Product Spotlight: No. 117 Mechanic's Belt
This year, we are adding a product spotlight email to the mix.
First up is our No. 117 Mechanic’s Belt. Looking as good with a pair of chinos as it does with a suit, the No. 117 Mechanic's Belt continues to be one of our top-selling belts — and the one that gets the most attention.
The mechanic’s belt has a history almost as interesting as the belt itself. In fact, few belts on the market are steeped in Americana like the mechanic’s belt.
But we can’t talk about this beloved belt without first mentioning Arnold Arons, our early mentor. Arnold runs Arons Manufacturing in downtown Los Angeles, where we were first inspired to create our own version of the belt. Arnold took us under his wing in 2000 after we found him in the yellow pages of all places. For nearly two years, he taught us how to add a rivet to a belt, skive, stitch, and prepare designs for cutting dies. He gave us access to his tools, machines, and sourcing materials and sold us one of his Grandfather Morris’s Jacques Board Sheer — a large tabletop leather cutter that we still use today. Arnold’s unwavering tutelage is a big reason we are in our 23rd year. I called Arnold recently to reminisce and ask him about this fabled belt.
“The mechanic’s belts were first produced in the late 1950s by my grandfather for autoworkers and electricians, and the flap of leather that covers the buckle would protect the paint from being scratched or from conducting electricity,” said Arnold “We primarily sold them to uniform supply businesses in brown and black leather, but I do remember making red ones for Standard Oil and green ones for Texaco,” says Arnold. “In fact, I still have some of that leather from way back then.”
Seeing is believing. I remember the day I first saw the mechanic’s belt. We were in Arnold’s cluttered office reviewing CAD drawings of a cuff watch strap we were working on, and I noticed it hanging on the wall. The small buckle and design caught my eye; it was like no other belt I had ever seen. Arnold took it down and explained its 40-year existence. Kirk and I were fascinated by its history, clever design, and utility. The Arons version was made with a light ounce of leather and was one-inch wide with a machine-stitched flap that connected to the buckle. For our version, we increased the ounce of leather, widened the belt by a quarter inch, and hand-stitched the flap. To finish it off, we added our signature angled belt tip.
Now, 20+ years later, it has found an audience of guitarists and motorcycle enthusiasts who don’t want the buckle banging away on their guitars and gas tanks. It’s also my go-to formal dress belt because I prefer that minimalist design.
Another fan of the No. 117 is our good friend and past sales rep Cory Heenan. Cory has almost exclusively been wearing his tan No. 117 since 2009. I asked him to send some shots of how it’s wearing in and what he thought about it.
“I personally stamped this belt at the first Pop Up Flea in June of 2009. I think I already had the belt for a year before that, so it’s about 14 years old. I wear it every day. I don’t own another belt. Dress it up, dress it down. It’s always on.”
It’s certainly a design that is special to us. Not only does it remind us of our beginnings as a company and our mentoring time with Arnold, it also celebrates blue collar workers and the efforts they put in every day.
Below are photos of two vintage mechanic’s belts that I have found at thrift shops over the years. These date to the 60s or 70s. Arnold mentioned that Unitog has been a competitor for decades and most likely manufactured the Lee Jeans belt as well.