Thursday, 28 February 2013

Anson Belt & Buckle Review: Part 1

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Note to readers: This review is outdated but I've kept it in its original form for information. There are two things you should keep in mind as you read on:

  1. This review is based on my initial experiences and opinions only. To see my thoughts after wearing the belt for a year, read my follow-up post. 
  2. Anson Belt & Buckle has made some changes since I made my purchase. They report that they have changed suppliers and improved the quality of their belt straps, so belts bought today won't be quite the same as the ones I reviewed. They also now advertise 100% satisfaction and a lifetime guarantee. 
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I came across this website and thought to myself "what a great idea." (Note that these guys don't claim to be the innovators here. They freely admit to seeing this technology abroad first.) Since I needed a couple of new belts anyway, I decided to place an order. This is how my experience went:

Ordering
I ordered "Gift Box D" in the evening of 17 February 2013. The ordering process was quick and easy and I immediately received an automated confirmation email which included my order number and the invoice details.

Shipping
I received a second email the following morning, informing me that my order had been shipped. Included in this second email was my United States Postal Service tracking number and URL taking me directly to the package tracking page on the USPS website. The package was delivered on 28 February 2013. The box came both well-presented and well-packaged, especially when you consider that it wasn't exactly fragile... just two strips of leather and a few pieces of metal.
Anson Belt box
Well-packed box in a box
Anson Belt box 2
Wax seal was probably a little much
Anson buckle box
Buckle in a padded display box
Anson belt bag
Belt in a silky microfibre bag
The Product
The buckles look nice from afar. However, close inspection reveals plenty of small flaws in the shiny plating.
Flaws in the plated surface of the buckle.
Granted, people won't be inspecting my belt so closely, but it is a bit of a concern because it could indicate that the plating can't handle any abuse. If that's the case, the plating would flake off with use, gradually revealing a darker, dull metal underneath. I am impressed with the simplicity of the buckles. There are only a few moving parts, which is often a good thing on any device because it means fewer things can go wrong. It only took me about 30 seconds to figure out how the whole thing works, so it'd be easy to fix if one of the smaller parts happens to break in the future. The buckle lever is held closed with a magnet rather than a spring, which is simpler and should make it much more durable than any spring-loaded mechanism. You'd have to manage to lose or demagnetize the magnet for the closure to stop working. It would've been nice if the pin for the buckle lever wasn't quite so loose in its bearings. I feel like the large amount of play in the lever makes the thing seem cheap. It was probably done to keep manufacturing costs down (it's faster and easier to slip an undersized pin into a hole). They're charging $25 USD per buckle, so the loose-fitting, cheap-feeling lever seems out of place.

I was a little disappointed in the colour of the brown belt. It's a few shades darker than I had expected. The contrast between the black and brown straps was less than the photos on the website had suggested.
Anson belt straps
Brown belt on the right.
Photo was taken with no flash in regular lighting.
Anson belt gift box D
What the website's photo shows.
Probably taken using a flash or bright studio lighting.
Seeing the words "Made in China" on the leather was also an unwelcome surprise considering the price of these belts. They sell the straps for $30 USD, which puts a complete belt at over $50. Top-grain leather belts can be found relatively easily at the same price point, and you can also get some pretty decent belts in genuine English or Italian leather. You can even get full-grain cowhide belts for less if you know where to look (full-grain is the best and most durable grade of leather), though for only $50 it might be poorly finished. I had taken the price and this guy's review to be a bit of an assurance of the quality of the leather when placing the order. I suppose it's my own fault for not contacting a sales rep first. "100% Leather" is stamped into the strap, but I know that can be a misleading statement on a product from China. I decided to dissect one of the trimmed ends.
Trimmed end of the black belt cut open and separated to expose laminae.
As you can see, the belt's made from laminated leather. Laminated leather is to leather what finish-grade plywood is to lumber. The thin outer sheets look nice, but inside you've got layers of the cheaper, lower-quality stuff. The only worse type of leather product is bonded leather, which is basically like particleboard; pieces and fibers of low-quality leather fused together. The middle layer here felt more like a tougher synthetic core than a strip of leather.

