Belts are part of male clothing beginning with the Bronze Age. Then they were worn by both genders, but were more common for men, excepting the early middle Ages, and in Mantua of the late 17th century. They also accompanied the combinations of skirt and blouse worn between 1900 and 1910. Belt buckles come from the Iron Age. The first decorative buckles of the “shield on tongue” type were grave goods commonly encountered at Anglo-Saxons. They were richly decorated on their shield part and were associated solely with men. Those belonging to Art Nouveau are nowadays items of collection.



The latter half of the nineteenth century brought a utilitarian role to the belt as a part of the uniform, especially among officers. They usually wore wide and extremely tight belts around their waist and on the outside of their uniform in the armed forces of countries like Tsarist Russia, Prussia, or other countries of Eastern Europe. These belts were used to support a saber and also had an aesthetic role. Thanks to these tightly cinched belts, the wearers had to draw in their waist and, this way, emphasize a trim physique with wide shoulders and a prominent chest.



Later on, men began to wear belts in the 1920s, when trouser waists went to a lower line. Before that date, they were mainly associated with the military uniform, and had mostly a decorative role. Nowadays, men usually wear a belt with trousers.




Belt buckles are of several types. They differ in design, have more simple or complicated decorations, and also have different sizes. They became fashion accessories at the beginning of the 20th century. A “western style” was very popular thanks to cowboy movies. This style referred to buckles with flat surface and ornamental role. Recently, belt buckles became a very popular fashion accessory.



The oldest design belongs to frame-style buckles. They have a fixed cover which helps to attach the buckle to the belt and a “mordant”, which is the adjustable part. Plate-style buckles are usually met on military belts in the middle of the 19th century. They prefigure the development of the western-style buckles, with a hinged frame that is fixed to an end of the belt and a hook clasp that enters the belt whole. Box-out buckles are related to the traditional belt of our times. They are usually made of enduring leather or synthetic materials and are less functional, but they are certainly more fashionable. Box-frame buckles are another military like friction buckles of the 20th century. Military-style buckles often used friction and were designed to be used with straps or cloth belts. Fasteners like plastic side-clasp and seat belt latches are used on belts too, and are called buckles in a colloquial manner.

Belts and belt buckles are clothing elements that people have worn since ancient times. They were decorated according to trends of different époques and many of them are collector’s items.