Belts have been around for longer than what they hold up. The earliest trousers are recorded in – you’ve guessed it – yes, China in around 1300 BC, but belts predate them by at least a thousand years. So clearly, given the fact that there were no trousers, their function was mostly decorative. Accordingly, they were not always made of leather – hemp, silk and precious metals were also common, depending on your job. Of course, they were also handy for hanging things from, such as a purse, keys, or…a sword.
In fact, as far as menswear is concerned, belts were mostly the province of the military for hundreds of years. Aside from their obvious practical use as a means of suspending anything that you wanted suspended, even a sword, they were also a badge of identification and rank. Yet there was far more to being a military man than winning battles; you also had to look the part. So, a wide, ornate belt, cinched so tightly that it endangered your digestion, would not only draw attention to your army, regiment and rank, but also to your imposing physique.
(Image credit: University of Leicester)
It was only with the rise, or arguably lowering, of trousers that the belt finally came into its own. Although the earliest trousers were undoubtedly made-to-measure, being mostly produced at home, the advent of manufacturing and a one-size-fits-all philosophy meant that something was needed to prevent you from looking like a saggy-bottom boy. There was also the fact that, especially but not exclusively, in less well-heeled families clothing tended to be handed down from elder brother to younger brother. Unless your mother was particularly handy with needle and thread, a good belt was the only way, and certainly the easiest way, of avoiding embarrassment. The handy notches for adjusting the buckle were a godsend.
As with many accessories, the belt has tended to become simpler over the years. Today, most men’s belts are made of plain leather – or something that looks vaguely like leather – with a relatively simple buckle, and can be roughly divided into formal and casual. At its best, the colour of a formal belt should match your shoes, being usually the only other leather product worn below the waist. Typically, the quality of the leather will be full-grain or spazzalato (burnished) with a simple buckle that should ideally match the material, or at least the colour, of any other accessories, such as your watch for example.
The Pitch Black/Grey Modernist belt by Awling
A casual belt can be anything you like, frankly, but, as always, style is the essence.
So much for fashion tips. However, there are a couple of questions to be asked. How many belts do you have? How many do you need? In most cases, the answer to both questions will be, not many. Given that fact, it makes great sense to buy the best you can afford – a belt or two that may well last you a lifetime, and will give you pleasure every time you wear them. And these are the belts we sell on Debonair.