I use traditional pit-tanned English bridle for many of my belts. Bridle was originally developed for equestrian use, it's a durable leather with dense fibers. My bridle is hand-finished with a waxy topcoat, which I like to leave intact, so each hide will come with a different degree of waxy "bloom" on the surface. This will wear off naturally with time, or if you prefer, it can be buffed off with a soft cloth. Bridle starts out stiff, with a smooth grain surface but breaks in nicely, softening at high-wear points and developing grain texture as the leather flexes from use. I prefer to leave the edges of my bridle leather undyed, showing the natural contrasting color at the center of the hide.
Chromexcel (CXL) is a chrome-retanned or combination-tanned leather. It is both chrome tanned and vegetable tanned in order to benefit from the best of both methods. Chrome tanning creates a supple, buttery leather with improved weatherproofing. Chromexcel is traditionally used to make footwear.
Natural chromexcel bears a somewhat confusing name, but in this context "natural" means that the leather doesn't receive any pigment in the tanning and finishing process, so the unique shade of natural chromexcel is created by the addition of fats and liquors, not dye.
Reversed natural is simply the backside of the natural leather. It can vary in shaginess and color from hide to hide.
Black chromexcel is slightly less glossy and more satin than black bridle.
NATURAL VEGETABLE TAN
Natural vegetable tanned leather is a blank slate for honestly-acquired character. This leather is undyed and minimally treated in the tanning process. If you enjoy watching your leather age and patina, this is the choice that will provide the most dramatic results.
Shell cordovan is a fibrous, subcutaneous cut of leather from the rump of a horse. It is a highly prized material with excellent durability as well as a unique look. Shell is typically polished with a glass rod (known as glazing), which gives it a distinctive shiny finish. I usually avoid "luxury" leathers, but in the case of shell cordovan the durable, dense, and consistent temper give it real practical advantages. Shell comes in a multitude of colors. I always keep some in stock, but the selection varies. Here are just a few of the possible options...
All of my buckles are made in Japan from solid brass. It's rumored that the brass is comprised of recycled bullet casings, but I've never been able to verify that. In any event, they're the best I've ever seen. They're thoughtfully designed to accommodate thick leather, they have a nice mellow finish rather than the gaudy gilt look of cheap plated or polished brass. The buckles are un-lacquered, so that they age beautifully. The black oxide finish rubs away over time to reveal the underlying copper.
The Flower Cult pattern combines studs and decorative stitching in a floral motif that's inspired by nature, William Morris, and guitar & banjo neck inlay patterns. The two curving flowers sit on the hips. The Flower Cult pattern can be applied to any Rail or Trail belt, but it's too wide for the Narrow Rail and Vale styles. The color of the studs will always match your buckle choice.
The Eastwood belt is elaborately hand-stitched for the full length of the belt. It's a very time consuming process, but the end result is a thing to behold. The design is inspired by the gun belt worn by Clint Eastwood's character in Sergio Leone's Man with No Name films. Eastwood stitching can be applied to any Rail or Trail belt, but it's too wide to fit on the Narrow Rail and Vale styles.
The Goblin Armor belt is a simpler studded belt, inspired by the earliest studded biker belts from the 20s and 30s (as opposed to the increasingly bedazzled Rockabilly styles starting in the 50s), as well as my love of fantasy fiction and the go-to armor style of the dexterous & dispossessed: studded leather. Goblin Armor studs can be added to any Rail, Trail, or Narrow Rail belt, but it's too wide to fit on the Vale belt. The color of the studs will always match your buckle choice.
Charon is the ferryman that carries souls away from the world of the living, across the river Styx. This pattern came to me in a dream. Charon studs can be added to any belt, any width or style. The color of the studs will always match your buckle choice.
WEAR & CARE
Leather care is pretty simple, your belt or wallet doesn't need much attention. Leather will break down faster from over-conditioning than it will from drying out, think of it like over-watering a plant. Your go-to leather care should be a nice horsehide brush, leather loves being brushed! It'll keep it clean and reduce the appearance of scratches without altering the moisture content of the leather.
Your leather only needs a very light coat of conditioner once or twice a year for chromexcel and two or three times a year for veg tan. If your leather gets soaking wet, let it air-dry slowly, then apply some conditioner afterward. Personally I'm not too picky about brands of conditioner, as long as it's made of beeswax and/or animal fat. Obenauf's LP is nice, but there are lots of similar products out there, none of them are miraculous. Avoid petroleum distillates.
Over time, natural veg tan will darken significantly. The finish on natural chromexcel gets rich and deep. The bridle leather is dyed on the surface (sometimes referred to as "tea core") and it will tend to lighten over time and show the brown tones of the leather beneath. This is a really slow process, though. The brass buckles will patina, and the oxide on the brass buckles and studs will wear off to show the underlying copper finish. Watching your leather and hardware show signs of a well-lived life is fascinating and gratifying, here are some examples of how things might go...