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Jack’s Belt Trinkets and Manky Pelts


Belts.  Buckles.  Sash.  It seems like I’ve used the above photo cropped to Captain Jack’s waistline about a dozen times already in this blog.  But now this may very well be the last time because I’ve finally completely my belts by adding all the little trinkets that dangle from them.  Sure, I still need a pistol and compass, but I would consider those more props than costume accessories.  All in due time.

Dangling from Jack’s belts you will find two manky pelts, a chicken foot, a snake vertebra, and a mermaid charm.  It is these little “greeblies” that add a fun look to the costume and give it texture.

First up, we have a netsuke mermaid charm.  Netsuke are miniature sculptures invented in Japan in the 1600’s to hold small boxes and pouches onto obi sashes.  Jack wears his mermaid charm hanging from his Anna Maria buckle on a length of cord that also has the snake vertebra tied to it.  It serves no real purpose on Jack’s costume, but adds a neat little visual touch and hints that Jack has probably had some adventures in the Orient.  The mermaid charm is actually quite tiny, but is a great detail that has been a part of Jack’s garb since “Dead Man’s Chest.”

Mermaid charms similar to Jack’s can be found on eBay and various websites that sell decorative Asian cafts, but many of these are actually a bit bigger than the one used on Jack’s screen costume.  I lucked out by finding my mermaid charm on Etsy as part of a beaded bookmark.

NetsukeMermaidCharm.jpg NetsukeMermaidCharm

Tied to the same cord as the mermaid charm is a single snake vertebra.  For my costume I went for a large python vertebra as it is what several Jack Sparrow costumers had recommended.  After looking at several hi-res photos of Jack’s gear and behind-the-scenes video from a costume featurette on the “Dead Man’s Chest” blu-ray it is clear to me that this is not exactly the same type of vertebra used for Jack’s costume, although it does appear to be accurate for the one used on the “On Stranger Tides” version of the outfit.  The snake bone also came from seller on Etsy.


Together, the snake bone and mermaid charm make up what Johnny Depp called a “fertility symbol” which Jack wears “just ’cause.”  For the cord I used some brown bamboo cord that I found at a Michael’s arts and crafts store.  It looks thick in the these photos, but only because they are extreme close ups to show off the charms which are both less than 2 inches long.  The cord is actually quite thin and a great match for what is used on the actual screen used costume.


Since I already had a chicken foot all I had to do was tie my new charms onto my Anna Maria buckle and my Anna Maria belt was complete!


Well, almost complete anyway.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, weathering and distressing is an important part of what makes a costume look lived in and real.  And that pearly white snake bone dangling from my brand new Anna Maria belt just didn’t have the right amount of character yet.  So what did I do?  I aged them up.

For the snake vertebra I used very thin, watered down acrylic paint which I dabbed on with a brush and immediately rubbed off with a sheet of paper towel.  The snake bone is very porous so it actually held a bit more paint than I would have liked, but the effect is still pretty awesome.


I didn’t worry too much about weathering the mermaid charm.  Rubbing it with my fingers seemed to lighten it up in spots, and later on I may take a bit of fine sandpaper to it, but I don’t want to lose any of the detail to the carving, just fade the stain.

  As for the cord, I applied a thin coating of Elmer’s Washable School Glue Gel (It looks blue in the bottle) to “fuse” the two strands together and effectively waterproof it and keep it from fraying.  This also stiffened the cord slightly which helps it dangle the way I want it to without the bone and charm flopping around all over the place.


  For the belt I got the leather soaking wet and then proceeded to beat the hell out of it, twisting and bending it all over and banging it against the floor.  Then I took a blow dryer to it to get most of the moisture out of it, and finally I applied Pecard Leather Dressing to keep the leather soft.  Next I used a bit of fine sandpaper and a wire brush in a few spots to add some wear, and finally I used acrylic craft paint to make it look dirty and dingy.  I mixed gray, black, brown, and tan paint, applied it in light splotches with a medium brush, then spread it really thin with a thicker clean brush.  The result was fantastic!

Now everything looks great and my Anna Maria belt really is complete.

AnnaMariaBeltweathered.jpg AnnaMariaBeltweathered

The last items I added before the end of 2012 were the manky pelts.  With my Anna Maria belt complete it only seemed natural to finish my sun belt, too.  Many Jack Sparrow costumers use bits of rabbit fur found in craft stores for their manky pelts, but Jack’s pelts are actually the hide of animal legs with the claws still attached to the paws!

