Western belts have meant an identity to Americans as the westward movement began so did this art craft. Early western belts were actually military friction belts, not what we think of today. They were functional for holding whatever was hanging from the belt, guns, tool, ropes, branding irons and such. The buckle was large since it had to hold the weight of its load. The movement blended many nationalities and cultures. Belt and leather making artisans including the Native Americans and Hispanics all lent their signatures to different regions of the west.
The 1920’s, and cinematic influences created many of the western styled belts we know today. The belt leathers not only offered seared and branded belts with ranch identification, western themes or petroglyphs but many of them were also studded with the same metals used for riding and harness gear.
Turquoise and topaz stones also studded early belts as the art form progressed, links of jewels and leather became well accepted. The buckle was a large part of the western belt and is today. Most were and still are iron plated with silver and a design or inlaid jewels on the face. The most popular theme is a patriotic theme displaying eagles, the American flag, or early western scenes. Rodeos are a perfect place to see a huge variety over exaggerated leather with inlaid jewels, rhinestones and intricately sensational buckles.
Mens’ western belt design today includes a traditional branded leather and the buckle that are at least three ½ inches in diameter. The buckle usually is a statement of profession, status or identity. Some examples include, initials, dogs, horses, cars, military identification, corporate logos, and the many varieties of patriotic designs. The leather can be studded with jewels that are usually turquoise, rhinestones or metal. Interlinked metal and leather to create the belt with jewels are also popular, but western branding of some sort completes the look. Designer belts are available with pure gold and silver studding, with diamonds, rubies, and other rare gems adorning the leather and the buckle. These belts can run thousands of dollars and can also be custom designed for a signature look you might want. Women and children’s western belt styles are usually a scaled-down version of the mens belt, to fit the size of the individual.