The Three Tiers of Leather Accessory Makers – Entry, Mid, and End Level
Back when I was an intern at Rising Sun & Co., someone tossed me a wallet that had been lying around. A simple, masculine bifold wallet made from what I later learned was leather from America’s oldest existing tannery, Horween Leather. Three years later it’s still in my back pocket, beautifully patina-ed and ever so slightly blue from years of indigo transfer.
But for most of us, your first high-quality leather accessory isn’t simply handed to you and it’s almost never free. What follows is an attempt to give you a look (albeit a somewhat cursory one) at the wild world of leather accessories. This shall hopefully act as a road map for those of you who wish to pair your great jeans with an equally great wallet or watch band, something that will age and transform just as your favorite raws do.
For those of you just beginning your journey into our world or for those ready to level up to the next tier, we hope to highlight a handful of talented designers whose work with leather makes them a standout at their price point (here we’ve pegged that to the maker’s price for a basic wallet). There is nothing inherently “better” or “worse” about any of the products or brands on this list, it is purely a matter of budget and personal preference.
Entry Level (Sub $120)
While the best is yet to come in the next two tiers, there are many eligible designers making products in the sub $120 range. Simple, minimal designs reign supreme at this level, which is honestly pretty cool. The leathers are often plain veg tans and machine-cut en masse.
But as you can see from the wallet from Corter Leather above, they can sure age well. But they may not last forever! Synthetic nylon stitching is more common in this entry level, which won’t compromise the strength of your new wallet as much as your perceived sense of authenticity.
Accessories at this price point tend to have plain leathers, many are veg-tan, like the wallet from Corter above or the one from Indonesian brand, LTHRKFT,below. Veg-tan may not be the most prestigious leather, but with it you arguably get the most bang for your buck, or at least the most drastic fades. Frequent wear dramatically darkens the leather.
Our picks for the entry tier range widely in price, but all are relatively easy on your (brand new) wallet. Corter Leather’s basic bifold wallets sell for about $100 and, made in New England, and are available at their website. And because they’re so goddamn affordable, the LTHRKRFT wallets make the cut as well, with their basic bifold selling for around $34.
Notable brands at this tier include:
Mid Level ($120-$300)
At this tier, everything starts to change. The leathers get more interesting and are often stitched with natural fibers like linen or even tendon. There are fewer unfinished edges and the accessories have a little more panache and elegance. And at this higher price point, we’re looking at more than keychains, cardholders, and wallets.
At this tier, we begin to see more hand-stitching and elaborate designs, which are two of the hallmarks of nicer leather accessories.
Tanner Goods is a brand that straddles the line between entry and mid-tier, with some of its card-holders and keychains happening to be a bit less expensive. They have earned immense popularity because of their products’ versatility and strength. Because of the construction, they are most certainly a mid-tier brand and a good way to transition from entry to mid, if you are so inclined.
The treatment of the leather becomes more refined at this higher tier. Teranishi, the brand pictured above, experiments with indigo dyeing and even sashiko stitching their leather. The dopp kit and wallet above should change in very interesting ways as both the light leather and indigo dye transform over time.
Our pick at this tier is the Tradesman Wallet from Tanner Goods, which is available for $190 and is an excellent exemplar of mid-tier leather accessories.
Brands from this tier include:
- Obbi Good Label
- Second Nature
- Tanner Goods
- Winter Session
End Level ($300+)
If you’re here, then your leather accessory journey is almost complete. You want the very best. And that’s what the end tier is all about. Made by only the most exhaustive and discerning brands, these products are almost entirely hand-stitched from 100% natural stitching. It is in this tier that you’ll find the world’s best leathers and most meticulous detailing.
While all the accessories featured are beautiful, it is in the end tier that one can truly see the effort and care that can and should go into a piece. These pieces are made from the very best by the very best and it shows in their notably higher price tag.
Some, like the Flat Head wallet above feature two kinds of leather. This has a steerhide exterior and a pigskin interior, all of which, is totally hand-stitched.
There is no shortage of end-tier leather makers to choose from. In fact, it seems at this tier, to choose an accessory seems even more challenging. That being said, my choice of a subtle wallet in the end tier would be one from Iron Heart available for $550 from Self Edge.
Brands in this tier include:
- The Blackacre
- The Flat Head
- Himel Bros.
- Hollows Leather
- Il Bisonte
- Iron Heart
- Studio D’Artisan