For the “Dead Man’s Chest”/”At World’s End” look the paws appear to be a red fox paw and the paw of a fisher (a large member of the weasel family found in North America).  I’d been watching both eBay and Etsy for quite some time before I stumbled upon a fox paw that was long enough and looked right for the costume.  The pelt measures about 10 inches long and is a tan color with a black stripe going down the front.  A seller on eBay was selling a fox face and had the leg included, but I was lucky enough to talk him into selling me the leg and relisting the face separately.


Next I found the fisher paw after many exhaustive Google searches and hours of looking through furrier websites.  I can definitely see why many Captain Jack’s out there opt to make their pelts out of scrap hide rather than searching for “the real deal” so to speak.  I ordered three fisher paws to make sure I got one that was just right, and was able to flip the spares relatively easily on eBay to make my money back.  My fisher paw is about 12 inches long, and like the the fox paw it too has the claws and paw pads.


Normally I make no secret of where I obtain the items for my costume, but I’m actually thinking very seriously about offering manky pelt sets for sale myself on my Ebay and Etsy stores.  I’ve been thinking for a while now about what costume item I could offer to the Jack Sparrow community, and I think the manky pelts might just be it.  I’ve found a reliable supplier for fisher paws that will work great, all I need now is to find a reliable supplier for accurate red fox paws.  But I digress.

After I had both paws I poked a couple of small holes at the tops and ran a length of some black cord I had lying around through them, then tied it around to make them easy to tie to the belt.  Since the cord is something you don’t really see the black cord I used works fine for now, but I will most likely switch it out for some dark brown leather cord later on, and if I do eventually offer manky pelts for sale they will definitely include leather cord.


After that all that was left was to tie them onto my sun belt and it was complete!


  Well, not quite complete actually.  Much like with the Anna Maria belt I decided there was still some tweaking to do before I was completely satisfied.  My sun buckle was a bit too blue with patina, and when I took the photos I noticed that the pelts seemed too fluffy.  Jack’s pelts look thin, stiff, and dingy, and here mine looked all soft and plush like something from a stuffed animal.

  Here’s another photo of the two belts together and you’ll see exactly what I mean.


  In order for the manky pelts to look right they really can’t be all soft and fluffy.  They need to be, well…manky!

  It’s the reason I went to great lengths to find fox and fisher paws in the first place.  I didn’t want them to look pretty like an adornment you might find on a Native American costume, I wanted them to look like Jack’s manky pelts.  So for a solution I decided to revisit the “Jack Sparrow: From Head to Toe” featurette found on the “Dead Man’s Chest” blu-ray bonus disc.  What I discovered actually surprised me a little bit and yet at the same time made perfect sense.

  When Pirates of the Caribbean costume designer Penny Rose picks up Jack’s belts and talks about the manky pelts in the video (this video is actually where the term “manky pelts” likely comes from, by the way) the pelts don’t hang loosely like soft fur, they stick straight out, almost like the leg bones are still inside!  It not only explained why they hang from the belt the way they do, but why they look stiff and thin rather than fluffy and plush.  I’ve actually seen deer legs tanned with the bone inside and used as Native American ceremonial rattle handles, so it makes sense that things like fox legs could be tanned with the bones still in place, too.  So in the name of perfection I set about making my manky pelts as accurate as possible to simulate the stiff look of the ones worn by Captain Jack.

  For convenience I’ve attached the video below so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.  Skip to 4:50 on the video to see Penny Rose and Johnny Depp discuss the pelts as well as Jack’s other belt trinkets.

  To achieve the stiff look of the screen used pelts I used some slender strips of dowel rod and glued them into place in the legs, then glued and stitched the loose leg fur around them.  You’ll have to forgive me for not knowing the exact diameter of the dowel rods I used as they were some I had just lying around, but I can tell you they are small, not much bigger around than a soda straw.  It worked perfectly!  Again, this is something I will do to pelts if I do end up offering them for sale later on.  They look so much better than rabbit fur, and people will get a kick out of the fact that they still have claws!

  Finally, I used some Got2b Spiked-Up hair styling gel to give them that proper manky look.  They really do look fantastic, if I may say so myself.  The fox paw could stand to be a shade darker and look a bit dirtier, but that’s something I can easily accomplish later on.


  To take some of the blue patina off the sun buckle I held it over low head on my kitchen stove.  This toned down the blue while still leaving the buckle with a dull finish.  After looking at the previous photos I decided the Anna Maria buckle looked a bit too blue and dark, too, so I lightened it up using a wire brush.  I had previously suspended it in a jar over ammonia to let the fumes add the patina, but in the end I felt it just made the buckle too dark, and in the films Jack’s buckle almost looks nickel colored and shiny in the light.

  So now my belts really are essentially finished.  Like most cosplayers I will no doubt continue to tweak with them as time goes on, but I am generally quite pleased with the way they look now.


  If a set of accurate pelts like these is something you would be interested in for your costume feel free to leave a comment below and I will get the ball rolling as soon as possible to make them available on eBay and on my Etsy store.

  My Jack Sparrow costuming adventures are still far from over, but I’m actually thrilled with what I’ve acquired so far since starting with the Anna Maria buckle one year ago.  Sure, I already had a bandanna and skull ring before that, but the Anna Maria buckle was the first item I bought with the full intention of putting together a complete costume.  If I had more money I would have no doubt rushed to put it all together much faster, but really I think assembling it one piece at a time has actually made the experience a lot more rewarding.  It’s turned this into a true journey rather than an easily obtainable goal, and some fantastic new items have even become available in recent months that I would be no doubt be trying to upgrading to if I had rushed and just assembled the outfit in one fell swoop.  Buying things one piece at a time has forced me to be much more selective and to make sure I get each piece right the first time rather than wasting money on things I would just be using to get buy with until I could get something better.

  I still have a long way to go and many major items to get before I’m running around in full gear with my arms flapping about shouting “why is the rum gone?”, but that’s okay.  Sharing my costuming adventures with all of you through this blog has taught me a great deal of patience and allowed me to savor the joy each new item brings without jumping off into the deep end and trying to snag all the pieces at once (something I cannot currently afford to do anyway).

  I’m not completely sure what my next item will be; maybe the wig, a compass, or the waistcoat.  But in the mean time I still have plenty of new pieces I haven’t even shared with you yet like the stolen ring and my tattoos.  So stick around, because new posts are coming real soon.

  Plus, I very recently obtained a brand new laptop computer, so I’m no longer trapped in the past using Windows XP on a 10 year old desktop.  What does this mean for the blog?  VIDEOS!!!  I’ve only had the new laptop a few days so I’m still learning my way around Windows 8 (which is a bit of a pain in the ass, by the way, but that’s a rant for another time), but it won’t be long before I’m posting video reviews of my costume pieces so you can get an even better look at them to help with your own costuming adventures.  Videos will include weathering tips, product reviews, and probably a lot of goofing around, too.

  Anyway, that’s enough carrying on for now, so until next time, keep a weather eye on that horizon!


Belts and Bandanas


     In “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” Jack Sparrow wears two belts, the sun belt and the Anna Maria belt.  The sun belt is similar to the one worn in “Curse of the Black Pearl” but with a slightly different buckle, and the “tail” of the belt is much shorter where it hangs down after being looped.  It is also a darker brown than the belt worn in the first movie.  The Anna Maria belt features the same buckle worn by the character of Anna Maria in “Curse of the Black Pearl” (hence the name), and is a lighter brown color and slightly wider than the sun belt.  It doesn’t really fit the Anna Maria buckle, but apparently Johnny Depp liked it so much he opted to wear both belts in the movie anyway.

  Before venturing off on my quest to create a Jack Sparrow costume I had created a character of my own, Captain McAnen, and put together a costume for him.  In Spring of 2011 I had my first belt made for the character.  It is a light brown belt, 2″ wide with fancy tooling around the edges and a rustic square buckle.  I ordered the belt from leatherlore.com, and I also received a matching baldric.

(My first belt for Captain McAnen)


  My only complaint about this particular belt is that it is quite a bit longer than I would have preferred, and to cut it shorter would ruin the tooling at the tip.  Still, it is a pretty awesome belt with a cool weathered look and feel and makes for a great costume piece.

  While goofing around one day last Fall I threw on my Captain McAnen costume with a Rastafarian dreadlock wig and my Jack Sparrow bandana and started bumbling around like Captain Jack Sparrow.  In the photo below you can see what I mean about the length of my Captain McAnen belt.  You can also see that I’ve got a long way to go before I have anything close to an authentic Jack Sparrow costume, but we all have to start somewhere.

    (The humble beginnings of my transition from Captain McAnen into Captain Jack Sparrow)IMG_1275

  As with any long-term costuming project you start with one thing and then begin making little changes and adding new pieces.  I found a seller on eBay called Treasure Cast Inc. that makes awesome pewter products like buckles, buttons and pendants, and I ordered a set of Celtic knot buttons from them for my waistcoat.  I also ordered the buckle for my baldric from them.  Their buckles are loosely inspired by Jack Sparrow’s buckles but have a unique look of their own, and I really liked their sea shell buckle.  It is similar to Jack’s baldric buckle from “Curse of the Black Pearl” but different enough that I thought it would make a great addition to my ever evolving Captain McAnen costume.  I ordered the buckle and then had Blackbeard’s Landing (blackbeardscreations.com) make me a dark brown belt to go with it.  Blackbeard had previously made my second baldric (seen in the photo above) and does fantastic custom leather work.  I wanted to make sure the belt wasn’t as long as my Leather Lore belt, but I also wanted to make sure it would still fit as I lost weight.  To accommodate my ever changing waistline we came up with the idea of incorporating extra holes into the design of the belt, so the holes actually run the whole length of the belt rather than just having 7 holes for size adjustment like most belts do.  After it arrived I took a strip of leather lacing and ran it through the extra holes to give the belt an even more unique look.

(My second Captain McAnen belt)


  Now that McAnen was properly geared up it was time to started putting together my Jack Sparrow garb.  I found awesome reproductions of Jack’s buckles (see previous posts) and needed belts to go with them.  The first belt I had made was for the sun buckle.  I had befriended a fellow Captain Jack enthusiast known as Captain McCool over on the message boards at keeptothecode.com and brethrencourt.net and he told me he would be more than happy to make the belts for me.  He runs an awesome shop over on Etsy.com called The Castaway Trading Co. that offers all sorts of fantastic piratical goodies.  As soon as I had the money I ordered the belt from him and it turned out great!  I can’t wait to have him make the Anna Maria belt for me because I have no doubt it will be equally awesome.

(My Jack Sparrow sun belt – new)


  When putting together a period costume, be it a pirate, a wild west cowboy, or a knight from the Middle Ages, what really sells it and makes it look authentic is the aging.  Take for example the costumes in a movie like “Pirates of the Caribbean”; they don’t look brand new and off the rack but rather they look beat up, worn out, and faded.  There is an art to the way costumes in movies are weathered and aged, and it is what makes them look realistic and believable.  While putting together both my Captain McAnen costume and now my Jack Sparrow costume I’ve weathered each item slightly to make sure it looks used and authentic.  It can seem crazy to beat the hell out of an item you’ve paid good money for, but the overall effect is well worth it.

   My new sun belt is a great example.  When it arrived it was a obviously a brand new item.  Some costume enthusiasts prefer to break in their items naturally and let them age over time, but others like me like to speed up the process so that the costume looks worn and lived in even if it has just come out of the box.  For the belt I used rubbing alcohol on cotton balls to dull the finish of the belt and take off some of the excess leather dye.  Next I took some fine grit sandpaper and went over it ever so lightly to take off a bit more of the finish and scuff it up a bit, then went back over it using the alcohol and cotton balls again to smooth out the dye.  Jack’s belt would have seen plenty of sunlight and salt water, so I wanted to give the belt a somewhat faded look.  Finally I rubbed the belt down with a wash cloth to take off anymore excess dye that the alcohol had pulled out, then gave it a coat of Pecard’s leather dressing to seal it.  Jack’s belt is even more weathered than mine, but what I’ve done is kick start the aging process, and any future weathering will come from regular wear and tear.

(My Jack Sparrow sun belt – weathered)


  I’m very pleased with the result.   Now I just need to add the “manky pelts” and my sun belt will be complete.  I’d like to thank Captain McCool for making such a terrific addition to my costume.  Hopefully I’ll be able to have him make the Anna Maria belt very soon.

When I set out on my Jack Sparrow costuming adventure at the first of the year I made it my goal to purchase one item per month, and so far I’m right on target with six items as the month of June gets underway.


     In all four movies Jack wears a red paisley bandana tied around his head.  The bandana is much more faded in “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” than it is in “Curse of the Black Pearl”, and it is that faded look from the sequels that I am going for.  Recently I purchased a new bandana from Mango Fever on eBay as a sort of bonus item.  I haven’t yet decided what I want to do with the new bandana, whether I want to fade it out and use it or save it and weather it later on should I choose to put together an “On Stranger Tides” version of the costume somewhere down the road, but I’m including a photo of it here to show what these bandanas look like brand new.

(Jack Sparrow bandana – new)


  I purchased my first Jack Sparrow bandana from Mango Fever back in 2008 and it is the one I’ll be using for the DMC/AWE costume I’m putting together now.  To get the desired color I’ve ran it through a few bleach baths, and it has been washed several times over the past few years.  At one point a couple of years ago my teenage sister borrowed it for a school project and it got washed with my original Captain McAnen shirt, turning the shirt pink!  The bandana looks fantastic, but I’m thinking about soaking it in some water with just a tiny drop of brown dye at some point to give it a slightly dingier look.  That may also help tone down the blue in the flowers a little bit as well.

(Jack Sparrow bandana – weathered)


For my Captain McAnen costume I ordered bandanas from another eBay seller, Full Moon Loom.  The first one was a purple paisley bandana that I bleached out with Rit Color Remover.  In fact it pulled out so much color that the bandana was light grey when I pulled it out of the washing machine!  Luckily the paisley pattern remained, and I was able to achieve the purple color I wanted with Rit Dye.  For an alternative look for the costume I purchased another bandana, this time in green but with the same pattern.  Again I used Rit Color Remover, but this time kept some of the original color in rather than turning it completely grey, then redyed it with green Rit Dye.  I think they both turned out great.

(Captain McAnen’s bandanas)


  Later on I decided I would try to make another bandana, this time using one of the Jack Sparrow bandanas from Mango Fever, because I thought the Rit Color Remover would take out some of the blue from the flowers as well.  Instead it just turned the bandana pink and washed out a lot of the paisley pattern, but the flowers remained just as blue.  In the end I gave it a wash in purple dye and it came out a nice magenta color (see the above photo).  I probably won’t use this bandana for either the McAnen or Jack Sparrow costumes, but it makes for a nice spare should I recruit other pirates for parties and events.  My buddy “Scurvy” Steve donned it for some photos we had taken last November.

(Captain McAnen and Scurvy Steve ready for action!)


  I’ve still got a long way to go before my Captain Jack Sparrow costume is anywhere close to being complete, but I’m off to a good start and really happy with the items I’ve acquired so far.

(Johnny Depp getting into character)

Two Buckles and a Ring: My First Jack Sparrow Items of 2012


As 2012 got started I made a goal to buy one item each month for my Jack Sparrow costume.  I knew I would have to start with the less expensive stuff because money was pretty tight.  In fact, it was tight enough that February was well underway before I was even able to purchase my first item: the Anna Maria belt buckle.

The Anna Maria buckle is so named because it was originally worn by the character of Anna Maria in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”.

(Sadly this is the best photo I could find)


The story goes that when it came time to make “Dead Man’s Chest” Johnny Depp liked the buckle so much he opted to wear two belts as Captain Jack Sparrow, the Anna Maria buckle being worn on the second belt.  I got my buckle from Captain Venno, a fellow member over at www.keeptothecode.com, who found one of the original suppliers and bought several buckles in bulk to sell to the rest of us Jack Sparrow wannabes.  I distressed it a bit with some sandpaper, a wire brush, and a smidgen of acrylic paint.

(My Anna Maria buckle)

AnnaMariaBuckle2-1.jpg AnnaMariaBuckle2-1

The next piece I acquired was Jack’s other buckle, the sun buckle.  It gets its name from the circular shapes featured in its design.  Jack’s sun buckle (sometimes called the flower buckle) had a slightly different pattern when he wore just the one belt in “Curse of the Black Pearl”, but looked the same throughout the subsequent films.  As I’m going for the “Dead Man’s Chest”/”At World’s End” look I went with the second version.  This buckle came from Simon Newton at www.brethrencourt.net (you can check out his website here: www.simonnewton.co.uk) who was a photo double for Johnny Depp in “On Stranger Tides” and had these buckles made based on the one he wore in the movie.  I’ll be having belts made for these buckles very soon.

(My sun buckle)


In “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” Jack wears three rings on his left hand that weren’t worn in “Curse of the Black Pearl”.  Master Replicas made copies of these rings, as well as Jack’s skull ring, and sold them for about $15 a piece when they first came out.  Master Replicas has since gone out of business, but you can still find these rings on Amazon and eBay.  In 2006 I bought one of the skull rings and was not happy with it at all (more on that in my next post) so I figured the other rings would also be a waste of money.  But it turns out that Master Replicas actually did a decent job of replicating one of the other rings: Jack’s button ring.


The fictional tale of how Jack acquired this ring is that he shagged a Spanish widow and then stole it on his way out the door.  I have looked at numerous options for Jack’s rings over the years (they are some of my favorite pieces of his costume) and the Master Replicas version of the button ring seems to be the closest one.  It’s obviously not made of any precious metal (this is the kind of ring that can turn your finger green), but for a costume piece I’ll likely only wear when dressing up as Jack it will do just fine.  All the better when you consider I got it for less than $8 on Amazon, and it just happens to be the perfect size!

(My button ring)


So there you have it, my first three items for 2012.  I already had Jack’s skull ring and bandana, and my newest edition to the costume should be on its way in the next few days.  Then I just need to order one more item before the end of May and I will be caught up with 5 items for the first 5 months of 2012.  Sure, it’s all been little things, but it’s a start!

(“I can go like this.”)