After losing a little belly this summer, I’ve become more aware of my belt. It’s about an inch and a half wide, made with fairly thick “genuine” leather, and a heavy steel buckle. I would estimate it to hold over 200 pounds without any trouble. The phrase “swatting flies with a sledgehammer” comes to mind. Why on earth do I need such a heavy-duty strap for the rather pedestrian duty of cinching my trousers in a bit?
I wanted to figure out how this over-qualified leather belt came to be accepted as the right tool for the job.
From the bronze age right through to the start of the 20th century, belts were almost exclusively tied to military uniforms. While they sometimes came into function as a strap to hold a sword’s scabbard, they were very often employed strictly for fashion. In modern history, from the Crimean war through to Word War II, tight form fitting belts were used as part of the uniform design to emphasize broad shoulders and protruding chests to look more intimidating. (many officers in the Crimean war were said to wear corsets to further shape their figure)
In the civilian world, belts were rarely seen. Suspenders (also known as braces) were the popular choice for keeping your dignity in place. Even cowboys liked their suspenders until Hollywood came along. The whole idea of the large shiny belt buckle first appeared in movies before taking it’s place in real life cowboy culture.
Belts came into favour when “the boys” came home from the war and brought that piece of the uniform with them. Combined with a lowering of the fashionable waistline, the belt took its place on top of the “pants-keeper-upper” podium.
So, it seems there’s absolutely no good reason why I’m wearing such a clunky belt for a job that could be easily accomplished with a length of yarn.
Bonus fact: In my research I also learned about the origin of the questionably fashionable trend of having your pants almost falling off, hanging halfway down your bum, called “sagging”. Turns out, that little fad came from the prison scene where inmates weren’t allowed to have belts for safety reasons. Of course, we all know prison inmates are just the sort of folks we all want to emulate, so it became a hot look.
- Source: Belt – Wikipedia