Humans have always had a need for fastening things. From helmets and shoes to garments, ropes, and personal accessories, people have looked throughout history for easy ways to fasten these objects quickly and securely. Buckles have been the standard form of fastener since the earliest days of civilization. Here’s a look at some buckle history and facts, from the first forms of the devices to today’s modern and convenient plastic buckles. Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride!
The Early Days
Ancient Rome is where buckles were first used extensively. In fact, the word “buckle” derives from a Latin origin, “buccula.” Bronze buckles were used to hold helmets on the heads of Roman soldiers. Some of these buckles were very decorative as well as functional. Figures of animals were often seen in these decorative motifs, and the animals were sometimes shown engaging in combat. This design trend likely reflected the longstanding human desire to emulate the characteristics of brave and ferocious beasts in battle.
Buckles worn by soldiers often included military rank and insignia, and were finely crafted objects of adornment frequently used to secure boots, tunics, and harnesses along with helmets. Often, these buckles were taken from defeated soldiers by the victors of a battle.
As history progressed and men’s fashions began to turn toward pants as a standard garment, different methods were developed to hold them up. Suspenders were one idea, but eventually the buckle was put into use as a method of securing pants with a leather strap. Easily opened and closed, the belt and buckle were swiftly on their way to becoming an everyday item for clothing purposes. Cowboys of the American West helped popularize belts and buckles in their distinct Western designs, especially as early motion pictures depicted the adventures of the Wild West to city slickers back east.
Buckles have been used for everything from horse saddlery and tack to securing military gear and, of course, tightening and closing the old standby, backpacks. But metal buckles, for all their many uses, can sometimes be a little difficult to operate easily. As plastics have developed into stronger forms, new buckle designs, such as the plastic side-release buckle, have become standard for many uses, such as military and camping gear; car seats, baby strollers, high chairs, and other infant gear; camping and sporting equipment; and myriad other uses. The ease of being able to snap open a plastic buckle and close it again, sometimes using only one hand, has improved the ability of people to carry and secure many necessary items in this busy modern world.
Buckles may seem like humble, everyday items, but they’re used far more in your life than you may realize. Plastic buckles make life easier for people in all walks of life. Think about that the next time you hear that satisfying “snap” of a convenient buckle!