Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day seven hundred and ninety seven ... Belting it out.

I've been buying a lot of belts lately.

It's kind of a new fetish. I like shoes, too, but belts hold a different significance for me. I think it's because when I was a kid I I used to wear all kinds of crazy belts. I was always heavy, but I think kids exhibit a different kind of overweight up to a certain age. Your stomach doesn't really obscure your waistline by dropping down like an extended upper lip when you're a kid, so you can get away with things like tucking in shirts and showing off the turquoise and silver--which is something I liked to do very much as a precocious child of the Seventies.

But as I got older the belts became less and less important. As their visibility decreased so did the care involved in picking out a new one. I mean, who cares what your belt looks like as long as it's holding up your size 40 jeans. That was the main job of belts in my life for the last twenty-five years or so: hold up those damn jeans ... or else!

I've lost about fifteen pounds since Christmas, and so, all of the belts I've owned for the last few years have become obsolete as they're just too damn big. But really, I don't even still own too many old ones. They all either broke at the buckle from undue stress or I threw them away in exchange for a larger size. That's a big reason that I'm enjoying getting new belts that actually fit me comfortably.

But I've realized recently that belts are such an important part of our lives. It kind of bowled me over the other day when I stopped to think of how many needs a belt can service, as well as what symbolism they hold.

When we get our first belt it means that we are ready to start being dressed in outfits that are more than just a button-up or zippered safety pouch. It's our first fashion-oriented responsibility and our first step in learning that our clothes can be adjusted to our liking. We can't do much to our shirts or pants but roll up the cuffs, but with a belt we sure can tighten up that ol' midsection.

For some children a belt can be used for punishment. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to get spanked with a doubled-up belt to the behind, but I know that it has happened to many who were not so fortunate.

As we grow, our belts get longer. Our wardrobe expands as we do, and, if you are a boy, you will inadvertently acquire the iconic reversible belt with both colors--black and brown--to go with any occasion that may arise in our early life. It happens to the best of us.

It has been said that belts have found a use by some Lotharios as a scorecard for documenting romantic conquests--with a notch being carved in for each one. I think the Old West had a lot to do with this trend, as belts then held up more than just pants--they held up guns and ammunition. It was a sign of machismo. It was a sign of security. It was a sign of virility. And it helped remind the forgetful of the times that were important to them and allow them to boast to their peers. It has become more or less a tacky bit of misogynistic sediment but I'm sure there are plenty of guys out there (and perhaps some women) who still utilize this function of the everyday belt.

When we go through airport security we have to take off our belts due to the inevitable metal buckle on the end. To be belt-less in this capacity is to embody a feeling of helplessness like no other. It may be the only time we, as humans, get to see a random slice of others begin to undress and then dress back up in front of each other without a logical context and with countless authority figures on hand to make sure we do it right. And then in a matter of minutes we go from wearing all of the items that keep us held together to having every last scrap of our wardrobe's adhesiveness stripped from us. I have felt my pants come far enough down my midsection on occasion as to cause me to blush. Conversely and just as embarrassing, there have been times when I was so heavy that the belt I was wearing was merely as a backup in case my button popped off of my pants. My, how times change.

When someone gets arrested their belt is taken away so, presumably, they won't hang themselves in their cell. This has got to be the most powerful significance a belt can hold by far. Something that, for all the time we are alive, is used as a practical accessory--to hold our clothes on our body; to protect us from the elements--now becomes something that the authorities are concerned we will use to commit suicide.

All in all, when you stop to think about it, the lowly belt holds many high-level positions and wields some serious power.

It can connote safety.

It can inflict punishment.

It can imply sartorial and societal responsibility.

It can document growth.

It can provide a record of life experience.

It can provoke embarrassment.

It can aid in taking one's life.

To me right now my belts are something that I'm excited to start showing off again. I have eschewed the turquoise and silver of my 1970's youth in exchange for high quality leather, clean lines and polished brass. The form has changed little though. It is still what's holding me and my clothes together. And as they start to fit my body better and my body, itself, begins to shrink down to a height-proportionate size, my heart will beat stronger, my blood will course freer, my brain will think faster, and my feet will tread surer.

And much like life belts are adjustable. You can even make one smaller if you need to with a trusty awl. But just like life they only go in one direction.

If you wear the same belt long enough you'll eventually develop a marking where the buckle found its niche. That line tells its own story. It shows the comfort zone, the average, the usual.

Maybe that's why I've been buying a lot of belts lately. Perhaps it's not just because I'm changing my shape in the middle, but that I just don't want to wear a mark in the leather where its easy to see where I settled in.

And anyway, the buckle's edges cover up that line when you're wearing it so nobody knows except for you ... that is, until you begin to change again.

Thanks for reading,


No comments: