In the 1920s, belts won a decisive victory in the battle over what, exactly, should hold up our pants. Suspenders had been a popular choice for centuries, but as military uniforms inspired people to take more functional approaches to their apparel, shoulder straps fell victim to an unforgivable comfort crime — wedgies. And as the general arc of fashion started bending towards lower pant waists, belts were simply the intuitive solution.
Cultural trends aside, the knockout punch was delivered by a single Great Man of history. The Duke of Windsor, a forward-thinking trendsetter who would later become King Edward VII, favored the more casual, American look of belts. He showed his off at parties, giving the sartorial middle finger to his suspender-wearing predecessors. The trend went viral amongst the Duke’s followers (long before Instagram was a thing), belts gained all the momentum, and we the belt-wearers have never really looked back.
The Duke of Windsor himself.
Over time, however, we’ve taken the belt for granted, pigeonholing it with a purely utilitarian and often uninteresting existence. People have evolved. Fashion has evolved along with us. But in many ways, we’ve latched the belt to the wrong side of history. We wear our belts wrong, giving them little to no attention. We wear our belts out, making them the fashion equivalent of a blown-out tire. Sometimes, we even neglect to wear our belts at all. Belts have become the forgotten accessory, and it’s time to give them the spotlight.
, our vision for the belt’s future lies partially in its past. Cowboys made the switch from suspenders to belts in part because they enabled them to display a buckle, which signified rodeo victories. In wrestling, karate, and boxing, belts are a similar symbol of forward progress. This points to an idea much bigger than belts. Over the course of human history, people have used fashion for much more than function. We’ve used our clothing to communicate something about ourselves to the world.
The belt is no longer a forgotten accessory.
Belts aren’t going anywhere, and that’s the perfect reason for us to make them more expressive. We’ve seen many accessories get second winds as accent pieces — ties, socks, and gloves being just a few success stories. Now it’s the belt’s turn to help define our looks. The question is: What message do you want your belt to convey? That you’re boring and forgettable? Or that you’re full of personality and — like the lowly belt itself — ready to make history?