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August 10, 2010 | Lakota Leathers: boutique mandolin straps

We first met up with Lakota Leathers founder Kenny Bohling at Summer NAMM 2010 in Nashville, TN. We had heard the trade buzz about his startup guitar strap company and confess a little premature skepticism before we arrived at his booth. It's not like the industry needs another strap manufacturer, so we were prepared to write off the small company as yet another industry also-ran, but were we pleasantly surprised!

LakotaStraps_Ends.jpgBohling's strap assortment was smart and contained. Not a lot of ground-breaking forms, but what floored us was the quality and comfort of the leather on his "basics." Further look revealed some incredible Native American designs. With a unique supply of some of the world's softest, highest quality bison and elk hide, the entrepreneur was able to hook up with a centuries-long leather tooling craftsmanship of the Lakota Souix tribe in the center of the US in South Dakota.

You say you want to buy American?

This is about as original "American" as you can get!

You don't hear much about the impoverished conditions these proud people live in on the reservation, and the "mission" of Lakota Leathers isn't just about quality straps for mandolin, guitar, banjo, and dobro, it's about providing a livelihood for a small representative of the 30,000 to 40,000 who endure a bare indigenous existence, often as high as 85% unemployment. An opportunity to bring some dignity and capture some of the historic beadmaking traditions of the tribe allow Lakota Leathers a unique, quality product.

Click images for closeup

The straps are available through a growing dealer network and on the company website. Bohling designed these with a panache of luxury but a smart economy of affordable price point. (Mandolin straps $30-50, with high-end custom options available at a higher, boutique price) Corners are cut only to economize waste in materials and unnecessary labor, but not quality.

We requested a sample of both the flat strap and the braided. Pictures don't do the material justice, they need to be felt in the hands to appreciate how soft they are, especially the elk hide mandolin line. On a lighter instrument, the braid rests gently on the shoulders conforming comfortably to the contour of the neck and body of the player. We were more partial to the flat strap and the way it rested around the neck particularly when wearing a collarless shirt, playing on a heavier ten-string.


We've suggested a line of mandolin straps that would have a wider web, particularly for weightier instruments like mandola or octave mandolin, and this is actually in the works. We're hoping to have a hand in developing this, but the existing models are a tidy choice for all mandolin body styles, A, F, and 2-point. The braids come with a loop end standard, but they can be requested without if you have a strap button on both ends. Colors include black, gold, tan, and a delicious reddish tobacco.

Website and purchase information: Lakota Leathers

Instrument pictured is a customized fanned-fret Rigel 10-string R200 mandola

Posted by Ted at August 10, 2010 5:42 AM

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