Custom-made white alligator leather baseball by Comstock Heritage

A few years ago, one of my co-workers found out about my intriguing affinity towards collecting exotic leather goods, and once the news spread, I was referred to as the “leather guy” for a little while. But since then, because of the fact that work has substantially ramped up and I’ve been traveling a lot since the beginning of the pandemic, I haven’t really added anything new to my collection, and the hype died down.

I like my exotic leather goods to be functional. For example, I frequently wear a stingray belt because of its durability and how ef­fectively it serves as a sturdy gun belt, and I carry a stingray wallet daily (and get uncomfortable comments once in a while from people with trypophobia).

However, there is only so much of your life you can turn into high-quality leather. With all my belts, my boots, and even my office chair back at home being made of full-grain leather, I wanted to start getting creative.

 
As a young kid, I loved watching baseball. At one point, I’m pretty sure I had the entire roster of the Chicago Cubs memorized (and a majority of the Chicago White Sox too), and I would tune in to watch baseball every time a local team was playing. But just as quickly as I had gained interest in the sport, I became disinterested, and I barely watched it ever again for some mysterious reason that I still don’t know to this day.

Not too long ago, I saw some baseball highlight videos pop up in my recommendations on YouTube, and it gave me flashbacks of my childhood and got me thinking. Back then, little Adam would’ve loved to have some baseball memorabilia from his favorite baseball players. As part of my mission to do everything during adulthood that I’ve always wanted to do as a child but never had the opportunity to do, I decided that a baseball would be my next exotic leather good.

In a similar process as I did for my other leather goods, I went scouting for a leathercrafter. During my search, I found a company called Comstock Her­it­age that already had alligator leather baseballs for sale. I reached out to them and arranged a custom order.

 
Usually, baseballs have the manufacturer, a professional team, and a player’s signature engraved or debossed into the surface. Little Adam would’ve wanted a Chicago Cubs baseball, but adult Adam doesn’t care about baseball players. However, I felt like having a blank baseball would be boring, so I came up with an alternative.

Although I’m not a fan of baseball players, what I am a fan of are great leathercrafters. So, in place of the aforementioned three items, I requested them to be substituted with the company’s name, the leathercrafter’s signature, and some information detailing the creation of the baseball.

What I was going for here was, if you look at the baseball from far away, it just looks like a plain old normal baseball, but once you get closer, you realize that the leather is alligator instead of cow or horse, and the markings are relevant to the actual creation of this particular baseball, as opposed to ref­er­encing the general sport of baseball.

 
This is how the final product came out:

This ended up being exactly as I had hoped, which I think is a fairly large compliment in itself, considering how unrealistically high my standards usually are.

The density of the core feels exactly like what I’d expect from a real baseball. The stitching is flawless throughout. The grooves of the alligator skin appears to have made the debossing and ink fill process a bit more difficult, but the leathercrafter still tackled that challenge well. The texture of the gator is dynamic, and the baseball contains everything from the extra wrinkly segments to the broader and smoother panels.

With the extra customization options, as well as sales tax for being in-state, this ended up costing a little bit over US$350. If you’re interested in pur­chas­ing your own, Comstock Heritage has hand-crafted alligator baseballs listed in their online shop.

 
Going back to the note about me liking my exotic leather goods to be functional, yes, I realize that I am most likely not going to be throwing around this particular baseball and playing catch with it (… or am I?). With that being said, once I purchase a baseball display stand, I think this is going to serve as a very nice desk decoration, and I’m very satisfied with my purchase.

 
Note: I was not compensated in any manner for this review and do not plan to accept any compensation offers after-the-fact. Comstock Heritage was not provided with an opportunity to read or revise this blog post prior to publication.

 

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“Do you own any normal belts?”

Yes, in fact, I do.

 
That question was obviously a result of my recent blog post about my Indonesian stingray rowstone belt, in which I also referenced my white smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt, both belts being made out of unusually exotic leathers.

