two-layer horsehide “Clint stitch” belt that’s so named because the stitching pattern is modeled after something Clint Eastwood wore in one of his movies. I find the Western style goes well with a canvas RRL jacket I own, while the plainer, harness leather belt looks better with heavy leather jackets.

Scott’s belts are beautifully rugged and uncommonly thick. These are not the type of belts you’d wear with dressy chinos or wool trousers. They’re what you wear with denim, fatigues, or heavy workwear pants. Being as thick as they are, there’s something satisfying about cinching up a belt that’s as rugged as your jeans or boots, and it’s great to see how the leather acquires a natural patina over time. You can order one of Scott’s belts in any color you wish, but for me, the joy is all in getting that natural colored leather that darkens with age. Much like how guys like the process of breaking in their raw denim and seeing how it fades, this is essentially the same thing, except that leather gets darker when you treat it to oil and conditioner, and as it gets exposed to sunlight. 

Simple belts like the one I first bought cost $65. The Clint stitch belt ran me $75 (shipping included in both prices). Everything is custom made, so if you want some tweak in the design, Scott can usually accommodate.

To see more photos of the Clint stitch belt, you can check out this post at StyleForum. For photos of Scott’s work in general, check out this thread at Iron Heart’s forum

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I’ve sang it’s praises before, but again, I’m here to tell you that Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP Leather Preservative is some of the best stuff I’ve found for protecting and preserving my leather products. Here’s some before and after pics so you can get a sense of the darkening effect it has on different leathers.

On harder, smooth leathers like what was used on my Hartmann planner, my Field Theories portfolio or my Red Wing boots, the color change is subtle. On softer leathers, like what was used to make my J. Peterman bag, the change is more noticeable. Either way you can immediately see and feel the leather absorb the goodness of the compound. It smoothes out scuffs and protects the leather for upcoming abuse while adding to that attractive weathered yet healthy look I love in aged leather.

Obenauf’s is completely natural, utilizing beeswax and propolis as protectants that work well to repel water, dirt, and chemicals while still allowing the leather to breathe. Apply it with your hands as your body heat will melt the stuff and help it to penetrate the leather. As an added bonus, you’ll be left with soft and supple hands. And it smells great. My hands get pretty beat up and dry working and climbing at a climbing gym, and as you can see above this stuff makes my hands look as soft as a baby’s bottom. Get yourself a tub of it, it’ll last you forever and your leather will last a lot longer.