IN JUNE, as I broadcast the latest show of the Parisian luxury mavens parade live at Hermès, my attention focused not on the tasteful intarsia knits or wavy reptile skin jackets, but on the dangling belts in rope shape. Almost all of the models wore an overly long tubular belt that had been rolled up and pulled to the side of her hip. There the belt hung like a severed dog leash. Through a representative, Hermès explained that the belts were actually “inspired by the marine world” and that wearing them in a loop was meant to evoke knots in the sail.
As curious as it may sound, Hermès is actually one of the many fashion brands to offer these vaguely phallic, purposely extra-long belts. Off-White by Virgil Abloh has a long history of selling extended yellow cotton belts that are reminiscent of a roll of warning tape. In catwalks dating back to 2017, Zurich-based brand Vetements featured leather belts that fall over the model’s shoes as a high-fashion trip hazard. More recently, Hermosa Beach, Calif., Based Monitaly sold Western-tinted metal-tipped leather belts that hang down to the knees, making the wearer look like a cowboy who followed a serious diet.
Yuki Matsuda, the director of Monitaly, said the concept of the long belt came from his high school years in Japan. The dress code was strict and the only clothes he and his friends could actually choose were their belts. It was a way to differentiate their outfits, or as Mr. Matsuda said, “We did it to look cooler than other kids.”
The swinging belt is thus part of a long history of frivolous waist-related items that are mainly there to make an outfit more eye-catching. There are wallet chains and drop key chains, which date back to the 1940s Zoot Suiters and were recently mass-modeled by 1990s skateboarders and teenage mall rats. In contemporary fashion, designer Rick Owens became known for his sweatpants and shorts with thin drawstrings.
Today, the elongated belt is often the latest drop icing on a baggy outfit – the oversized look being a larger and more widely adopted trend in menswear right now. In the Hermès runway, swinging belts matched the drape of sensational pleated pants. Nolan Hayes, 26, a shoe developer from Northport, NY, owns one of Monitaly’s extended belts, which he often wears with double-pleated pants. “It has a nice costumed yet elegant appearance,” Mr. Hayes said of his toned down belt. Still, most viewers don’t understand why he would wear a belt that makes him feel like he’s just lost 125 pounds. His friends “think it looks very medieval,” he said, “like I have a sword hanging from my belt buckle.”