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Tom Mauldin: hooking art to function



Photography: Sally Taylor |


Tom Mauldin’s business concept, HookNHide, is art securely hooked to function. A hook can be what a fisherman sets in the lip of the fish. The master fisherman says a hook also holds its place in the eyelet of a fine leather belt strap.

He explains that the art part is representational sculpture of fish, as an accessory for the male waist. The function comes in when a thirst strikes. The belt buckle doubles as a bottle opener, a handy appliance to have when you’re out in a boat and the sun is streaming down on you.

“Our first designs were a redfish, mako shark, sailfish, bull dolphin and a rainbow trout.” Mr. Mauldin, 40, recently added a buckle that represents a flounder. “It’s such a popular fish around here.” Another addition to the line has been a yellowfin tuna.

The first buckles Mr. Mauldin created “were given away to friends and family, but my sisters Caroline and Logan and my Mom saw business potential as a unique male fashion accessory.” The buckles have been popular as groomsmen’s gifts and also as personal gifts at traditional giving times of year.

The process he employs is time-honored, with contemporary updates. “From the designs I create, it takes three days to forge the buckles – just like a piece of sculpture would take. The finish is achieved by a mix of brass, silver, gold and pewter. But, unlike the ones I catch, these fish don’t have to be cleaned.”

Since 2008, the artist has been steadily reeling in the successes. His growth plan is to work smarter, not longer. “I still want to have time to go fishing.”  That’s easy to do in the Lowcountry of SC, where he lives and works.

Story By Rachel Haynie