How do you keep your pants up? For most men, the answer is a belt.
There’s just one problem: belts are kind of uncomfortable. Also, they don’t work.
Why doesn’t your belt keep your pants up? And why do we keep using belts if they don’t work? Let’s break it down.
How Belts Work
Belts have been around for centuries. The first known belts in history were in the Bronze Age, between 3300 and 1200 BCE. But by the time a British fashion designer called Albert Thurston invented suspenders in 1820, they were all the rage because they didn’t have any competition. Belts existed, but they were used exclusively in a military context, and then only for ornament.
Men didn’t become accustomed to wearing belts on a daily basis until WWI when men became accustomed to wearing belts with their military uniforms. When they returned home, the 1920s brought belts into the common vernacular as pant waistlines were cut lower. They really took off with the invention of ready-made clothes–especially workmen’s jeans, which introduced belt loops to account for non-tailored clothing.
Basically, we’ve been using belts forever. And much like the wheel, belts haven’t been reinvented in a long time for a good reason: the basic mechanism is a solid idea that’s hard to beat.
Belts work by cinching the waistline and resting on your hips and butt. Your pants might slide, but your belt can’t move past this wider bottom area, thus keeping your pants up.
Why Your Belt Doesn’t Work
So, why doesn’t your belt work? There are a few potential reasons–it depends on you. Here are some of the common ones.
Body Shape: Nothing to Rest On
Many a middle-aged guy has the same problem: the growing-waistline-shrinking-butt problem. Other than discomfort and body image, this also interferes with your belt’s efficacy.
While you might think cinching your belt is key to keeping your pants up, that’s only half the battle. What actually keeps your pants up is a cinched belt in combination with your hips and butt.
Look at your wristwatch. Shake your wrist around a bit and notice how the watch moves. Try pulling the watch up and down your arm (without loosening the clasp). You can move it a little, but you can’t move it past a certain widening point on your forearm or past your hand without unclasping it. The same goes for your belt, but instead of your forearm or hand, your belt rests on your hips and butt.
If you don’t have much in your favor in the hip or butt department, your belt has nothing to work with.
One option to consider would be to use PantsProp in conjunction with your favorite belt. PantsProp attaches to your shirt or undershirt, and creates a small ridge for your pants waistline to sit upon. Then when you fasten your belt, the ridge should help keep your pants up or shirts tucked.
Pants Fall in the Wrong Place
Another common issue is pants falling in the wrong place. Your waistline, to be exact.
Your pants will have a high waist, mid-waist, or low-cut waist. The thing is, how the waistline is cut changes where the pants rest. A high-cut waistline relies primarily on the tops of your hips, while a low-cut waistline relies primarily on your butt. A mid-cut waistline uses a bit of both.
But if your pants sit in the wrong spot (or a different spot than your belt was made to support) your belt won’t be able to do its job very well.
Poorly Tailored Pants
It’s high time to bring tailored pants back into fashion, especially if you’re having issues with your belt.
No belt can make up for a pair of pants that don’t fit. Granted, belts became popular to make up some of the difference for pants that were not tailored to fit you, but they won’t cancel out a bad fit.
The good news is that this problem is fixable. Just take your pants to a tailor. Any pants, including pants bought off the rack, can be tailored–just find a capable tailor and ask them to fit the pants. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can try a bit of basic tailoring yourself–but if you need work pants tailored, don’t take the chance. Take them to a professional.
Changing Bodyweight Throughout the Day
Did you know that your weight and shape change throughout the day? In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons why your belt can become uncomfortable as the day wears on.
You don’t lose five pounds in the course of a day, but your weight does fluctuate somewhat throughout the day. You’re smallest when you’ve just woken up and haven’t eaten anything in eight hours. When you eat, your stomach temporarily expands to make space for your meal.
Basically, as we eat throughout the day, our bodies expand and contract. Unfortunately, your belt does not expand and contract throughout the day with you.
The Belt’s Holes are Badly Spaced
Another common issue has nothing to do with you or your pants. This one has everything to do with the belt–the belt holes, to be exact.
For the sake of tidiness, belt holes are always evenly spaced. However, the spacing isn’t always consistent between belt makers, which is why it’s important to try on a belt before buying it. Sometimes, the belt holes are positioned in just such a way that one hole is too tight, but the next hole out is too loose. In that case, your belt isn’t the right fit for you, regardless of the pants you wear.
So…Why Are We Still Wearing Belts?
Given that belts are surprisingly finicky, why are we still wearing them? In short, because we’re used to it. A lot of guys rely on belts because they’ve always relied on belts.
In reality, there are plenty of other options to keep your pants up, from suspenders to side tab adjusters to tailoring. You just have to find one that works for you.
If your belt doesn’t work, it’s time to switch to something more effective. Because let’s be honest: no one wants to go through life awkwardly tugging their pants up.