Today, in menswear, you must be mindful of two critical elements: defined artisanal expertise and advanced manufacturing technologies. The combination of a countercultural spirit and the belt business has created a new code of style in menswear.
Despite their universal functionality, the main purpose of a gentleman’s belt is to secure and hold-up trousers. The second purpose is to define the waistline. And choosing the right buckle is an important styling decision as well. I find that the best thing about a belt is its adjustability—according to the level of comfort around the waist.
“Men don’t get to accessorize the way women do. They are limited to cufflinks, tie bars, pocket squares, watches and belts. A man’s belt says a lot about his fashion sense, prestige and attention to detail. From the leather that’s chosen to the belt buckle and it’s finishes. Designer logos can be admired or snubbed at depending on the the atmosphere of your environment. Men should take note of what the culture is and flow suit. It’s also ok to stand out as well. It can be a great conversation starter of some properly”. says Sadia Seymour —Fashion Stylist and CEO of Behind The Rack
Since the Bronze age, belts have appeared on the menswear scene. Like many articles of men’s apparel, they were associated with the military uniform. In fact, a high-ranking officer wearing a good belt looks strong and polished.Tightly cinched belts had given the officers a trim look while emphasizing wide shoulders and strong chest.
Before the 1920’s belts mostly served as a decorative item. But ever since then, trousers waists fell to a lower line on the body. Subsequently, pants were made with belt loops and the rest is history.
Whether your aim is to dress for success at the office or flex big time on the golf course, it is important to know that the proper width of a belt should be scaled to the width of the belt loops on the trouser. Just ask Torino Leather Company. Not only is this brand the premier U.S. manufacturer of fine belts and leather goods, but it is proud to call New Orleans home. The factory is located along the Mississippi River in New Orleans. For me, it is refreshing to see businesses developing great craftsmanship made right here in the USA! Taking pride in American made fashion and creating jobs gives one a sense of promise.
You see, the rich heritage New Orleans possesses packs the punch with old world craftsmanship and a whole lotta southern spice. What makes a torino belt special is that the artisans have developed the skills needed to perform handmade operations. For example, custom burnishing, antiquing and even hand sewn whip-stitching. In a word, The American artisans take great pride in their work by expertly cutting, sewing and burnishing fine leathers and exotic skins from around the world into highly coveted belts and wallets. Known for their versatility, durability and quality, it is no coincidence that each belt is handmade by a group of artisans— who’ve been with the company a minimum of 11 years.
“Our belts are about handcrafted quality. We make sure the belts are enduring style-wise, fashion-wise and longevity-wise,” affirms Tom Garner, Torino’s managing director. “We also pride ourselves on being an efficient company with an emphasis on customer service.”
On August 23rd 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck hard and Torino Leather Company faced great challenges rebounding. The original factory, located in New Orleans East, was under water for six weeks. Evacuating the factory, employees also faced damaged homes and lost belongings. But the cloud always has a silver lining. After the hurricane, Garner and three other employees purchased the company from the owner, who decided to retire. They quickly found a new location and reopened for business. “Every day we experienced disappointments. For a while it was just the four of us working here; eventually everyone returned. Tenacity is what helped us to come back,” Garner explains with much pride.
I had a chance to chat with Tom Garner managing director at Torino Leather Company about why comfort is a key element, why he believes the spirit flows through everything they do and why he believes that American made isn’t a changing fad; rather, it is a way of life for them!
Joseph DeAcetis: Considering the fashion preferences of the traditional man, wasn’t it risky to introduce belts featuring orange, red and green…
Tom Garner: Not at all because men’s attitudes toward fashion have changed dramatically and are driven by many changes in how we live our lives and conduct our business. Our lifestyles project the world we live in now with all of the changes. Comfort is a key element now and there are many new technical fabrics being used to enhance comfort. This isn’t new; 10 years ago casual Friday happened for a reason. Men wanted alternatives to wearing a suit and tie 5 days a week. This has grown since then and has exploded as we learn to do business virtually. Color is a vital part of every wardrobe. Even the most conservative guys want a little zip to spice up their look today.
JD: Many designers and brands are currently focusing on a distinctly American spirit in their collections. Does that indicate a renaissance of originality in American menswear? Do you envision a return to menswear made in the USA?