Now I definitely think that stingray and crocodile fall in the realm of “normal” when considering types of belts, but when other people say “normal,” I imagine they’re thinking about less exotic leathers, like cowhide. I have an Italian full grain leather belt hand-crafted in Rutland, England by the British Belt Company, which they designed as part of a partnership with Massdrop.

Italian full grain leather belt by Massdrop × British Belt Company

Italian full grain leather belt by Massdrop × British Belt Company

Italian full grain leather belt by Massdrop × British Belt Company

I actually got this belt for free because Massdrop (today known as just “Drop”) used to be partnered with Tempo Storm, and as part of the partnership, they sent me a care package with a bunch of Massdrop goodies.

Back when they first sent me my samples, I did an unboxing and review of the Jessica GMK Plum custom keycap set and GMK Carbon add-on keycap kit, as well as a photoshoot and review of the NuForce EDC in-ear monitors. I was planning on doing a review of this belt as well, but Massdrop ended up not renewing their partnership with Tempo Storm, so I never actually got around to doing it.

I used to wear this belt a lot when jeans were my pants of choice a few years ago—I would throw on this natural brown leather belt and wear brown leather boots to match.

Nowadays, I’ve gotten quite a liking for slim-fit, ultra stretchy, Asian-made biker pants. They look slightly stiff and bulky on the outside, which makes them seem uncomfortable considering how tight they fit, but they’re actually the most comfortable and flexible pants I’ve ever worn. A vegetable-tanned, natural brown leather belt doesn’t really match too well with those kinds of pants, which is why I opted for black and white exotic skins.

Regardless, the Italian leather belt is actually really nice. One of my favorite features about leather products is when the clean cuts are shown on the sides and aren’t covered up in any kind of glazing or edge paint; this belt by the British Belt Company shows those raw cuts. It also has an everlasting aroma of leather (I got this belt over two years ago and it still has the rich, pleasant leather smell), and it’s one of those leathers that develops a gorgeous patina over time.

I believe you can snag one of these for less than $50, which makes it one of the most affordable leather products in my wardrobe, and if you’re a new leather goods enthusiast (or one on a tight budget), this is definitely a great starter item.

Although I don’t actively wear mine anymore, I’ll be keeping it safely stored in my closet, because my dress preferences will almost certainly change as time goes on, and this belt may compliment some of my preferred outfits again in the future.

 

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Indonesian stingray rowstone belt by Jacob Hill Leather Co.

I published a blog post yesterday titled “I got myself a new stingray wallet” where I explained why I got rid of my Louis Vuitton Gaspar Wallet made out of canvas and replaced it with a custom-ordered, hand-crafted leather wallet with stingray exterior and kangaroo interior. After posting, one of the ques­tions I got was how I knew I would like stingray.

There’s actually a very simple and straightforward answer to that. Early this year, I purchased a white smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt from Jacob Hill Leather Co., and after I received that belt and was satisfied with it, I made a repeat purchase.

The next purchase I made with Jacob Hill Leather Co. was an Indonesian stingray rowstone belt. It was made with the same level of high-quality ma­te­ri­als as my crocodile belt, and after feeling the stingray skin, I knew that stingray would be my leather of choice.

Indonesian stingray rowstone belt

Indonesian stingray rowstone belt

Indonesian stingray rowstone belt

Indonesian stingray rowstone belt

You may notice that this stingray looks noticeably different than the stingray that I posted yesterday on my wallet. My wallet is made out of completely polished stingray (to create an entirely smooth and mirror-like finish), while my belt only has the center rowstone area polished. That means that the center is similar to my wallet, but the outer edges of the belt are far more bumpy.

If you were to run your finger down the sides of the belt (the black part), it would feel close to extremely coarse sandpaper with extremely low grit, but with each of the nodes being much larger and not as aggravating as real sandpaper. It’s not exactly painful to the touch, but if you apply enough pres­sure, it will definitely make the stingray push into your skin.

As a reminder, the little bumps on stingray skin are made out of calcium deposits. Stingray leather doesn’t quite get affected by a traditional patina, but the way that stingray does undergo a patina-like process is when the belt is used enough that day-to-day wear will grind down on the calcium a tiny bit such that it sort of creates a natural, subtle polish on the remainder of the belt.

