The Power of Belting Up

Published on 30th October 2007

A belt, a piece of leather, clothing or metal tied around the waist for functional or aesthetical purposes is a crucial part of our dressing whose presence not only makes a great difference, but also elicits style. Adorning a belt especially for men in official outfits is mandatory, save for a few with ‘well endowed’ tummies which cannot endure the tight grip of the belt these men would be comfortable in suspenders, a Y-shaped elastic strap attached to the waistband to hold the trouser in place.

While belting-up is a skill that ought to be perfected with personal touch, it relies heavily on conventional practices and fashion trends world over. However, this should not limit our inspiration to express our cultures from which we derive our norms. In the Kenyan community for instance, the Maasai people have a cultural style of attaching beads to leather belts, which come in different colours that have coded meaning. Specific bead colours are adorned to particular occasions. The old practice has been adopted by other communities not only within the country but also in other nations. This reveals the essence of our appearance and communication in the African society.

The modern African needs to read from the same script like the indigenous Maasai does. Not necessarily by going back to the roots, but styling up to the occasion, before brushing shoulders with the ‘daily eye’ that meets you on the streets on your way to the office or perhaps the market. Your shoes and belt should come in similar colours, it is only with accessories that one ‘marries’ the shoes to the outfit. Black shoes can only go well with a black belt; brown shoes carry the same values. For bright coloured shoes, black belts do because they stand in place of a neutral colour, however whenever in bright coloured shoes, more often than not, it is always appropriate to wear tops (shirts) that do not need to be tucked in.

The position at which to wear the belt matters, especially with the lingering of the mid 1990’s practice of sagging. This fashion trends consists of wearing the trouser very low on the hips, often exposing one’s underwear. This urban style, which has roots tracing to prison gangs (and the prohibition of belts in prison, due to their use as weapons and devices for suicide) has remained popular into the 21st century, particularly among pubescent boys. A belt should be secured tightly at the mid-buttock region or waist level to avoid a sagging like scenario.

For a casual outlook, one can explore use of different shapes of buckles to achieve the desired look. With a wide range of choice in the market, one can adorn any shapes they prefer. Some buckles come with logos and emblems of different organisations and affiliations. Metallic buckles are much more common than plastic or synthetic ones since wearing big metallic buckles is considered stylish especially by the youth.

For ladies, exploring belts can never have boundaries, apart from taking into account the colour factor before belting up; consider the general outfit and the occasion you are dressing up for. For official outfits, formal plain coloured and medium sized leather belts are recommended, however, for party-like events, one can adorn a belt from an array of choices. From metallic chains to fabric or synthetic belts, from as thin belts as a thread to a wide enough to be skirts and sashes. Chains can be tied around the waist and left to hang freely. They give an accentuation of the waist which is considered as the point of reference in African beauty. The belt does not have to be as tight as is the case for men; one can have a belt hang on around the waist to prove the power in the African hip. 

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