Don’t Mourn, Organize!

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Despite ever-climbing prices in fashion, there are still some things that remain both good and affordable. For the kind of rugged belts you might want to wear with jeans, Scott Willis over at Don’t Mourn Organize makes some of the best around. His company’s name comes from the old pro-labor rallying cry of Joe Hill. A miner and labor organizer, Hill was framed for murder and sentenced to death in the early 20th century. In the days leading up to his execution, he sent a message to his friend Bill Haywood (co-founder of the IWW), where he wrote: “Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!” Those would be memorable last words, except Hill later followed with another telegram. It was a much more pragmatic message that read: “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

Scott says he started his company around the ideals of the labor movement – honest prices for honest labor. It sounds hokey in today’s glut of pseudo-heritage marketing, but I find that he does indeed offer great value. Much of what he makes suits the kind of rugged jackets and boots one might wear with raw denim. All over-the-top in terms of durability, and appreciable in how they age over time. 

Most of his belts, for example, are made from skirting leather, which is a kind of thick, vegetable tanned cowhide. When it’s been left “raw,” it’s called saddle leather. When it has some oils and waxes to it, it becomes harness leather. When it has even more oils and waxes added, it becomes bridle. All three are called so because of they’re typically used for – to make horse saddles, harnesses, and bridle reins. They’re incredibly durable and strong materials (as they need to be for horse riding), but they differ in terms of their finishing. The less finishing, the more character a leather will develop as it ages. 

Last year, I bought a harness leather belt from Scott. It came in a pale beige color, but has since darkened to a nice golden brown. All it took was some regular wear and several applications of Obenauf’s LP. After that, I bought a double-layer horsehide belt with a decorative “Clint” stitch. That too has darkened nicely with age. Then, this past month, I decided to go for the most evolution-prone material – saddle leather. One is pale beige; the other has been hand-stained brown. Unlike leather that has been traditionally dyed at the tannery, hand-staining allows scuffs and scratches to show more (since all the coloring is just at the surface). Perfect for the kind of evolution one hopes to see in Scott’s products. 

Scott’s belts start at $65. Most don’t exceed $75, and that includes shipping. He also makes wallets and bags, and like with the key fob you see below, is available for custom jobs. Prices for those things will depend on the amount of work involved, but like with everything else I’ve seen from him, I assume they’re both good and affordable. 

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