All belt buckles are not created equal. Western belt buckles impart a distinctive style that never goes unnoticed. The best belt buckle makes a bold statement and has the power to either make or break your outfit.
With that in mind, here's your guide to buying belt buckles. This in-depth guide reviews the various types of belt buckles, explains the parts of a belt, when to wear a dress best vs. casual belt, the materials used to make belt buckles and more.
Western Belt Buckles for Men
A man's belt is a fashion accessory that makes a statement about the wearer. Knowing what belt to wear with jeans is almost as important as the fact a belt is there to hold your pants up! Let's explore the types of belts how they can help you incorporate a Western style in your wardrobe.
Types Of Belt Buckles
There are many types of modern belt buckles: frame buckles, plate buckles, box frame buckles, and O or D-ring buckles. Some belts may also use a snap buckle, or what is sometimes called a "parachute" clip. But the most well-known type of belt buckle is the Western belt buckle.
The distinct style of Western belt buckles emerged in the early 1900s due to the silversmithing skills of the Navajo and the ornate designs they created. Later in the 20th century, oversized "trophy" buckles appeared as prizes for cowboy events like rodeo competitions. Both casual belts and dress belt buckles feature bold styling that harkens back to the Wild West.
Belt Buckle Materials
Virtually any metal can be used to craft modern belt buckles, but some choices are better than others because of durability, cost and malleability. And different parts of the belt can be made of contrasting materials for a trendy look.
Below are some of the most common materials used in making Western belt buckles.
Silver is the preferred metal used in making Western belt buckles; however, modern belt buckles typically use sterling silver, a copper-silver alloy. If you're a silver fan, look for the 925 markings for the best belt buckle. Since silver is a costly precious metal, cheaper types of belts are silver-plated.
Both dress belt buckles and casual belts for cowboys are made from brass, a copper-zinc alloy. The beauty of brass is the attractive patina it attains over time, adding character to the metal. Brass belt buckles are cast from a mold, allowing for intricate, hand-crafted designs.
Pewter is a metal alloy composed mainly of tin and mixed with other harder metals such as copper and antimony. The softness of tin makes pewter ideal for highly decorative belt buckles. Its flexibility makes complex and elegant designs possible.
The most common belt buckle material is zinc alloy because it is cost-effective and mimics the look of polished gold or silver. Zinc alloy consists of zinc, copper, aluminum and magnesium. Durable and corrosion-resistant, zinc alloy is still relatively soft compared to steel and can be poured into a mold to create artistic designs.
Stainless steel is a metal alloy containing steel, nickel, chromium and molybdenum. Its durability and flawless finish ensure that the belt buckle will last.
Modern belt buckles in stainless steel lend a contemporary look to a classic belt. It can have a polished sheen or a brushed, matte finish.
Unique Western Belt Buckles For Men And Women
Far more than a fashion statement, Western belt buckles say something significant about the wearer and their accomplishments. They can feature a combination of metals or overlays of enamel and turquoise to add color and embellishment. Essentially, Western belt buckles for men and women tell a story.
Rectangular, oval, and scalloped types of belts are common, and the various shapes, belt width and belt buckle sizes can also convey bits of your personality. A rectangular shape can suggest masculinity and reliability, while an oval shape hints at a skillful and artistic soul. An irregular shape can indicate free-spiritedness and independence.
Popular design elements of Western belt buckles for men include an initial, a favorite phrase or slogan, horses, bulls, bronco riders and skulls. The chosen design often reflects the wearer's occupation, ambition, causes they support and even political leanings. For example, flags and eagles signify patriotism and freedom.
Buckles with bold designs go well with casual belts and jeans. For more formal settings, choose dress belt buckles with a more compact size and an understated design.
Like the mens' styles, womens' Western belt buckle styles are a statement of self-expression. Belt buckle sizes and belt width for women are generally smaller and have more delicate details. Popular motifs for women's Western belt buckles are flowers, scrollwork, crosses and Native American designs. For extra flair, the belt buckle can be adorned with rhinestones, gemstones engraving, semi-precious stones and colorful patterns.
Custom-made belt buckles are a common choice because the design options are endless, and the belt buckle tells your personal story and history.