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6 min read


The belt is having a revival. Having long been a functional item and a sartorial afterthought, there is nowadays an array of styles, textures and colours to choose from, making it the perfect accessory to make your own and showcase some individuality with. But beware, as with every accessory, there are a few rules that should be followed: read on for our styling advice and pitfalls to avoid.

"I do not want to tell people what to wear, I want to help them discover their own individuality and to express this through their belt." 

- Justin Rhodes, Elliot Rhodes 





A SHORT HISTORY OF BELTS


Belts date back to the Bronze Age. So-called belts were very functional back then and were used in stead of pockets or bags to carry belongings, tools and weapons. They were made from tree bark, then cuts of fabric and leather.

By 100BC, belts had evolved into a status of power and status when Greek and Roman soldiers used them not only to shield their body but also as a mark of their rank. To this day, belts remain an important way to show allegiance and status: much like Franks believed a man seized power over their enemy when capturing his belt, boxing champions are still crowned with a colour-coded belt.

In the Middle Ages, men wore belts on their hips to draw in their waist and elongate their body, creating an idealised male trim physique of broad shoulders with a small waist - giving the distinctive look of that time. This very much reflected how women used belts as an alternative to corsets and bodices to minimise their waists too.

In the 1800s, the invention of suspenders played a large part in phasing out the belt: often trousers were high-waisted making belts uncomfortable to wear, and men favoured suspenders instead.

The twentieth century, however, was pivotal in the history of the belt: in 1922, Levi Strauss & Co, the company famed for making blue jeans, decided to consistently add belt loops to its trousers to give the wearers more flexibility, changing the history of belts forever and turning it into an indispensable accessory for a well-fitted attire very since.

At the same time, suspenders were neglected even more as they became associated with war and military uniforms, and became relegated to underwear. A shortage of raw materials during WWII made the belt, which had seen a revival until then, more uniform and therefore less sartorially elevated. This, however, might have been the catalyst for the booming revolution of the 1950s, when men accessorised their plain belts with an array of metal pieces and loops, and innovation in materials brought new textures, fabrics and colours to the belt market. This was the beginning of belts as a sartorial accessory focused almost entirely on aesthetics rather than functionality.

Nowadays, belts have become an accessory in their own right. Whilst they do still hold trousers up, their primary function is very much to finish off an outfit and bring it together.




HOW TO SELECT A HIGH QUALITY BELT


There are many factors to take into consideration when selecting a belt:

  • When it comes to leather belts, the actual leather, from the quality of the hide and how it is dyed, to how the leather ages and the rich patina it develops over time, will all play a part in the quality of the belt you purchase. The preparing of the hide is done by hand by very skilled craftsmen and takes time and will highly influence the quality of the finished product.
  • Irregularities in the grain are also a sign of quality, and an inherent part of using a genuine animal skin.
  • Calfskin is renown as the best quality leather to use for belts, as it is soft and supple and less likely to crack. A good quality belt should also leave a mark when scored lightly with a fingernail, showing the leather is still fresh.
  • When selecting your next belt, go for full-grain leather if you can as it is the highest grade of leather available.
  • Finally, pay attention to the lining and the finishing details of the belt as they will all impact on the durability of it.
  • A high quality belt will stand the test of time and justifies the higher purchase price. The brands Jeya Narrative promotes work with some of the best tanneries in Europe, and are dedicated to offering some of the highest quality belts available.
 



 

"Just like modern buildings get stripped down to the very basics to expose their inner workings, we seek to create timeless accessories while being radically transparent about our materials and factories.[...] We want to turn belts into the relevant accessory it should be."

- Jan Jülicher,  Dalgado

 

HOW TO WEAR YOUR BELT | 12 STYLE TIPS

  1. If there is one rule that can not be broken is that the colour of your belt should match the colour of your dress shoes. It’s not about being pedantic, but it just looks really odd if it doesn’t, like something in your outfit is out of sync. If you are wearing white sneakers (and who isn’t these days), match the belt with the rest of the outfit instead so it looks coherent.

  2. Belts should be worn with any trousers that have belt loops. If you don’t, your outfit will look unfinished.

  3. Don’t wear a belt with formalwear (that’s black or white tie, or morning dress). Morning dress trousers should have side-adjusters and/or buttons for braces instead.

  4. Make sure to match the colour of your metals (of your belt's buckle and your cufflinks for instance).

  5. The skinnier the belt, the more formal it is; the thicker and wider the belt, the more casual it is. (Keep very large belts for jeans only.)

  6. For smart occasions and office wear, stick to narrow, sleek leather belts with clean lines. Experiment with textures, colours and fancier buckles for casual outfits only.

  7. Black and brown belts are the most versatile and you should definitely own one of each colour, but adding some texture or colour will make more of a statement piece of your belt.

  8. Know how to size up your belt. A belt that is either too long or too short will look unbalanced and will tarnish the appearance of your outfit. Whilst most belts traditionally have 5 holes, most of those are actually purely decorative and should not be used as such. You should always aim to fasten your belt in the middle hole. This will give you enough leeway to tighten or loosen up slightly. When it comes to hole-less belts, a similar sizing applies. Make sure to refer to the sizing guide of a belt before purchasing one.

  9. A good quality belt is an accessory that can be worn for many years; it is worth buying the most expensive one you can afford.

  10. When it comes to storage, do not roll your belts as this will eventually weaken and create unnecessarily cracks in the leather. Hang them instead.

  11. If you’re going for a statement belt, keep the rest of your outfit subdued and simple to allow for the belt to take prime position. Brighter tones such as blue and green especially in summer will add a welcome change from darker tones and brighten up your outfit.

  12. Finally, remember that belts are a matter of proportions, and can help to give you a leaner look. A statement belt will bring attention to your waist, so opt for a more subdued option if you do not feel confident in drawing attention to that area of your body.

  

Awling brown handmade leather belts

  

"Crafted products are more than just functional – they say something about our humanity. For each step of a production process there is the story of someone’s dedication and mastery of a skill. There is intimate understanding of materials, tools and processes, and how to create something useful and beautiful with those inconstant elements. Nuance and imperfection are purposefully built in and celebrated, rather than engineered out."

Chris Goldstraw, Awling



Dalgado leather belts

Though it may not be a power accessory as such nor be as inherent to classic menswear as braces, it is time for the belt to be reassessed and to be given the place it deserves in any wardrobe.

Be it an accent or a statement piece, a belt will greatly add to your outfits and can help tie all the pieces together. Belts have transformed their identity: no longer a practical accessory, they have in recent years become a sartorial must-have, almost just as important as a pocket squares or colourful socks - and brands such as Awling and Dalgado are paving the way for that movement.



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