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The History of the Belt Buckle

By Kathryn Adam

In order to properly discuss the history of the belt buckle, we must first take a look at how the buckle evolved before its use on belts. Since its early beginnings the buckle has taken many forms, even now we refer to any clasp type of securing device as a buckle. It has become an invaluable part of our daily life that we hardly give it a second thought anymore.

The earliest evidence of the word buckle occurs in the 11th century in French and Latin, and referred to a closure for the cheek strap on a helmet. Roman soldiers used bronze buckles to strap their armor on. Despite the ornate nature of their design, they were for the sole purpose of holding the armor on the body and thus were vitally important to the wearers safety in battle. Later on the baldric came into fashion as a means of carrying a sword. The baldric was a belt worn over the shoulder and diagonally across the chest with the sword being suspended at the waist. The baldric was usually decorated with precious gems or metals and was held together with a beautifully decorated buckle.

The Cingula and Balteus bore bronze buckles worn by the Romans and came in a variety of styles. Some were of a simple design consisting of a plate and prong, others were adorned with the heads of animals such as horses and dolphins. They were predominantly for military use, but the wealthy classes of society also began to wear buckles. By the end of the 14th century the knightly belt and buckle evolved into a highly decorated piece of adornment. The buckle would be much larger than its original form, and have ornate scrolls carved in the bronze. Precious stones and gold leaf decorated the belt and buckle as well. During the 15th century the manufacturing process started to incorporate molds in which steel could be poured, making it much easier and cheaper to make basic buckles for the lower classes of society.

Archaeologically, belt buckles have been found in three main types: frame style, plate style and box frame. The frame style is the oldest design and consists of the prong being attached to one end of the buckle and extending out. We use the frame style of buckle most commonly on simple trouser belts designed to be worn with dress pants. Plate style belts were most commonly used in military applications and featured a three hook clasp. Two hooks on one end of the buckle attached to the belt, with the third at the other end to be secured in a notch of the belt. These were the pre-cursors to the now popular western style buckle which attaches to the belt with a hinge on one end and a hook on the other. The box frame buckle is the most recent style to be used, and once again with military origins. There are three parts to the box frame, the front, back and post. The belt feeds through the box and is held in place by the post pressing it against the front or back of the buckle.

The military obviously plays a large part in the evolution of the belt buckle. Originally invented for practical uses, it is now also used as a means of self expression by those in all walks of life. In the early 20th century mens suit pants began to rise further and further up the waist, and right along with it, the belt. The further up the waist the pants went, the more popular the belt became. Cowboy movies in the US popularized the western style belt buckle, especially after the release of Urban Cowboy with John Travolta. Rodeo winners were given large over sized and highly decorated belt buckles as prizes. Even professional wrestler who won their title match were given prize belts, often so large they covered most of the abdominal area. In 1979 a retailer in Miami Florida began offering custom design services for belt buckles. Now those who enjoyed luxurious lifestyles could have their own hand carved trophy buckles made with semiprecious stones and metals.

Although the function of the belt buckle will never fade away, its use as a means of self expression is bigger than ever. No matter what style of buckle you choose, there will always be many choices in size, material and decoration to match any mood or outfit. is a leading retailer of belt buckles for men. We love selling buckles for a few reasons: They are not expensive, they are a personalized gift, they are great looking, and they are unusual. If you are looking for cowboy belt buckles, visit us online to view our full catalog.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Adam, Kathryn "The History of the Belt Buckle." The History of the Belt Buckle. 18 Jan. 2011. 11 Oct 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Adam, K (2011, January 18). The History of the Belt Buckle. Retrieved October 11, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Adam, Kathryn "The History of the Belt Buckle"

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