In Fashion...Belt, you must
Once I was all dressed up for this great interview with actress Moon Moon Sen, the daughter of the legendary Bengali star, Suchitra Sen. Moon Moon lived in a plush Central Kolkata district, and was all geared up for the meeting with a then fledgling journalist like me. I had a great interview, and she gave me juicy copy filled with exciting quotes.
But towards the end of the session, our talk veered towards fashion, men’s fashion in particular that was in its nascent stages those days. “I really do not like men”, Moon Moon said, “who are careless enough not to wear a belt, which as an accessory is as important to a man as a handbag is to a woman”. My jaws dropped, and my carefully done up image crumbled. I was not wearing a belt!
That day, I made it a point never to be seen without a belt. I have kept my word till today.
A belt on a man’s waist is perhaps what sugar is for cake, what salt is for sambar and what chill is for beer.
Now picture this. A man is all dressed to kill. His cotton shirt is starched to creaseless perfection. His trousers fall with regal dignity. His shoes double up as a mirror, and his cologne is seductive to draw a woman into his arms. But his waist looks bare, and the loops on his trousers cry for company. The belt is missing. What Moon Moon said once on a balmy summer’s evening is echoed by just every fashion guru that I have met in all these years.
Designers tell me that a belt adds character to your attire and even accentuates your overall look. Even your blue jeans can appear a trifle lonely without a sassy belt.
The first documents on the belt appear during the Bronze Age, when both men and women sported one. But it was not so commonly used by women. In the early 1900s, women used a belt to divide a skirt and a blouse.
In the military, a belt formed the decorative part of the man’s uniform. It had little use beyond that. In the Eastern European armed forces, the officers wore broad belts, tightly tied to give the wearer a trim look. Political cartoonists of the day often portrayed the tight waist-clinching belts of soldiers to comedic effect.
Today, a physical trainer will tell you that wearing a belt helps one to pull in one’s tummy, besides giving one a feel and look of elegance.
It is not, therefore, surprising that belts have, like sunglasses and wristwatches, reinvented themselves as a hip fashion accessory. To assume that a belt serves only formal occasions cannot be farther from truth. A belt is as much a part of social or casual dressing.
Like much else in fashion, a belt is governed by rules. A cardinal one is that it must match the shoes. You cannot wear a white belt with a pair of black shoes. You cannot even wear a light tan belt with dark tan footwear.
Another rule pertains to the width of the belt. One can go in for a broad one in a casual setting, but remember it cannot be broader than the length of one’s thumb.
As for the material, leather still rules, and black still reigns, though dark brown, light tan and hazel have their day.
Probably, what ultimately enhances the beauty of a belt is the buckle. A wide range is available here, and the buckles come in gold, silver and buffed. Here again, I would suggest that you match your buckle colour with the colour of your spectacles, if you happen to wear them. If you have a gold frame, choose a gold buckle. If you have a silver frame, choose a silver buckle.
However, remember a simple buckle adds dignity to your style. It is far more effective than one which may be unnecessarily embellished.
The market is flooded with a variety of belts and buckles, and some of India’s leading men’s labels produce terrific stuff and at affordable prices. The trick is to pick one that suits your personality. Go ahead and look dashing and debonair.
(Webposted June 26 2007)