However, it's not all bad news. The fact that the belt is adjustable in 6 mm increments is a definite plus. The ratcheting system will probably prevent the kind of damage to the belt's tongue that you get over time on a traditional belt. The stitching does look good and durable. I had a good overall impression of the belt when I first took it out of all that packaging. I've certainly had worse belts (though they also didn't cost so much). As far as laminated leather belts go, these look and feel really good.

Both leather straps were 51" long. I used one of the trimmed pieces for the dissection above and the other to run a little experiment on the durability of the belt. I'll post a follow-up when that experiment's over.

Despite all of the issues I've pointed out, I'd say that I am pleased with how the belts look. I'll have to wait to see how durable the belts really are before I decide if they're worth the price.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Adam,
    My name is David Ferree with Anson Belt & Buckle. I ran across your review, and just wanted to say thank you for order! I did notice a couple things that were incorrect though and wanted to bring them to your attention. Our individual straps and buckles actually sell for $24.95 and and a complete belt for $49.90. I think you noted $30 for a strap and over $50 for a complete belt. We also have a Lifetime Guarantee which I don't think you mentioned. If there is every a problem that arises with the functionality or premature wearing of the strap we will replace it for free, for life...which should take care of any worries a potential customer may have when considering ordering our belts.

    I think that overall your feeling and perception of our product was a positive one, but with any review a potential customer is only going to remeber the few negative notations. I just hope those few negatives don't turn off a potential customer from giving our belts a try. As a small business (just my father and I) it's reviews from customers that we depend on. Most of our reviews are found on our site and have been rave. My worry is though that anyone searching Google is going to see your review as one of the first hits and maybe turned off by your perceived skepticism of the quality. I would love to hear what you think about them now that you have had time to wear them for awhile. As always we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so if for any reason you are not completely satisfied with them you can return them for a full refund. Again, thank you for your purchase...as well as your review of our product. We love to hear feedback from our customers, good or bad. If you have any questions or need anything at all please feel free to contact me at david@ansonbelt.com. Have a good afternoon and take care!

    Best,

    David Ferree
    Anson Belt & Buckle
    Vice President / Co-founder

    ReplyDelete
  2. This review seems to be trying to find a negative where a negative does NOT exist!! I'm a customer of Anson belts and in having the belts and buckles for 6 months+ now I've been nothing but impressed.
    I'm in Canada and had a belt I bought in Dubai years ago with teeth for variable fitting vs the annoying belt holes. I was devastated when that belt broke but ecstatic when I found Anson belts. I had the product shipped to me which was quick and the quality is outstanding.

    I've recommended this product to many colleagues and friends and I'd expect Anson to be getting some Christmas orders coming from Calgary, Canada!! I know all friend's and colleagues who do order will be as happy as I am.

    This is a positive/positive product and reading the above review was just stupid. The cup is VERY full on this product and I'm very happy to support a great product from a family run business.

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    Replies
    1. Alex, I see no reason for your disparaging remarks. Did you even bother to read Part 2? Or the disclaimer at the beginning of Part 1?

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  3. thanks for the review

    knowing that they use cheap leather made me nope out of wasting my money

    they should make it clear on their website that it's "genuine leather"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment!

      As far as genuine leather goes though, they're pretty good. If you like the idea of owning a ratcheting belt, then I do recommend Anson Belt.

      But if you're more concerned with the quality of the strap and you're fine with the traditional prong and holes, I'd recommend you go elsewhere because you can get top-grain leather at a similar price point.

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    2. David Ferree here with Anson Belt & Buckle. I'm so sorry for the confusion, this review is from 2013. Over the past 4 years we have continued to improve on our product and have upgraded our leather straps to a premium full grain leather front with a genuine leather backing. We have a 100% satisfaction guarentee so if for any reason you're not completely satisfied with your belt we will always accept it back for a full refund. Thank you for your interest in our belts and I'm so sorry for the confusion!

      David Ferree
      Co-founder

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    3. Good to hear David, when I finally wear these ones out I'll be back to buy new ones.

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  4. I have two Ansonbelts. I'm pleased as hell with them. I gotta say one had an small flaw and Ansonbelts answered my email in less that 10 minutes and offered replacement of not the unit that has an small flaw but both.
    To me for the price-quality, I'm more than pleased and with that customer service care, man, you can't find many like that now a days.
    Family own company trying to get their project to grow, with that level of customer service, I'll give them a chance. I read Part Two, happy to know that belts hold the abuse.

    ReplyDelete