This grinding process obviously only happens when the belt comes into contact with harder materials though, and your pants definitely are not harder than stingray. As a result, a little bit of extra care is needed when wearing stingray belts as to not damage your belt loops—this belt isn’t just going to smoothly slide off your waist with little effort. At first it was a bit inconvenient, but it barely takes several extra seconds, it’s easy to get used to it, and it ultimately will be a non-factor once the belt goes through its “patina” evolution.

Another question I got about stingray is how the texture doesn’t “weird me out.” I imagine that this question is in reference to trypophobia, or the fear of the sight of clusters of small holes or bumps, especially on the human skin. Even though having some form of trypophobia is actually considered bio­log­i­cal­ly normal, my senses don’t actually really respond too much to trypophobia-triggering patterns, and I usually only have any kind of reaction at all when I see those pictures of a lotus seed head Photoshopped onto someone’s face.

So, apologies in advance if you’re with me in-person and I take out my wallet or you get a glimpse of my belt and you’re repulsed, but I think stingray skin is mesmerizing. I would get more stingray belts, but I very recently spent US$359 on the wallet I posted about yesterday, so I’m on my “exotic leather goods cooldown period” so I don’t end up spending an irresponsible amount of money on luxury products.

 

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I got myself a new stingray wallet

If you’ve spent any time with me in-person recently, you may have noticed that I’ve been using a Louis Vuitton wallet for a little while. The wallet I had in particular was the Louis Vuitton Gaspar Wallet in Monogram Macassar canvas, which goes for about US$500.00 today on Louis Vuitton’s website.

I wanted to switch wallets for a few reasons:

  1. My Louis Vuitton wallet drew too much unwanted attention.

    I’m usually someone who wants to go unnoticed so people don’t bother me, and I failed to realize that having a Louis Vuitton wallet draws at­ten­tion from people who have an interest in designer goods. It also draws at­ten­tion from people who don’t have an interest in designer goods, and they don’t realize that having a canvas Louis Vuitton wallet is probably one of the most entry-level designer pieces anyone can own, so they instead assume that I’m too rich for my own good.

  2. After using a Louis Vuitton wallet, I realized that I no longer want to support the brand.

    Louis Vuitton is an extremely overrated brand for the products they make and the price point at which they sell them. Some people don’t realize this, but Louis Vuitton canvas is literally a cotton canvas that’s coated with a type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, better known by its abbre­vi­a­tion, PVC. The company claims that it’s more durable, but I’ve faced issues of the canvas cracking, while I’ve never faced an issue like that with full-grain leather. Even the quality of the edge glaze is poor and peels off too easily with normal use.

  3. I wanted to use an actual nice wallet, and one that was custom-designed and unique.

    I don’t really spend that much money, so when I do, I like to buy high-quality products that are long-lasting, luxurious, and nice to the touch. There’s no doubting that a nice, well-treated, full-grain leather product is far more pleasant to feel than PVC-coated canvas, so I wanted something made out of top-tier leather. I also wanted something that was custom-made specifically for me so I would know that nobody else in the world has something exactly like mine (which obviously wouldn’t be possible by just buying a pre-made Louis Vuitton wallet).

After making this decision, I had to decide on two things before moving forward: what kind of leather I wanted, and which leatherworker I wanted to make my wallet for me.

For the type of leather, I decided on stingray. Stringray skin is extremely durable, often considered to be about 25 times stronger than regular cowhide leather that most people’s normal leather wallets are made of. Stringray has a very unique texture, and most people don’t own anything made out of stringray. Stringray—especially polished stingray—is also one of the most difficult skins to counterfeit, so it decreases the chances of someone else having a “fake version” of the wallet that I have.

As for the leatherworker, this discovery process basically just involved me going online and researching as many leatherworkers and leatherworking shops as I could find until I came across one that had experience working with stingray skin. I realized that even finding someone willing to work with stingray at all was difficult enough to begin with, as stingray is a tougher skin to craft so most people don’t even try, so finding someone well-versed at it was nearly impossible.

