Pineapple belts and banana purses: This isn’t your father’s leather

I went shopping at Target last week. I needed a belt. Nothing fancy, just a nice, simple belt that I could wear with a pair of jeans. When I walked into the men’s department, I thought, “Er, they only have leather.” But no, the labels said otherwise. Faux leather has come a long way. Curious, I checked out a few other large retail stores, including Gap and Old Navy. Many of their belts are also made from vegan materials. And they looked great.

When it comes to fashion and function, men who still use skin to hold up their pants are out of the loop. It’s easier than ever to find vegan leather belts, wallets and bags that look and feel the way you want them to.

Animals are not substances; Leather is one’s skin. And because its source — usually cows or alligators, even dogs or cats — is rarely noted on labels, it’s hard to tell where (or who) it came from. Most of this comes from developing countries, including India and China, where environmental regulations are lax and animal welfare laws either do not exist or are rarely enforced. In the United States and many other countries, animals killed for their skin must first endure the horrors of factory farming, including extreme crowding and deprivation, as well as castration, branding, and tail-docking without painkillers. In slaughterhouses, workers routinely slit the throats and even skin or dismember animals while they are still conscious.

Kind people love cruelty-free fashion: Alicia Silverstone posed nude to promote vegan leather. No one strips for animal skin tote bags. Many modern men’s accessories are made of high-quality microfibers or polyurethane. For those with more upscale tastes, the vegan leather industry is taking an ecological route: Black Nopal makes men’s belts from cactus, and allTRUEist makes them from corn. All natural, state-of-the-art leathers made without suffering or slaughter are today made from apple, mushroom, pineapple, coconut, stone, waxed cotton, grain, flower, orange, paper, leaves or tree bark. Independent brands like Paguro and revelo make belts from recycled tires. Watson & Wolfe and Corkor sell vegan cork leather belts. And for gear heads, Couch sells vegan straps made from the same seat vinyl that was used in a 1978 Chevy Camaro LT.

If you carry your money in wallets made from the skin of living beings, you should instead rely on humane, vegan leather. Tree Tribe’s vegan leather wallets are made from bananas, VeloCulture makes them from upcycled bike inner tubes, and Hempmania makes them out of… you guessed it.

Nobody dies for cruelty-free backpacks, satchels, weekenders and fanny packs, so keep your stuff without the luggage. ASHOKA Paris and Matt & Nat create cool vegan leather bags for men from recycled plastic bottles, Gunas makes them from mulberry plants and high-end Minuit sur Terre uses grapes.

Folks, you’re just a shopping spree or a Google search away from compassionate and fashionable style. Because sometimes you just want a nice, simple, cruelty-free belt.

Scott Miller is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;