Short films, essays, pop culture tributes, and photo experiments created by Kirk Gunton.

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Belts. Useful tools, clothing items… legends. They touched our hearts, and inspired millions to keep their pants on. But underneath all the glamour and hype, there lies a dark past, littered with the bodies of millions of style victims. We must look at the history of the belt, in order to better understand these renowned figures of fashion.

We begin our story in the small village of Beltfaste, Germany, in the year 1654. Hermann Schabel, a blacksmith by trade, lives with his wife, Helga, and their two children, Bratwurst and Schnapps. For years, Schabel is plagued by “problems of the pants” (translated from the German), until one day he decides to do something about it.

Schabel discovered a loop of cloth, and, after numerous attempts to attach it to his waist, finally threw it away in disgust. But then, inspiration struck. Why not cut a series of slits into one end of the cloth, and slide the other end into them in order to attach the two? But by then it had been a week, and the cloth had long since been thrown away. So Schabel turned his inspiration into a sandwich instead.

His hunger for sandwich meat was sated, but not his hunger for invention. Schabel eventually realized his dream, and his contribution to mankind, the “Beltfasteen”, was instantly embraced by the pants-wearing community at large.

Over time, enhancements and alterations were made, and the name was shortened to “belt” to suit the general laziness of people. In the mid-1800’s, the metal buckle was introduced by a Dr. Thomas Williams II of Britain. This revolutionary idea led to a discovery by a drunken Scottish hooligan in 1854, with the first documented use of a belt as a weapon.

This concept is one that continues to this day, a tradition practiced not only by drunken Scottish hooligans, but also indeed by drunken people from all walks of life. The act of belt whipping- or “whuppin’”- has been accepted as the general standard of physical abuse by 4 out of every 5 abusive parents.

But despite its usefulness in the field of people-hitting, one must not forget its true calling: fashion statement.

  • In the 1950’s, the prototype for the jet-propelled belt was introduced, but after numerous groin-related incidents, the idea was promptly shelved.
  • The hippie movement of the 1960’s brought in an era of flower-inspired clothing items, which lead to inevitable bee attacks, especially by those intrepid trendsetters living near wooded areas.
  • The 1970’s were a ghastly fashion decade, and those who lived during that time should be ashamed. Ashamed, I tell you!

The 1980’s were equally distressing, but I am unfortunately obligated to explore this fashion era as well.

There was a unanimous consensus in this decade that “bigger [was] better”, and the belts reflected this. This practice originated in the early ‘80’s, when a film extolling the virtues of mechanical bull-riding was released. It starred a somewhat famous actor- my research indicates he went by the alias “Barbarino”- who portrays a man with a fetishistic gravitation towards enormous belt buckles. While the film was a modest success- naturally not on par with Roadhouse, also of that decade-, the fashion trend started by this film and its lead lived on. For one more year.

We move now to the 1990’s, where a new generation- known, mysteriously enough, as Generation X- was emerging. It is now that we see a rapid decline in belt sales, as America’s youth move out of their slacks (I’m almost positive America’s youth wore slacks at one time), and into a new era of denim jeans. These jeans were not the acid washed, dangerously constricting instruments of death worn in the decade previous, but rather ushered in a new wave of bagginess, which screamed out for the assistance of our gentle friends, the belts. Generation X heard this scream, and instantly began to drown it out with their loud, incoherent, alternative rock music.

This upsetting concept of bagginess continues to the present day, and the future of the belt remains uncertain. But I feel in my heart that belts will some day make a comeback, and when they do, you will all pay… for them. The belts, I mean. Because they cost money.