Review: Otto Originals

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
There's a nice scene in the film of Another Country (which is well worth watching, if you haven't already seen it) where the pupils (at a school that is not Eton but pretty much definitely is Eton) are playing cricket. They are casually dressed in that fantastically casual 'public schoolboy on the playing fields in summer' look that brands like Ralph Lauren would so desperately like to capture: rumpled white shirts, hand-me-down cricket jumpers, and grass-stained white trousers held up with school ties. Later, if I can track down my DVD copy, I shall try and get a suitable screengrab.

Anyway, it's that look of using a tie as a belt that I particularly like. Trouble is, it's a bit self-consciously preppy, ruins your ties and can look a bit odd when you're no longer 17 so it's not something I tend to go for. That doesn't change the fact that a flash of striped silk at the waist of casual trousers evokes endless summers, cricket games on green meadows, post-rowing beers in a pub with a lax policy on ID, and all sorts of other wholesome visions. Is it any wonder, then, that I particularly love the belts made by Otto Originals, a start-up company created by a brother-sister team based in the Cotswolds. They've taken a slightly more grown-up approach to holding your trousers up with a tie, and make the ties into proper belts with leather ends, brass buckles, and hidden webbing to support the silk.

It gets better though, because they're not just selling belts made from any old ties. While they do sell a range of one-offs made from ties found in charity shops (and thereby indirectly supporting a range of charities!), the core of the business is a clever model where you pay online, send your chosen tie to a freepost address and, in a couple of weeks, get back a beautifully made and carefully packaged belt, plus a little bracelet made from the offcuts.

This is one of those ideas I just wish I'd come up with. In retrospect it's obvious, but I'm not aware of anyone else who does this and (if they exist) I doubt anyone else does it with quite the same combination of efficiency and charm as Otto Originals.

The belts are all handmade in the Otto studio in the Cotswolds and the quality is obvious - soft tan leather, neat stitching, and a solid brass buckle. How long the belt will last depends a lot on the tie you send in, but they're more robust than you might expect and I would imagine they'll wear well and look more distinguished with age.

Having a belt made from your own tie costs £44 which is extremely reasonable given the individual work that goes in to each one. I suppose if you were to buy your own tie specially then the whole thing would come out quite pricey but, for me, the real appeal is in finding a use for an old tie that, for whatever reason, you don't get much use out of otherwise. A stripey school tie that doesn't quite seem suitable for business-wear could make a great belt, as could a slightly more flamboyant one that you love but can't pull off in the office and have no other opportunities to wear. Or you could always do your own charity-shop hunting and find something suitable.

Whatever your choice, you'll end up with a beautiful and genuinely unique casual belt. Oh, and you can get 25% off until the end of March in their Spring promotion, by entering SPRINGBELTS into the voucher code box. So there's no excuse not to.

Note: The belt in this article was provided by Otto Originals for review. No payment has been made for this post, and acceptance of items for review does not guarantee positive coverage.