Eventually, I came across a father/daughter/son-in-law family of leatherworkers who run a company called Wilburn Forge. I noticed that they already had some stingray products on their store, and when I zoomed into the high-resolution photos, the attention to detail was fantastic. The exterior was made with polished stingray, the interior was made out of kan­ga­roo, and the whole thing was stitched together with Ritza Tiger thread, allegedly the best thread in the world.

I reached out to Francesca Wilburn-Ritchie and asked for a custom version of the stingray wallet available on the website. I requested black polished stingray, black kan­ga­roo, and black thread; I wanted the wallet to have six credit card slots, two hidden pockets, one cash slot with no divider, and a side-swinging ID slot. The price we agreed on was US$359.00, which I think was an absolutely amazing deal for me.

Because this was a special order with custom color requests, Francesca had to reach out to her leather and skin supplier in Thailand to custom-order the materials, which meant I had to wait almost two months to actually receive the wallet. But, it was definitely worth it. The wallet arrived about a month or so ago, and I’ve been using it since then. It’s actually somehow been better than what I expected.

Stingray wallet

Stingray wallet

Stingray wallet

So, to get the two obvious questions out of the way:

I mentioned that I wanted black stingray, so why is it white? Well, the stingray skin started as all black, but stingray skin has calcium deposits on it, which is what gives it the beady feel. When the stingray is polished, the calcium deposits are sanded down so it’s smooth, and the white calcium gets exposed. The skin is not re-dyed after the sanding and polishing process, which is what gives the polished stingray skin that texture.

What does stingray feel like? The closest comparison I can give is that polished stingray skin feels like flexible glass. It is extremely reflective of light, and when you bend the skin, it literally feels both rigid and flexible at the same time.

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with my purchase. It’s insane to me that this wallet is literally ~US$150.00 cheaper than the Louis Vuitton Gaspar Wallet, yet it is constructed with incomparably better materials. Also, with both stingray and kan­ga­roo being some of the strongest leathers available (with kan­ga­roo having one of the best ratios of being lightweight and being durable), I can expect this wallet to last basically a lifetime, as opposed to Louis Vuitton canvas wallets barely lasting a handful of years.

As for my old Louis Vuitton wallet, I decided to give it to a family member who is much more of an enthusiast for designer goods than I am, so it’s in better hands now.

 

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Building a DXRacer Iron Series Office Chair (OH/IS188/NR)

As part of Tempo Storm’s partnership with DXRacer that launched earlier this year, being a member of Tempo Storm, I was eligible to receive a chair. However, I wasn’t really that big of a fan of the Tempo Storm DXRacer chair.

There’s nothing wrong with it itself—it’s just a normal Racing Series chair with Tempo Storm branding—but I am quite peculiar when it comes to my furniture and interior design. In an ideal world, everything I own would be pure white, with black being ok as a secondary accent color and gray being somewhat acceptable, depending on the shade. As you can clearly see, blue is not on that list, and I wasn’t too excited about having a random blue piece of furniture that would not fit in very well with anything else I owned.

DXRacer came to the rescue, and although I had to wait a bit longer than everyone else to get my chair, they honored my special request and provided me with a black chair (though it has red contrast stitching because they were sold out of the all-black). Even better, they let me pick out a full grain leather chair instead of having to settle with polyurethane. That was huge for me, as I’m quite the leather goods enthusiast, and I love having full grain leather furniture so I can watch as the patina forms and tells a story of how it has aged.

I put together an unboxing video, which you can watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJjbIjdT4rw

I forgot to show close-ups of the chair in the video, but it’s definitely worth checking out its features—it has all the natural pattern inconsistencies you’d expect from real leather, it has red piping along the edges, the seating surface is perforated, and more.

