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Is it worth it?: Belt and brasses

Would you spend pounds 540 to hold your trousers up with a Hermes 'dog' belt?
Hermes is one of those dreadfully posh labels that has been around for ever. The company was set up in 1837 as harness makers and produced saddlery for the great stables of France. Then, the motor car came a long, so Hermes went into leather goods.

The unfortunately named "dog" belt is one of Hermes oldest designs and comes at the very modern price of pounds 540. "Someone saw a dog collar in the Twenties and launched the style," says Hermes spokeswoman Louisa Barham, "and it has remained highly fashionable."

The "dog" belt has two rather odd, gold-plated, brass attachments. One looks like the studs and lead-pull you find on pit bulls, the other, which secures the belt, looks like nothing on earth - a strange fastening with five slits, a couple of pyramid shapes and a sticky-out padlock loop. The leather is soft and comfortable, but it looks ridiculous.

However, it is expensive and immediately recognisable as Hermes, so who cares if it looks like an extra on Pets Win Prizes? "Hermes uses the same traditional saddle stitch on all our leather products," says Barham. "This belt will last for ever. It's hand-crafted from the very best grained, calf leather and it's thick enough to go round jeans. If you put it around an inexpensive dress, it can make it look a million dollars."

So, what did our expert think? I took the Hermes "dog" belt and a cheaper pounds 27.95 version from Fenwick to Patrick Whitaker, one half of leather designers Whitaker Malem. "The Hermes belt is absolutely exquisite. It's very well made. It's got a very complicated buckle and they've actually edge-stained within there," he says pointing to the slits on the gold fastening. "Edge- staining is where they dye the rough edges of the leather to give it a finished look. Also, the slits have been hand-done with a clicking knife, which is very difficult.

"Good belts are curved and this one is straight, which is peculiar, unless they are trying to make it look parallel to the hip. The stitching is done with a two-tone thread and it's fabulous - I can't see where they started and finished.

"But I have to say," whispers Patrick, "I'm not impressed by the outer leather. It's a bit plasticky-looking. Also, the fitting on the side is a bit tiny. Hermes are really playing on the name and you are paying for the label. It would be okay to spend pounds 350, but pounds 520 is too much.

Patrick turns to the cheaper belt. "The brass buckle is quite good, but they haven't edge-stained the inside of the belt holes, which is a shame. The belt holes are lopsided, and the belt is also straight. It's cheaper to make them that way. This one is extremely good value."

So, the Hermes belt is a fine example of craftmanship, but if you have pounds 520 to spend, get a present for your dog and wear something a little simpler.