Belt buckle

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Byzantine belt buckle from the late 6th or 7th century, with the chape to the right Byzantine - Belt Buckle - Walters 57545.jpg
Byzantine belt buckle from the late 6th or 7th century, with the chape to the right
A Ming dynasty white jade belt buckle with gold Tomb of Prince Chuang of Liang (Liang Zhuang Wang ) - Belt Buckle.jpg
A Ming dynasty white jade belt buckle with gold
Frame-style buckle: A conventional belt buckle with single square frame and prong Beltbuckle1.JPG
Frame-style buckle: A conventional belt buckle with single square frame and prong
Plate-style "buckle: Back side of original US Civil War buckle, showing bent-arrow chape-end attachment and single-hook mordant Standard Civil War Infantry Waist Belt with Oval US Buckle 22.jpg
Plate-style "buckle: Back side of original US Civil War buckle, showing bent-arrow chape-end attachment and single-hook mordant
Box-frame "buckle: Box-frame "buckles" Vag120menos (Large).jpg
Box-frame "buckle: Box-frame "buckles"
Belt buckle from the Russian navy. Baltesspanne - Ryska marinen.jpg
Belt buckle from the Russian navy.

A belt buckle is a buckle, a clasp for fastening two ends, such as of straps or a belt, in which a device attached to one of the ends is fitted or coupled to the other. The word enters Middle English via Old French and the Latin buccula or "cheek-strap," as for a helmet. Belt buckles and other fixtures are used on a variety of belts, including cingula, baltea, baldrics and later waist-belts.



Belt buckles go back at least to the Iron Age and a gold "great buckle" was among the items interred at Sutton Hoo. Primarily decorative "shield on tongue" buckles were common Anglo-Saxon grave goods at this time, elaborately decorated on the "shield" portion and associated only with men. One such buckle, found in a 7th-century grave at Finglesham, Kent during excavations by Sonia Chadwick Hawkes in 1964 bears the image of a naked warrior standing between two spears wearing only a horned helmet and belt. [1]

Frame-style buckles are the oldest design. In a frame-and-prong buckle the prong attaches to one end of the frame and extends "away" from the wearer through a hole in the belt, where it anchors against the opposite side of the frame. The oldest styles have a simple loop or D-shaped frame (see: D-ring), but "double-loop" or "center post" buckles whose prongs attach to a fixed center section appear in the 8th century. Very small buckles with removable center pins and chapes were introduced and used on shoes, beginning in the 17th century, but not often for waist-belts. A "chape" is the fixed cover or plate which attaches buckle to belt while the "mordant" or "bite" is the adjustable portion.

Plate-style buckles are common on western military belts of the mid-19th century, which often feature a three-hook clasp: two hooks fitting into one end of the belt and a third into the other. Officers might have a similar but more intricate clasp-style closure that featured two interlocking metal parts. In practice, the term "belt plate" refers to any flat, decorated surface on such a clasp. These precede development of modern "western-style" buckles, which feature a hinged frame affixed to one end of the belt and a simple hook clasp which enters the belt hole toward the wearer but leaves most of the buckle on the "outside" of the belt, providing an ample surface for decoration. The distance between the fixed frame or chape of a plate buckle and its adjustment prong is called the "throw."

Box-frame buckles are a 20th-century style of military friction buckle, common on webbed belts. The box-frame buckle consists of three parts (front, back and post). An adjustable captive post sits perpendicular to the belt to press it against the outer "box," which completely surround the webbing and minimize accidental adjustments should part of the belt snag on something. There may or may not be a metal tip on the opposite "tongue" end of the belt for easier insertion.

O-Ring/D-Ring buckles use one or two rings to form the buckle. The belt is fastened by threading through the ring(s). This is used with braided, webbing, and canvas belts. [2]

Snap/Side release buckles use male and female ends to snap together. They are more functional and often used for outdoor activities. [2]

Earlier, military-style buckles often use friction and are designed for use with cloth belts or straps. Simple friction buckles are one-piece frames with no prong whatsoever, the strap or belt winding through a series of slots, and may more technically be called "belt slides" or "belt trims." Although technically not buckles, other fasteners such as plastic "side-clasp" or even seat belt latches are also often used on belts, and colloquially called buckles.

Rise in popularity

Because of their strong association with military equipment, belt buckles were primarily a masculine ornament well into the 19th century.

Belt buckles became more popular as fashion accessories in the early 20th century, as the tops of trousers moved more toward the waist. "Western-style" belt buckles were largely popularized by cowboy movies in the United States and are often awarded to winners in rodeo events as prize medals or trophies, a custom later adopted by the Western States Endurance Run and a few other ultra-marathons. The large, flat surface of the western-style belt buckles make them a popular ornament or style of jewelry. Decorative "buckle sets" may contain a metal buckle, one or more matching loops which sit next to the buckle and a metal tip for the opposite, "tongue" end of the belt. "Belt plates" may be decorative covers for a plain buckle or other decorative fittings affixed to the belt itself, similar to "conchos" (from a Spanish word for "shell"). Decorative belt loops are sometimes awarded in scouting for participation in or completion of activities.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Backpack</span> Bag carried on ones back

A backpack—also called knapsack, rucksack, pack, booksack, bookbag, or backsack—is, in its simplest frameless form, a fabric sack carried on one's back and secured with two straps that go over the shoulders, but it can have an external frame, internal frame, and there are bodypacks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Webbing</span> Strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube used instead of rope

