Here’s a question for you. What do Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, The Queen, Oprah Winfrey and Winston Churchill all have in common? That’s correct… four of them have been in jail. Oh, and they’ve all been photographed wearing belts. Whilst belts date back to the Bronze Age, it wasn’t until the 1920s that they became a part of the daily life of a man. Back then, they didn’t have belt loops, although sports shorts did. Whilst it may seem a tad odd for sports shorts to be worn with belts, there was a real concern amongst athletes back then that, whilst running that 100 yard sprint at a major event, one’s shorts would falter and come tumbling down. This was a serious, serious issue back in those roaring twenties. Not a laughing matter at all. No, who am I kidding? The sheer notion of a prized athlete losing his or her shorts during a run is utterly hilarious…
The earliest belts were made from softened tree bark and large pieces of fabric, but they weren’t used to keep one’s trousers up or, indeed, for fashionable reasons. I mean, I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think catwalks were all the rage in the Bronze Age. I think they were more worried with other things such as, oh, I don’t know, diphtheria. These belts were used to hold a man’s tools, because, as we all know, men love their tools. I don’t, however. I’m a rare breed amongst men. Give me a nice cup of cocoa over a sledgehammer any day of the week. Not that men carry around sledgehammers in their belts, of course. That I know of, at least.
The Romans were big belt lovers, with the Gladiators and the Emperors the biggest of fans. The Gladiators wore decorative belts to hold their weapons in, but also, so their hands would be free. Otherwise, they’d have to do battle with one hand holding a sword and the other holding their kecks up. Again, like with the sports shorts, a hugely amusing image.
By medieval times, rich women were wearing belts, but purely for decoration, you see. Whereas the poorer women in society would wear them for more practical reasons, using them to store coins or other valuables. Come the 1800s, men were wearing belts for military reasons, and for no other reason than that. In day-to-day life, men wore suspenders, and no, people of Britain, I mean what the rest of the world calls ‘suspenders.’ What we call ‘braces’ in Britain, the rest of the world calls ‘suspenders,’ and what we call ‘suspenders,’ the rest of the world calls ‘intimate lingerie.’ There weren’t men in the 1800s walking around wearing that, is my point. Well, I mean, maybe there were, but it wasn’t common…
Men didn’t wear belts back in the 1800s because trousers weren’t conducive to belt wearing back then, because of how they were made. Braces were far more comfortable. However, come the outbreak of World War One, men in their thousands headed overseas to fight, wearing belts. By the time they got home, they were so used to them, they brought the fashion home. And so the modern age of the belt begun. Just imagine that, readers. If World War One hadn’t happened, we’d all be wearing braces. Golly gosh, indeedy.
In 1922, Levi Strauss & Co. invented the trouser belt loop, because before then, as I said, trousers just didn’t have them. People were left putting belts in loopless trousers, something that seems ridiculous by today’s standards. As a survey Levi did at the time found, their male customers wanted more flexibility and didn’t feel safe with the usual affair. Put simply, braces were unreliable. So I’m told. I only wore them as a baby. There’s a lovely photo of me wearing them as a toddler. No, I’m not posting it…
Come the networking nineties, the trend of belt wearing was dying out, giving birth to the love it or hate it ‘sagging’ trend, where men wore their belt-less trousers deliberately low. Most women weren’t stupid enough to fall foul of this fashion faux pas, because they’re far more sensible than we are. Thankfully, this trend died a most wonderful death come the noughty 2000s. There is a myth that this trend began with prison gangs, due to the fact they’re not allowed belts. In fact, I remember someone once telling me that he practised sagging because ‘it’s cool because the prison gangs do it.’ It didn’t originate in prisons, however. Also, I don’t think prison gangs are an effective role model for a child, something that shouldn’t need to be said, but then again, we are living in the tricky tens…
Dream interpreters and other such hippies see belts in dreams as trouble. It’s said to be a symbol of erotic desire for dominance over others. Losing a belt is a signal that one is full of woe in matters of the heart. And finding an old belt means that you think all your efforts and struggles are pointless. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly never dreamt of a belt. And even if I did, it wouldn’t make me some kind of sex mad maniac, would it now?
Don’t answer that.
We’ve come a long way since the gentle origins of the humble belt. Just this year, a belt sold at auction for $249,000. A belt! A bloody belt! Designed by Republica Fashion, this belt has 30 carat diamonds embedded into the buckle. Would I pay for such opulence? No. Imagine what I could buy for that kind of money. If you went to Iceland, the British supermarket, not the country, you can buy a packet of bacon containing 14 slices for a reasonable $2.27. You can also buy a packet of bread containing 17 slices for an also reasonable $1.30. Now, if you make a bacon sandwich properly, for one person, that’s two slices of buttered bread with four slices of bacon in it. This means that you could make 9,511.5 bacon sandwiches for the price of that diamond belt. Nearly 9,512 lovely, delicious bacon sandwiches! Now, given the choice, between 9,512 bacon sandwiches or a diamond belt, which would you prefer?
So, am I obsessed with belts? I don’t have much of an opinion on belts, readers. I only have one and it’s tatty and falling apart. And I don’t really care. In fact, I hated belts when I was younger. I’m so thin, dad kept punching more holes into them because you could never by them small enough. I’m a 28 waist and a 32 leg. I couldn’t be any more awkward. That’s in inches, by the way. None of that evil metric foreign muck, here…
So no, I am not obsessed with belts, but you know, their history is pretty darn fun, huh?
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