A braided belt is hardly a novelty, but we’ve been seeing a lot of them on our Instagram feed in the past few weeks; sure, it could be a sign of the imminent warm season, but it could also signal a desire for more elaborate accessories as humanity slowly emerges from months of isolation. If experts are right and we can expect the “Roaring 20s” to come back, we can reasonably believe that fashion trends will lean towards dynamic and creative styles to reflect the optimism that permeates our society.
Truth be told, in the realm of classic menswear a braided belt is as dynamic and creative as they come – if we choose to ignore fun ties and (gasp!) socks.
Even if social uniforms are getting more and more relaxed and braided belts might be something we can expect a manager to wear soon, this article will refer to braided belts as a traditionally casual accessory and we’ll feature outfits that treat is as such. But first, a bit of history for context.
Leather braiding is an ancient craft: it is hard to pinpoint a time and place in history when it started being used, but we know it was present in South America over four centuries ago and in South Africa even further back. The Moors introduced the craft of making leather and braiding it to the Spanish during their rule, and that was the start of Spain’s centuries-long tradition of leather craft. Mexico has a tradition of braiding leather as well, which was brought to California and adopted by cowboys to make headstalls, reins, and other horse gear. Ultimately, bolo ties –a Native-American neckwear style– are perhaps the most iconic braided leather accessory before braided leather belts were introduced.
The first machine-made leather braided belts were created in Italy by Manifattura di Domodossola. Originally, the company produced cables, braided trimmings, and ropes for ships, and only in the 80s did they introduce a machine to produce belts featuring braided leather and elastic material; before then, such belts were made entirely by hand.
What’s the appeal of a braided leather belt?
At first, it may seem like an unnecessary frill, since bridle leather belts have existed for centuries and serve the same purpose. However, while we’re not opposed to attributing the existence of something to purely aesthetic reasons (we are all drawn to beauty after all), braided leather belts do offer a couple of benefits compared to their plain counterparts.
First, there is the matter of sizing and holes. We carefully pick a belt based on our waist size only to get frustrated when weight fluctuations throw balance out the window. Braided belts remove this design limitation, as one can simply pop the prong in between the leather stripes to find the perfect length.
Second, the elastic quality of braided leather, even if minimal, makes it particularly comfortable as some stretching occurs when the wearer sits down or moves around; this benefit is even greater if the belt is made of leather as well as elastic fabric, which stretches even further.
However, aesthetic reasons alone would be enough to justify the existence of braided leather belts: they introduce a textured element to the outfit, in many cases completing it. Below are a few examples picked from the #Styleforum hashtag on Instagram.
And here is a selection of braided leather belts in case we’ve convinced you it’s a piece worth of your wardrobe:
Elastic structure: Farnese
Sartorialists usually think rules ought to be either followed or broken, depending on one’s rebellious inclinations. The in-betweens are sometimes referred to as ‘a twist’, which still implies the bending of a fundamental rule.
However, we should only call those instructions that we are compelled to follow for social reasons by the term ‘rules’; these might apply to uniforms, black tie, and other functional outfits that are collectively mandatory–you wouldn’t think of setting foot on a judo mat with a silk paisley belt, would you?
Sartorial tips fall under the umbrella of recommendations rather than rules: they’re mere guidelines to make your life easier. For instance, the Italian background, is arguably the most useful sartorial tip ever, especially if you have a taste for bold-coloured or patterned jackets.
The ingredients are very simple: light blue shirt and navy tie.
It’s not about “babying” your clothes: the long-term goal of maintaining clothes regularly is to make sure the money you invested is not wasted and your material possessions will stay in pristine condition as long as possible. It is a practical and eco-friendly approach that has nothing to do with being “obsessed” with your wardrobe. Would you shame someone for taking their car for a check-up and an occasional repair?
This list is a starting point for building a maintenance kit that will serve you well as the occasional mishap occurs and threatens one of your prized menswear pieces. I am on a mission to convince people to not over launder and dry-clean their clothes, so you’ll find several tool that will help you stretch the time between loads.
Feel free to expand this list by suggesting other items in the comment section or on the forum.
The clock is ticking: Christmas is on Friday and if you have not finished your Christmas shopping, your options are narrowing by the minute. Here are some last-minute suggestions for the loved ones you find hard to shop for, and for those persons you don’t like that much in the first place. I’ve only chosen items that, if you shop RIGHT NOW, can get to the intended recipient before Christmas, albeit at a premium and assuming the USPS doesn’t collapse in the coming days.
This year, it seems that Zoom family get-togethers are inevitable, and at the very least, you can avoid having to make awkward excuses and blame it on AT&T if you have to pull a figurative as well as literal plug on the virtual celebrations. Also, don’t bother asking: I don’t know how to get a PS5 either.
I read somewhere that in womenswear the cardi-coat -already a casual staple- has replaced the blazer as the WFH unofficial uniform in 2020.
Men, at least from what I’ve witnessed on Zoom meetings, have adapted less well, and run the gamut from “I’ll going to wear a college tee shirt just like I did in college” to “Jacket and tie, pants optional”. Note that I’m just guessing on the pants part, but we’ve all seen enough pantless Zoom bloopers by now to know that this happens with alarming frequency.
Consequently, it might be wise this holiday season to give gifts that nudge men towards clothes that suggest a third way to dress, neither inspired by a dorm room nor by the pre-pandemic boardroom minus the pants. I think I’ll name it after Ryan Gosling “Ryan Gosling’s off-camera clothing” just so more guys will adopt the look. However, remember that you are not Mr. Gosling, and that results may vary.
If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, fall is probably winding down now. Outside of my house, it’s in the 30s and 40s, the trees are completely bare, and there have already been a few days of snow.
During this season, I like to keep on my pajamas, have a coffee and a donut, and maybe binge on some Netflix. Of course, this being 2020, time has lost most meaning, and it’s actually Thursday, which is not unlike Sunday, except that I have to take Zoom meetings and take out the garbage.
Here are some creature comforts that might make the rest of the year seem like every day is a calm, lazy, Sunday, rather than an interminable Monday.