Belts may seem like such utilitarian things.
They keep gravity from creating an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
Despite their hip-fitting purpose, some belts preferred by hipsters may cost a small fortune.
Here are 10 reasons belts are so expensive.
Why Are Belts So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Cost Of Materials
Generally speaking, the cost of the materials needed to make a belt represents 60% of the overall cost.
These materials include the belt itself, the buckle, and any enhancements.
Thickness certainly matters.
Thinner belts may have greater flexibility, but often lack the durability found in thicker belts.
If a person selects a higher grade of material, such as top-of-the-line leather, they should expect to pay more.
Since leather is a material used to design most belts, the quality of the leather certainly matters.
Lower-priced belts might cost less than $25, with those of better quality exceeding $100 in price.
While the most expensive belts have the highest individual prices, many department stores make more money by selling cheaper, lower-quality belts with brand names than higher-quality goods that do not have commonly-known brand names attached to them.
Is It Really Leather?
These lower-end items are touted as having “genuine” leather.
These belts may be made of “genuine” leather, but they have plenty of deficiencies.
Also known as “fiber” leather, this material is generally made from unused scraps.
Genuine leather belts may have leather composed of pieces and swept-up bits of scrap leather.
These table and floor scraps find new life through glue and dyes as they are fashioned just as a dough becomes a loaf of bread or a cookie.
The glue applied to these scraps cannot maintain the binding over time, leading to the deterioration of the belts after they are worn a bit.
A little more processing can stamp fancy designs onto this genuine leather, giving it the appearance of a high-end product even if it has origins of a more table-scrap variety.
The difference in these belts is similar to the difference between medium-density fiberboard and pressure-treated plywood.
Even if coated with paint, the fiberboard which is created from wax or resin that binds small pieces of fiber will curl, crack, and deteriorate if left in the rain or other areas with moisture.
The plywood will be more resilient.
The “genuine” leather will crack, break, and fail more quickly than other cuts of leather.
All leather originates from the skin of animals.
“Genuine” leather is barely real leather, in the same way low-end fiberboard is barely real wood.
This genuine misrepresentation is sometimes called a “pure” leather belt on some labels.
“Bonded” leather is another less-than-leather alternative.
Although inexpensive, these alternatives of lower quality will require frequent replacement, which is hardly a cost-saving measure.
2. Full-Grain Leather
Look for belts made from “top-grain” or “full-grain” leather.
Full-grain belts are produced with the best quality of leather, usually a single solid piece.
This leather comes primarily from the top layers of the hide rather than scraps from less durable layers.
When considering durability, think of your skin.
The epidermis, or outermost layer, has to be flexible and resilient to keep you from experiencing an injury.
The dermis below the surface has most nerves and receptors as well as greater flexibility.
If a person ever has a scab fall off after a cut, they will notice that the skin below is not nearly as durable and is more vulnerable to cuts and infection.
Full-grain leather exhibits greater durability since it is often about 70/30 with the top skin layer being the majority.
Top-grain leather, the next level of quality, is about 50/50.
Genuine or pure leather has a lower proportion of the top skin layer, meaning it lacks the strength and durability of the best (full-grain) and next best (top-grain) leather belts.
The fashion pyramid plays a role in the price of the most expensive belts, similar to any other fashionable product.
As the price points rise from the base, there are fewer products produced and sold at those points.
Cheap belts, often composed of genuine leather and mass-produced, are readily available and relatively inexpensive.
As the price increases, the basic department store and generic brands are replaced by those that have fancier brand names.
At the top of the pyramid, one often goes beyond even the most notable name brands to uniquely designed belts with diamonds or other precious stones, rather than the cowhide that most people wear.
Fashionable companies charge prices that represent the market value and image they expect their products to convey.
A few examples suffice, running from the outrageous to the purely excessive.
A Gucci diamond belt created by Stuart Hughes from 250 grams of platinum and 30 carats of diamonds was valued at $256,970.
Much cheaper but still very expensive, the diamond belt crafted by Dolce & Gabbana had 26.5 carats in its 53 diamonds, selling for a mere $91,879.
Those who love alligator leather can purchase one of a handful of diamond-encrusted belts crafted by French jeweler Akillis for a price in the neighborhood of $64,500.
