TJ Kastning started the website BestLeather.org in 2012. His goal with the site is to spread his love and always growing knowledge of quality leather via product reviews and articles. He wrote a guest blog below for HELM Boots last year on how he got started. 

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A Journey Into Quality Leather

“You spent $700 on this backpack?!” I was aghast. My respected business friend had lost his blessed mind.

“Yep,” he shot back, nonchalantly.

“You know you can buy like 50 Jansports for that don’t you?” I asked with no small amount of sarcasm.

“Yep.”

Obviously I was missing something if my good friend would buy an outrageously expensive backpack like this and be totally unashamed, even proud. That conversation was my first exposure to quality leather and I completely failed to see the value of quality leather. While I recognized how durable the bag seemed, I lacked any appreciation for the craftsmanship. What made him willing to spend so much for a backpack?

Suddenly, predictably, I wanted to know more about leather. How on earth can these people justify charging these prices? And then who in their right mind pays them? I discounted my friend as having a mild attack of stupidity and was sure there would be some explanation like slick branding to people with more money than sense. You know, some sort of conspiracy akin to commercial pickpocketing. Maybe Adam and Eve founded a leather company and it endured to this day and now you have to pay a fortune for “the brand”, as people say. So I went researching and instead of arming me with clever snarks, what I learned converted me. I bought in. Hook, line, sinker, and even the whole fishing pole.

It’s pretty easy to understand the value of quality leather goods. What can be tougher is discerning the great from the good and mediocre. Prices vary so dramatically. Would you like to pay $250 for a briefcase or $650? What about those few bags that sell for more than $1000? What are the differences between them? I am no rich fellow so these are important questions for me. Is the $250 bag going to fall apart tomorrow or is the $650 bag a total ripoff? The most helpful information was scattered about randomly and tough to find amidst the internet ocean.

I have chronic entrepreneurialism. It is a serious affliction that can make me endeavor to do things completely out of my comfort zone. When I realized there may be a need for someone to curate a list of great leather companies I purchased a domain and had a website up in a week (enter bestleather.org). That was September 2012. The learning curve since then has been a fun ride. The best part of running Best Leather is meeting and promoting quality companies since the owners of quality companies are quality people themselves.

Now we at BestLeather.org work to educate people who share my former disbelief that such expensive goods can be a good value. We get to promote the “Buy it for life” mentality. People often comment on leather that I am out testing and are often astounded, as I was, at the prices. Now I smile and explain that, with quality leather products, you get a lot of value for your money.

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