November 03 2009
My favourite belt, in bone-white leather, textured like snakeskin, with a hexagonal silver buckle, scored with a star-shaped pattern and dotted with a dozen tiny turquoise beads, combines the clean lines of a piece of contemporary costume jewellery with a touch of cowboy swagger, and gives enormous pleasure. The belt was a lucky find, but the store it came from was the real discovery. Elliot Rhodes, in London’s Covent Garden, is like an old-fashioned sweet shop for grown-ups – grown-ups who love leather and big, shiny metal accessories. Instead of jars of confectionery, the walls are racked with belts of every colour.
This is where to come if you want to choose from straps in 23 shades of blue, including options in cowhide, stingray and python. Each strap can be fitted with any buckle from the archive, and there are a thousand options, from the simplest silver clasps to skulls, or oval enamels of the Virgin Mary finished with Swarovski crystals. (Picture one, bubble belt, £139.50; picture three, skull belt, £164.50.)
Falling into conversation with the store’s founder, Justin Rhodes, I find that his compendious range attracts various distinct classes of customer. “There are women who come in and say they have had their colours done and been told they can only wear a certain shade of teal. We can help them.”
Justin also enjoys catering for golfers – Retief Goosen and Miguel Angel Jiménez both wear his white and pastel-coloured golf belts (picture two, £129.50). And then there are clients like me, who come to browse more often than to buy. As customers go, I’m pretty typical, Justin assures me. Both men and women tend to buy a neutral-coloured “gateway” belt and then, he says, they come back multiple times as they move on to the hard stuff – the hot colours or the elaborate, sculptural metal clasps. Which gets me thinking: what next? Not made up my mind yet – the choosing is at least half the pleasure – but perhaps something sparkly, maybe with violet crystals...