Leather making dates back to the prehistoric era when the early man discovered that he could use dried animal skins to make protective clothing and shelter against the harsh weather conditions.
And as the earliest civilizations began to appreciate the animal skin as something much more than a by-product, more leather products were birthed. Among them is what we’ve come to know as the leather belt today.
The leather belt undoubtedly provides a surprising amount of insight into human development throughout history.
As I take you through the astonishing ways leather belts have been used over time, you’ll have an understanding of how much things have changed between then and now.
But before that, it’s only fair to explain why even after thousands of years, the leather belt is still one of the most sought-after product:
- Leather is the strongest material available for making belts, hence real leather belts can last for decades even with regular use.
- Leather tanning is a method that is used to increase leather’s durability and make it less susceptible to coloring and decomposing. This further increases leather belts’ sturdiness and prevents them from fast deterioration.
- Modern technology has enabled innovation in the leather industry, making it possible to expand the aesthetics, finishes, and feel of leather belts. This means more variety and styles of the leather belt while still maintaining its durability.
Now, let’s explore three astounding ways man has used the leather belt over time:
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1 - Leather Belts Used as a Form of Self Defense
An early documentation reveals that during the late Bronze Age, the Syrian army warriors wore eight-inch wide leather belts over their chests or waists as a form of self defense against their enemies’ sharp arrows.
In another battle called the Trojan War, which took place between 1200 and 1100 BC, the soldiers wore three types of belts as referenced in the ancient Greek poem, Iliad.
The belts were as explained below:
- The zoster belt: A girdle made with leather and adorned with precious stones
- Aorter belt: A weapon belt thrown over the chest and held the sword (just like a sheath)
- Telamon: A belt worn over the warrior’s shoulder for any purpose
All these belts were thick enough to protect the warrior from being hit by an arrow.
As leather making advanced, different communities began using leather belts for utilitarian purposes, since it was now strong enough to carry weapons and equipment.
Before this, the leatherworking yielded hard and stiff pieces that would rot in the sun, as man hadn’t discovered an appropriate tanning method.
Luckily, leatherworkers later began adding animal fats to the hides, which made the leather more flexible and used alum from volcanic areas to tan the hides, further reducing the chances of decomposition.
2 - Leather Belts Used to Carry Tools and Weapons
While people began casting belt buckles and metal hooks from bronze after the Stone Age, leatherworking itself made some advancements.
During the Roman Empire, leather became a valuable community that could be traded for utilitarian purposes. It was used to make belts strong and wide enough to carry weapons and useful items.
Much like warriors in previous eras, the Roman soldiers used leather belts to carry their weapons during war.
They had their own specially crafted two-styled belt. The first belt, the cingulum, was fastened around the waist and held a dagger. The belt has many strips of leather embellished on it with studs suspended over the front for decoration.
The second belt known as a balteus was wrapped over the soldier’s shoulder and carried a short sword for added protection.
3 - Belts Used to Display Social Class Status and Fashion
As the world progressed into the Middle Ages, both men and women began wearing leather belts, especially as a form of fashion or to display their social class status.
The full grain leather belts became a popular form of jewelry, but the style was greatly influenced by the wearer’s social status.
The wealthy, particularly women, wore leather belts that were elaborately decorated. The belts resembled a type of chain that rested above the waist, with an excess piece loosely hanging down.
Those on the lower classes, on the other hand, wore simple leather belts with pouches attached to them to hold their coins.
The men in the military also used the leather belt to reveal their rank and demand respect from the community. Highly ranked officials adorned decorative belts with some utilitarian style.
Leather Belts in the 21st Century
The invention of suspenders in the 1800s began to largely phase out leather belts since people mainly wore high waisted trousers, which made wearing belts uncomfortable.
However, the leather belt made a comeback by the 1930s as fashion trends began to rapidly change.
And thanks to its association with the military during the World War, many men began considering leather belts cool.
Heroes from the Second World War both on the screens and in person were also closely associated with leather belts, a factor that further increased their popularity.
Henceforth, with the exception of the suspender comeback in the late 80s and early 90s, the leather belt has remained a top men’s accessory.
While styles may change with trends, this is a staple accessory that has for sure stood the test of time.
Below are a few ways that men use leather belts today:
- Comfort: The preference for the leather belt over a suspender can be largely attributed to the assumption that leather belts are not just useful but also comfortable. They rest more comfortably on the waist and can be adjusted to give a perfect fit.
- Style: Leather belts are an epitome of style and elegance. They’re perfect for every occasion and will immediately boost your entire look.
- Utility: Leather belts continue to keep trousers up while still conveniently being used to hold belt bags, phone clips, and wallet chains. Utility leather belts are larger than normal belts with a few pouches or spaces to hold objects.
Today, the leather belt game is stronger than ever before. With advanced technology and innovations in the leather industry, it can only get better.
That’s why you need to invest in a quality leather belt, one gorgeously designed and durable enough to pass down to the next generation.
“This is the best belt I’ve ever worn. Top notch leather and well built. Looks like I’ll pass this to my children ...”
Unfortunately, not all belts termed “leather belts” are truly made from real belts.
Some manufacturers use corrected grain or mix bonded leather—the lowest leather grade—with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to produce “leather belts,” which are low value belts that will chip or crack after only a few uses.
Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Leather Grades
The best leather belts are made with full-grain leather, the highest quality leather grade available, which is incredibly durable and long-lasting.
Below is a comparison between full-grain leather belts and those made from low grade leather.
|Full Grain Leather Belt
|Low Grade Leather Belt
|Incredibly durable since the leather grains and fibers are left intact during manufacturing
|The sanded leather has a lighter fiber structure which reduces the belt’s durability
|Forms a beautiful leather patina as it ages
|Hardly forms patina because the outer layer that reacts with the environmental factors is removed
|Has pores within its fiber structures that facilitate ventilation, reducing the chances of mildew or mold growth
|Less pores are left after sanding, which may reduce the belt’s breathability
Only Go For Full Grain Leather Belts
Even as the fashion keeps changing, leather belts are here to stay. History has proven to us that they’re sure to remain around our waists regardless of the trends.
And what better time to secure a quality, full-grain leather belt for yourself or a loved one than now?
All the belts at Popov Leather are strong and specially made for people by people.
They’re designed and handmade by a dedicated team using the strongest materials available, from full-grain leather to the durable Tiger thread and solid brass buckle.
These collectively give the belts a kind of durability that’s impossible to find with mass-produced leather belts.
The leather belts come in five elegant different colors—English Tan, Heritage Brown, Natural, Black, and Olive—that are simple to style and match with most outfits.
Written by Ryan Popoff
Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Reach out with questions.