Western leather belts are specifically designed to be paired with blue jeans. The rich indigo color of the jeans when they’re new or the faded comfortable blue of an older pair always pairs well with a rich genuine leather belt. Like the cotton and indigo of the jeans, the leather in the belt is a natural product and experiences a beautiful wearing process. A “broken-in” belt will take on the personality of its wearer and truly become part of him or her.
A leather belt may be made simply, just two strips of leather matched together and sewn around the edge. But it’s far more common for a Western belt to be elaborately decorated. Leather can be decorated in several ways. It can be burned with special heat tools (similar to wood burners), covering it with intricately detailed designs such as traditional motifs or even wording. Some prefer the rustic look of carved leather. This is done with a knife, and can also produce detailed designs, but with a charming country flair. Leather isn’t always treated like wood, though. Leather can be punched with holes, shaped into curving or angular shapes, and studded with rivets or stones. The commonly-seen style of belt made of several thin bands of braided leather is not recommended to be paired with a plate buckle – it is far more suited to a desk chair than a cowboy’s saddle.
Plate buckles are constructed quite differently from other buckles. While other buckles involve pulling the belt through a metal loop (or two if it’s a friction buckle) and sometimes securing it in place with a metal pin, a plate buckle doesn’t require you to torture your leather. The belt will be punched with several holes on one end. The buckle is attached to the other end, and the belt is wrapped around the body. The back of the buckle is equipped with a small metal piece, slanted back, that will fit into the holes in the belt to secure it in place.
While the back of the plate does the work, the front is available for fun. Plate buckles can be decorated in just about any way imaginable. Rodeo buckles will usually feature a traditional western motif, often accompanied by wording to commemorate the rodeo and specific event for which it was awarded. Think of them as a useful, wearable trophy for the hardworking American cowboy. If you’re not a professional barrel racer or bullrider, but want to sport a Western belt buckle, look at a western wear or silversmith shop for a wide selection of buckles. They will have a wealth of motifs to choose from, including traditional and modern designs, and are usually more than happy to take custom orders to create a unique buckle for you.
Western style belts and buckles are an iconic look in American culture. There’s no need to stay on the outside looking in – invest in a buckle and belt for yourself!