Webbing is a strong fabric woven as a flat strip or tube of varying width and fibres, often used in place of rope. It is a versatile component used in climbing, slacklining, furniture manufacturing, automobile safety, auto racing, towing, parachuting, military apparel, load securing, and many other fields.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lanyard</span> Necklace used to hold ID cards or other items

A lanyard is a length of cord, webbing, or strap that may serve any of various functions, which include a means of attachment, restraint, retrieval, activation, and deactivation. A lanyard is also a piece of rigging used to secure or lower objects aboard a ship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buckle</span> Mechanical device for fastening two loose ends

A buckle or clasp is a device used for fastening two loose ends, with one end attached to it and the other held by a catch in a secure but adjustable manner. Often taken for granted, the invention of the buckle was indispensable in securing two ends before the invention of the zipper. The basic buckle frame comes in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the intended use and fashion of the era. Buckles are as much in use today as they have been in the past: used for much more than just securing ones belt, instead they are one of the most dependable devices in securing a range of items.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baby sling</span> Fabric item designed to carry a child on the body

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Horned helmet</span> Helmet with horns

Horned helmets were worn by many people around the world. Headpieces mounted with animal horns or replicas were also worn from ancient times, as in the Mesolithic Star Carr. These were probably used for religious ceremonial or ritual purposes, as horns tend to be impractical on a combat helmet. Much of the evidence for these helmets and headpieces comes from depictions rather than the items themselves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Backplate and wing</span> Type of back-mount scuba harness

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A dog collar is a piece of material put around the neck of a dog. A collar may be used for restraint, identification, fashion, protection, or training. Identification tags and medical information are often placed on dog collars. Collars are often used in conjunction with a leash for restraining a dog. Collars can be traumatic to the trachea if the dog pulls against the restraint of the leash, causing severe pressure to the neck. Use of a harness instead of a collar may be beneficial for dogs prone to tracheitis or those with a collapsed trachea. Conversely, dog breeds with slender necks or smaller heads may easily slip out of collars that are too loose. This can be avoided by using a martingale dog collar which tightens to distribute pressure around the neck when training the dog not to pull. Any style of dog collar must be properly fitted to ensure safety and collars should not be worn when the dog is unattended.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment</span> Equipment

The All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) is a set of load-carrying equipment adopted as United States Army Standard A on 17 January 1973 to replace the M-1956 Individual Load-Carrying Equipment (ILCE) and M-1967 Modernized Load-Carrying Equipment (MLCE). Although since superseded by MOLLE, ALICE gear is still in some limited use with the U.S. Army National Guard, State Guard, also some ground units of the Navy and Air Force.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chape</span>

Chape has had various meanings in English, but the predominant one is a protective fitting at the bottom of a scabbard or sheath for a sword or dagger. Historic blade weapons often had leather scabbards with metal fittings at either end, sometimes decorated. These are generally either in some sort of U shape, protecting the edges only, or a pocket shape covering the sides of the scabbard as well. The reinforced end of a single-piece metal scabbard can also be called the chape.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Individual Integrated Fighting System</span> US Armed Forces IIFS

The IIFS was introduced in 1988, to serve as a fighting and existence carrying system—a possible replacement for the All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment employed and fielded by United States Armed Forces since 1973.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Breastplate (tack)</span> Piece of horse equipment across the chest

A breastplate is a piece of tack (equipment) used on horses. Its purpose is to keep a saddle from sliding back. It is also a safety feature—if the saddle's girth or billets break, a rider may have enough time to stop the horse and dismount before the saddle slips off the animal's back. The breastplate is used on both English and Western saddles. Western riding involving working cattle use a thicker sturdier style than in English riding or Western riding horse shows. A breastplate is most helpful for horses with large shoulders and a flat ribcage. A breast collar as part of a harness is used to pull a load.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">M-1956 Load-Carrying Equipment</span> Equipment

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anglo-Saxon dress</span> Clothing of Anglo-Saxon England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Horse harness</span> Device that connects a horse to a carriage or load

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The 1972 Pattern Webbing was intended to replace the 58 pattern webbing, but never got beyond user trials. It was made from PU-coated nylon to counter the Soviet NBC capability with a general look closer to a load-bearing vest. It was designed to be used in wide variety of environments such as jungles, deserts and was configurable for use, ranging from short-duration jungle patrols to general infantry use.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Watch strap</span> Bracelet that straps a watch to the wrist

A watch strap, watch band,watch bracelet or watch belt is a bracelet that straps a wrist watch onto the wrist. Watch straps may be made of leather, plastic, rubber, cloth, or metal, sometimes in combination. It can be regarded as a fashion item, serving both a utilitarian and decorative function. Some metal watch straps may be plated with, or even in rare cases made of, precious metals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bolt snap</span> Sprung slide gated snap hook

A bolt snap is a type of snap hook with a manually operated bolt action slide gate of medium security used to clip a light load to a ring, eye, loop or bight to temporarily secure or suspend an object. They are used for a wide variety of applications including dog leads and for clipping scuba equipment to the diving harness. A similar but more secure device used to attach sails to a stay is known as a piston hank. It differs from a snap shackle in that the load is not carried by the gate. The bolt snap must be actively operated by the user to clip or unclip, and is not easily snagged or unintentionally clipped or unclipped by pressing or bumping against the surroundings.


  1. S.C. Hawkes, H.R.E. Davidson, C. Hawkes, 1965. "The Finglesham Man," Antiquity 39:17-32. doi : 10.1017/S0003598X00031379
  2. 1 2 Centeno, Antonio (14 February 2018). "A Man's Guide to Belts". The Art of Manliness. Retrieved 4 January 2020.