Interview: Beckett Leather Goods

Today, The Time Bum is talking with Daniel Cheek, founder of Beckett Leather Goods, a small team of American artisans specializing in bespoke watch straps.

Beckett Leather Goods Gucci shoe strap

TTB: Welcome to The Time Bum! Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us what makes Beckett Leather Goods special.  

DC: At the risk of sounding cliché, we're obsessively dedicated to quality. I've spent the past few years studying the art of leathercraft and strap-making. We use materials from a variety of American and European tanneries and can also upcycle vintage leather goods. Not only are we focused on making quality straps, but we're working to create a prestigious brand. 

TTB: I’d like to start with your upcycling service. The Gucci loafer video (below) really shows what goes into your process. I love the way you incorporated things like the red keepers and green stitching to make a more interesting strap that better reflected the original item.


TTB: What found objects make for good raw material for a watch strap? 

DC: Almost any leather good can be turned into a strap as long as the leather isn't cracking.

TTB: What sort of items do people send you? 

DC: We've been sent old wallets, shoes, purses, baseball gloves, etc. I’ve even turned a vintage suede bota bag into a strap just for fun.


TTB: Have you ever received an item for upcycling and said, “Uh-uh. No way.” 

DC: One time, someone asked me to make a strap out of a fake Louis Vuitton bag and I turned them down. I can't in good conscience be associated with a counterfeit item.

TTB: Do you work with fabrics or other materials, or just leather?
Beckett Leather Goods ready-to-wear yellow strap
DC: We work with a lot of different materials including, but not limited to, toad skin, ostrich leg, shoe leather, Louis Vuitton canvas, beaver tail, and baseball glove leather.

TTB: I would imagine that deconstructing a found object involves more work than starting from a new piece of leather. How many hours go into making a typical strap as opposed to an upcycled item? 

DC: Upcycle projects do involve a bit more labor than standard leather straps. First, we have to determine what part of the item is most suitable for making a strap. Then we have to try and flatten it and sometimes condition it so it's easier to work with. When a piece of leather has been in the shape of a baseball glove for 20 years, it can be challenging to force it to lay flat and behave like a strap. We make straps in batches, but if we sat down and made a leather strap start to finish it would take 4 hours. An upcycled strap would take 4.5-5 hours. 
Beckett Leather Goods

TTB: Your hand painted straps are pretty wild. What sort of challenges to you find in making those?  

DC: The hardest part about making hand-painted straps was finding an artist we felt was talented and creative enough to collaborate with. We ended up choosing Jeff Bertrand, a local Nashville artist. I give him full creative authority on his designs and tell him to just have fun.

TTB: What steps do you take to make sure painted straps stand up to normal use?

DC: We get asked "Will the paint hold up?" pretty often. The answer is yes! Our artist uses a special leather paint that was designed for projects exactly like this. There is no chipping or cracking or fading of the paint.
Beckett Leather Goods

TTB: I don’t want to neglect your ready-to-wear line. I really dig the way you have incorporated some off-beat colors like turquoise and sky blue. Do you prefer producing products that are a bit unusual?

DC: We've selected a few standard leathers such as brown and black but I'm finding that we enjoy making more special pieces. With bespoke orders, our clients get to create the design. We're starting to view the ready-to-wear collection as a chance to play the role of designer and we're having fun with it. A big portion of our clients wear vibrant watches and want unique straps to pair with them.

Beckett Leather Goods

TTB: A watch strap guy has got to have some cool watches. What’s on your wrist and in your watch box these days? 

This is going to sound crazy, but I only have one watch. It's a Seiko SNXS79K my fiancé gifted me a couple years ago for Christmas. I promise, I'm a watch lover! I used to own a few other pieces: a Nomos Orion, a Nodus Trieste, a Magrette Waterman, and a Seiko SKX. Then I came to the realization that I could sell them and invest in my business. I used the funds to purchase world-class tools for our team and improve quality. I miss my watches every day and hope to someday to re-purchase my Nomos and buy some other cool pieces. A few of my future watch goals are the De Bethune DB25, Ulysse Nardin Freak, Rolex Oyster Perpetual rhodium, F.P. Journe Automatique Lune, and the Patek Nautilus with white dial. If we become the Hermés of straps, I'll revisit this list. Until then, I'll be reinvesting earnings into the business to grow and keep improving in every aspect possible.

TTB: Yes. That does sound crazy but I get it. I just don’t have the willpower to do that myself.

Beckett straps range from $110 to $250 depending on the style for more information, pictures, or to get ideas about a bespoke or upcycled strap of your own, head over to BeckettLeather.com.

Beckett Leather Goods Gucci shoe strap
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