There’s one essential element that can make or break any Western outfit—the belt. Styles from a concho belt to a turquoise embellished buckle can add the perfect flare to an otherwise basic look. Even a plain leather belt doesn’t have to be boring—a custom-made piece makes an impression and can showcase something special, like a cattle brand.
Makers from around the country offer shoppers a variety of belt options to personalize their Western wear for every occasion. Some offer a stock of handmade goods, while others are created upon order. Either way, as soon as that custom belt arrives, it instantly becomes a staple in the shopper’s closet.
Learn more about these five makers who have poured creativity into perfecting their craft and offering shoppers high-quality, handmade, and customizable Western belts.
Brit West Wild West Belt Series
A rancher and former outfitter, Brittain West found her purpose when she launched “Brit West” more than 24 years ago. Merging her love of the authentic Western lifestyle and her former career modeling in high fashion, Brit created a line of jewelry, accessories, and attire that blends staples of Western décor—like leather, turquoise, and fringe—with her desire to produce high quality, American-made goods.
“Our Wild West belt series are neat three-inch-wide vintage leather, and all of them are cool,” says Brit, who is based near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “I just love our vintage leather pieces. Those have been the pinnacle of my business.”
Brit finds turquoise through her Native American contacts and hand picks the pieces that adorn each accessory. Shop the Wild West series and find an enviable accessory for every turquoise lover at britwest.net.
D. Burke Designs Concho Belt
Deborah Burke always had a desire for repurposing. Today her D. Burke Designs, based in Saratoga, Wyoming, take porcelain plates with unique designs, break them, and crafts them into one-of-a-kind, wearable pieces.
“I love to go antiquing, and when I would find vintage plates, I just had this vision to turn them into jewelry,” Burke reveals. “It wasn’t until many years later when I learned the craft of silversmithing that I was able to follow through on that dream.”
She creates pendants and leather-backed cuffs, but the real showstoppers are her concho belts. Whether it’s created from a set of plates showcasing a state or a conchos adorned with old-time cowgirls, the silver-edged plates on a leather Western belt start a conversation. Shop at dburkedesignjewelry.com.
Desert Sage Bead Art
A quick glance at Kathleen Brannon’s Desert Sage Bead Art belts doesn’t suffice to take in the depth of her design work. The beauty of intricately placed beads, straight lines, and rich colors carry a deeper meaning for the creator.
“I’ve have been studying ancient motifs and petrology since I was very young,” Brannan explains. “The subject matter of most of my work is ancient symbols. I simply recreate them in contemporary form.
“My work maintains the integrity of color and symbolism used by the ancients on rugs and pottery, as the motifs are simply transformed into contemporary bead art cuff bracelets and belts,” she continues. “Having lived in southwestern deserts for most of my life, I am inspired by the simplicity of its colors.”
Brannan, from Sparks, Nevada, creates designs of her own making and works with clients to bring their visions to life, including patterns that symbolize strength, peace, comfort, and more. Shop at desertsagebeadart.com.
Twisted K Leather Customizables
Working on a cowcamp, Kristin Allen learned how to build working gear that she needed for her job. Today, the leather maker is based in Arizona’s San Tan Valley and uses her craft to make truly personalized leather products, including Western belts.
“My designs are mostly inspired by the things I’ve seen when I was cowboying for a living,” Allen reveals. “I love the natural world. What’s more interesting than beautiful scenery with cows and horses in it? I also get a lot of inspiration from fellow leather artists and a lot of oil painters. There’s also a handful of Navajo artists who have a very unique style. Just looking at their work makes me feel the drive to create.”
With vibrant colors, complex tooling and rich, supple leather, Allen’s belts and other products serve a purpose while allowing the owner to show personal style. Shop at desertsagebeadart.com.
Joey Jemison Custom Leather Creations
When it comes to custom leather work, Joey Jemison has set the bar for quality and craftsmanship. A renowned maker of chaps, tack, and accessories, Jemison, who lives in Weatherford, Texas, with his wife Connie, has been in the business since 1971.
“I was tired of seeing the same old same old leather designs, like basket stamp, and I went looking for different tools—the stamp tools we use,” Jemison shares. “To this day, I am always looking for something unique and eye-catching. We do custom, and to me, custom is when it is one-of-a-kind or personalized with initials on the tip. But a lot of people consider what we do with every piece custom. It is a quality, handmade product.”
At his store, customers can walk in from the street and pick up one of the belts kept in stock because Jemison recognizes that some people don’t want to wait for a purchase. Be it dark leather, light leather, traditional basketweave, or Sheridan-style florals, Jemison carries it all. He also crafts custom Western belts that are made to order. Shop his full supply and variety at joey-jemison.com.
This article about finding your perfect western belt appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Western Life Today magazine. Click here to subscribe!
5a & 5b – Photos courtesy Kristin Allen