Louis Vuitton gets into the high-priced game with its Blason belt buckle—one composed of more than 500 precious stones that include diamonds, sapphires, and rubies—which sells for about $44,000.
One Step Down
The next tier offers more affordable options.
The Mini Athena belt from Hermès also has crocodile leather and a price of $21,200 that will take a bite out of one’s leather wallet.
Rhinestone cowboys and cowgirls with big-budget tastes can purchase a Dolce & Gabbana belt made of multicolor rhinestones and gold-plated brass for $6,245.
These very expensive alternatives are certainly not the run-of-the-mill full-grain leather belts, but they are of better quality and higher price than one finds in some catalogs.
All of these belts exhibit a high level of quality control and have unique designs found in few if any other belts produced in the world.
For those who buy belts with the pedigree of high-end fashion designers clearly visible, part of the high price they pay includes free advertising for these designers.
Buying a Gucci for the quality of the belt is one thing.
Buying a Gucci to flaunt its logo is another.
In either case, Gucci benefits from the way the logo on the belt is visible to the gawkers who admire its existence.
4. Special Details
Beyond the materials and the brand, the special details included in a belt can increase its price.
This is true whether the belt falls within the $50 to $100 range or a price much greater than that.
Special details may include the diamonds and rhinestones found on the highest-priced, most unique models available.
They may also include fancier beading or needlepoint processes on individual handmade belts that may lack precious stones but possess precious handiwork.
For these belts enhanced by special designs and details, one must pay more for the talent of the crafting and design by experts in leatherwork, jewelry, metallurgy, and other crafts.
Talented labor produces belts that differ greatly from their department store cousins.
For this level of work, one should expect to pay a premium price.
5. Independent Designers
The talents of independent designers sometimes make them even more popular choices than those of popular brand names.
While high-end companies have teams of designers who play a role in crafting and marketing their top-of-the-line brands, independent designers are self-employed artisans who offer their unique designs to a more limited market.
Independent designers almost always focus on creating high-quality products.
They want people to enjoy wearing a good-looking belt.
They are not concerned about famous, even high-end, brands that put more of a focus on the prominent placement of their logos.
Some of these designers may have their offices in fashion capitals such as Paris or New York City.
Others occupy small shops in distant corners of the world.
Wherever the place is that they call home, these independent designers have less concern about a logo than the underlying quality of the products that they have produced.
They create unique designs.
They craft them by hand.
These belts may not cost as much as the most-glamorous belts produced by the most sought-after brands and found in the most exclusive stores.
These belts have a different type of value, one that is very high and adds to the expense of possessing them.
6. Brand Name
Louis Vuitton and Hermès may be familiar to the masses as high-end labels, but brand names like these and others are of less interest to those with the ability to buy the most expensive products.
The wealthy believe luxury brands are overrated compared to the actual value their products have.
A 2013 survey of the wealthiest 10% of Americans looked at brand name ownership and recognition of 17 so-called luxury brands over a period of five years.
Those participating each had a net worth of at least $800,000, hardly a low-budget sum.
With a handful of exceptions not related to belt-making, at least one-fourth of those surveyed believed that luxury brands were overrated.
They saw these products as more valuable to status seekers, rather than the truly wealthy who care about quality more than status.
To the very rich, customization in clothing and accessories means more than the name on the label.
With belts and other pieces of the wardrobe, the word “luxury” has different meanings for different populations.
Think about a poor couple who treats themselves to a fancy coffee for breakfast or a steak dinner at an exclusive restaurant for a special evening.
For them, the brand name that cost a lot of money to them offered evidence of how they splurged for something special.
Similarly, they may spend more than they have on a fancy belt with a fancier brand name.
Meanwhile, the wealthy would think little about that fancy coffee or steak dinner, since purchasing these things takes little money out of their bloated budgets.
Some of the people who want the fanciest belt bling are folks who think the brand on their belt will elevate them to a higher social stratification level.
To those already at the top, a quality belt matters more than one with a profoundly-visible label from a trendy company.
The wealthy do not have to show that they are rich.
They can enjoy a more subdued and subtle form of luxury, one focused on belts of great quality even if the buckle does not have the same visibility as the hood ornament on their fancy car.
Thus, the wealthy buy less for the label than for the long-term value and quality that the belt possesses.
When people can no longer fit in their belt, they need to purchase a new one.
Obesity does contribute to higher costs in many aspects of life.
In research from March 2001, the connection between weight and health care costs estimates that obesity costs nearly $1,900 more a year.
This does not only include the cost of food or buying a bigger belt.
Another cost of gaining weight is social, as a person searches for a large belt that fits comfortably.
In a world that celebrates fitness and slimness, growing chubbier has social costs along with the expense of purchasing a new wardrobe.
Buying a larger belt costs money.
The feeling of a need to buy a larger belt has another cost for many who have the experience.
8. Looks Better Than Suspenders
Belts do offer a fashion statement for many people.
Aside from a few people, suspenders do not offer a fashion-conscious alternative to belts.
A life without belts or suspenders may have pants falling at the worst possible time.
Some fashionistas are willing to pay top dollar for a belt that gives them a better-looking waist.
The placement of the buckle with a fancy label is done not just to keep gravity from creating an unfortunate moment.
It is done to grab attention.
Putting that double-G Gucci logo upon a cinched waistline may be done to bring attention to a cute midsection.
The belt does more than hold up the jeans.
It defines the body and elevates the outfit it accompanies.
A low-budget outfit may seem common, though it rises to a new level with the perfectly selected belt.
Some fashionistas who like simple jeans and tops will splurge on fancier belts, bags, and shoes to make their fashion statement.
They want a quality belt because the eyes of gawkers move in that direction.
People see the memorable buckle and become drawn to the trendiness of the wearer.
This makes paying for an expensive belt a wise investment for some of the more fashion-conscious among us.
9. Money Belts
More than something to hold up the pants, money belts provide a place to secure money and other valuables.
They are great accessories while traveling, but not all money belts are identical in form and function.
Some resemble a regular belt but have a pocket hidden within for holding the money.
They come in many styles and often look like regular belts without any added storage features.
Comfortable and discreet, they do not require a person to alter their fashion style.
Others are cloth pouches hugging the hips and tucked inside the pants.
Although called money belts, these small pouches fit differently and occupy a different space that may be less comfortable for most users.
Although thieves know people wear these belts, they are more difficult to grab and plunder.
Regardless of the belt selected, their purpose is to provide a discreet way to protect cash, passports, credit cards, and similar valuables while on vacation.
Of course, if a person acts differently while traveling and brings attention to themselves, these belts may be less effective.
One must wear the belt with confidence and not walk around with a guidebook in hand, acting cluelessly lost.
Likewise, rummaging through a money belt in public takes away from its purpose of protecting one’s valuables.
Some of the top models also come with other protections, such as the ability to block radio-frequency identification (RFID) of electronic chips on credit cards.
RFID-blocking belts may cost a little more in the short term, but they could save a person headaches and emergency calls to their credit card providers in the long term.
Money pockets are available at all price levels.
Basic ones under $50 are often the pouch-style ones worn beneath clothing.
Leather ones with zippered compartments can accommodate a good number of folded bills or other items and are usually available for less than $150.
Top-end models can cost more than that.
10. Belts For Work May Cost More
Some people buy belts that serve another purpose besides keeping their pants up.
Carpenters need tool belts that can handle the heavy weight of items they hold.
They should never sag or tear because of the weight they must bear.
Whether called a tool belt, nail bag, tool pouch, or tool bag, these belts come in a variety of styles, each tailored to the particular needs of the person wearing them.
Some have suspenders for extra grip on the shoulders.
Others just fasten around the middle.
Some have traditional buckles.
Others have snap buckles instead.
Most have an abundance of pouches for everything from a hammer and nails, to a tape measure and pencil.
In addition to leather, these durable belts also come in nylon or polyester.
They often have pockets of different sizes that can hold different tools and building materials, allowing the greatest flexibility possible for the laborer who wears them.
One final belt to mention also carries a high cost and important value.
A duty belt worn by law enforcement officers has plenty of pouches, as well as a place for a service revolver.
These belts often carry at least 20 pounds of equipment needed by officers on duty.NEXT: Why Is Iberico Ham So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)