TG: Yes indeed. We have a red/white/blue braided stretch belt in our line this season named the “Patriot”. Our products are made right here in the USA in New Orleans and we think this is a big plus. Customers know how difficult this past year has been for us all and want to support companies that are trying to make it. For Torino Leather, American made isn’t a changing fad; rather, it is a way of life for us. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our employees, our community and our customers to make products we can all be proud and Made in the USA.
JD: Talk to Forbes about what it means to you to design and manufacturer Torino belts in the USA?
TG: Our history here is rich. Torino Leather Company was born from the devastation left behind by hurricane Katrina back in 2005. We survived the economic tsunami of 2008 and the BP oil spill of 2010 and now the economic disaster created by the spread of covid. Through it all, we have remained positive and committed to success. It just makes sense, we have skilled artisans that are family to us and make our products with love and compassion. You can feel it walking through the factory talking to our people. This gives us all a kinship that is powerful and translates to our customers.
It also gives us better control of the manufacturing process. We are here every day, we see what is being made and we can react to any needs or issues in real time. That is a huge advantage for us. Finally, we all live here and love New Orleans!
JD: In your words, in dressing for corporate success, what makes wearing a belt important in one’s overall look?
TG:Dressing for corporate success remains very important. The old adage, Get up, Dress up, Show up, can’t be emphasized enough. Looking ones best at all times is critical because you never know where your next major business relationship with happen. Wearing a belt that complements ones business look is essential and shows attention to detail. Aspiring to success requires many different looks that work together and the belt completes the look no matter if it is in the boardroom or on the golf course. Relationships happen everywhere and looking right matters.
JD: In your own words, what separates Torino belts than any other belt for a man to purchase?
TG: To begin with, our story of survival through some of the most difficult times says a lot about our character. Through it all, we remain positive and focused on moving forward.
We work extremely hard to make quality products and are focused on doing what we do best, making the best belts anywhere. We love New Orleans and take great pride in seeing our artisans happy and successful! Our spirit flows through everything we do and we hope our customers feel it just a little in what they buy from Torino Leather. Our story is real and compelling and once understood, our customers rarely leave us.
JD: What should a consumer be looking for in a well-made belt?
TG: This question comes up often primarily because customers are unclear of how a belt is made. The process is as important as the materials used. Our belts are the result of 45 individual steps with quality control all along the way. We use the finest leather available and our artisans have many years of experience. Great care is taken to achieve the correct body in each belt so that flexibility and touch are correct. The feel of each leather is different as is the thickness and requires our artisans to work the leather so that the finished product isn’t too stiff (boardiness) or too soft (pliability), Too stiff, uncomfortable. Too soft, stretches with decreased wear characteristics. It is impossible to know the effort that goes into our products without visiting the factory and seeing our artisans in action, however, if it has the Torino Leather logo on it, know you are getting the best quality available anywhere.
JD: Can you give Forbes readers some advice on what type of belts to wear with office-wear such as: Should a belt match a man’s shoes? What belt does a man wear with luxury sneakers for the office?
TG: Excellent question, a man’s belt is one of his most personal wardrobe accessories. It makes a statement and enhances ones vibe so care should be given when choosing it. Most men try to tie their shoes into the look by picking the belt that helps. Not so perfectly matched but similar in style and feel. Suede sneakers in navy with a contrast topstitch may call for a similar navy suede belt. It all depends on the total look. Be open to a variety of colorful belt looks. We divide our belt categories into exotics, dressy elegance, dress casual, cool casual, resort casual and all work for office wear depending on the office environment.
JD: In your words, what is the absolute must have belt from Torino and why as a common forgotten or less prioritized men’s product, why do you feel that belts can make or break an outfit?
TG: Absolutely the belt completes the outfit! Belts have become the “It” accessory for men and are becoming more popular each year. The well dressed man understands the importance of a belt as an integral part of his wardrobe. That being said our American Alligator belt is the most coveted and immediately makes a statement when worn. There is nothing like the feel a man has while wearing an Alligator belt. He gains swag and has a positive vibe that is difficult to quantify. It is instinctive! All men should own a Torino Leather American Alligator belt!