DXRacer Iron Series Office Chair (OH/IS188/NR)

DXRacer Iron Series Office Chair (OH/IS188/NR)

DXRacer Iron Series Office Chair (OH/IS188/NR)

DXRacer Iron Series Office Chair (OH/IS188/NR)

 

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Review: Jacob Hill by Piedmont Leather – White smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt

Disclosure of non-disclosure: I was not compensated in any manner for this review and do not plan to accept compensation after-the-fact.

This may sound a bit weird coming from someone who reverse-nickel-and-dimes as much as possible in order to optimize savings, but I’m a bit of a luxury goods enthusiast, specifically when it comes to leather products. I love the idea of getting full grain leather products and having them age along with me, watching as the patina forms and tells a story of where it’s been and how it’s been used.

With that being said, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise then when I grabbed a white smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt from Jacob Hill Leather Co. I have a small set of leather accessories, but none of them were of crocodile, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to induct the reptile into my collection. It took right around two weeks to get to me (including made-to-order production and standard ground shipping); it arrived in my PO box yesterday, and I picked it up today.

Jacob Hill by Piedmont Leather - White smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt

The belt normally comes with a standard buckle, but I specifically requested an upgraded belt buckle to a more durable one made out of cast aluminum and molded in the shape of hornback scales. The first thing I noticed about the buckle was just how large it was—it actually looks quite aggressive and is pretty wide.

Jacob Hill by Piedmont Leather - White smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt

The belt itself had the rough-but-smooth texture that I would expect from crocodile leather. It has all the unique wrinkles and folds that you would expect from a real leather product, and twisting it into itself back and forth gives the expected “it’s alive” visual, where it seems like each scale and each part of the skin is moving both together and independently at the same time.

(Quick tip: This twisting and folding method is a very easy way to tell whether or not crocodile and alligator leather is real; fake and engraved pattern leather will appear to always move in a single piece and will often wrinkle and crease in strange places, such as through the center of scales.)

Jacob Hill by Piedmont Leather - White smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt

Of course, because this is a hornback belt, it comes with horns—mine had four large, pronounced horns, followed by a row of smaller ones along the remainder of the belt. The cut of the belt made it so the placement of the horns doesn’t interfere with your pants’ belt loops and doesn’t make it difficult to thread onto your waist.

Jacob Hill by Piedmont Leather - White smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt

The backside of the belt is lined with standard brown leather (which is good, because I’d imagine you wouldn’t want the pattern of crocodile jutting into your waist). It comes with a wealth of natural wrinkles and imperfections that true leather enthusiasts will love, and it’s finished off with a tasteful en­grav­ing of the Jacob Hill logo, along with a reminder of what type of leather you’re wearing.

Jacob Hill by Piedmont Leather - White smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt

If you want to mix up your belt buckle, it’s very easy to disassemble—there are three snaps that hold the tip in place, and undoing those snaps will allow you to slide off the rings and buckle.

This is useful because I noticed that, when wearing and centering a belt buckle as large and pronounced as the upgraded cast iron hornback one, the extra rings might get in the way of your first belt loop if you don’t skip it and start threading into your second belt loop. I like the visual touch that the rings provide, so I will likely keep them on, but if you want a more secure grip, you can remove the rings and slide the belt into the first belt loop all the way up snug to the buckle.

Another very minor complaint I have about the belt is the backside of the snaps that hold the buckle and rings into place. They look and feel like they’re made out of plastic, and although they are functionally fine, it’s not really something that I expected being used for a belt of this caliber. Regardless, this is probably something that will only bother someone with the utmost attention to detail; the plastic parts of the snaps face inward towards your waist, and you most likely will forget that they’re even there.

As I said at the beginning of the review, I was not paid to write this review and this is not part of a partnership or sponsorship—I wrote this simply because I was satisfied with the belt. Unfortunately, this does mean that I don’t have a special discount code to offer you. However, I noticed that their website has a dedicated section for specials where they run substantial discounts on various different products, so I recommend checking that out.

As for me, after browsing their website, I noticed that they make wallets as well, so I plan on making another purchase—just not right now, because if I don’t pace myself, I foresee easily being down a couple thousand dollars before I know it…

 

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