Dress Belt: Engine-Turned Buckle & Belt Strap

Dress Belt: Engine-turned buckle & Strap

As I was looking through some old pictures one picture in particular caught my attention and not for a good reason. Actually, I really like the picture, but what struck me about the picture was how bad my belt looked. It was far too casual for the wool trousers as well as the event. It was time for me to invest in a belt better suited for dressier occasions.

Dress belt inspiration picBelt inspiration picture.

I already knew what I wanted, an engine-turned buckle on a crocodile strap, but per usual what I want and what I can afford are not the same thing. The buckle that I wanted is the gold standard of engine-turned buckles, the Tiffany & Co. buckle, but at $225 it was not going to happen. The same goes for the crocodile belt strap, just too expensive. I needed a more affordable alternative.

What is engine-turned? It is a fine geometrical pattern inscribed into metal. Designs vary as illustrated below.

My buckle

Engine-turned variation #1Engine-turned Variation #2

Luckily I have known others in the same boat as myself and I did what they did. I purchased an etched rhodium over brass 1” buckle from Trafalgar for $60 (See here) which they engraved with my initials at no extra cost. I then ordered a brown crocodile embossed 1” hole less strap from Beltmaster for $22 (See here). I ended up having to take the strap to my cobbler to be shortened which cost me a whole $5. All in all I ended with what I think is a pretty nice looking belt for under $100.

New belt New belt in action.

I haven’t worn the belt enough to give any detailed feedback, but I can offer a few thoughts. First, get your buckle engraved with your initials. It won’t look quite right without them and they add so much to the buckle. Also, remember that it is standard for men to use block letters and first, middle, last name order when adding monograms to anything. Second, I have heard that my strap may wear down after use which will result in the inability to “latch,” but at $15 a pop I should just be able to replace it without too much distress. Hopefully my new belt will catch my eye for the right reasons the next time that I am revisiting old pictures.

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

7 Comments on "Dress Belt: Engine-Turned Buckle & Belt Strap"

  1. rowdy says:

    Good work.

  2. Herr Doktor says:

    Very nice, old boy! Those on a budget don’t have to be left out either. LL Bean makes a very passable version that’s reversible. It can also be engraved.

  3. hardline_42 says:

    That first pic, with the blue OCBD, tie, khakis and engine turned buckle are trad perfection! I went the same route that you did long ago and I’m very happy with the Trafalgar/Beltmaster combo, although I do suffer from the poor grip issue. It happens sooner than you think and I’m still looking for a permanent solution.

    One thing I think most men should be warned about is the size of this belt/buckle combo. If you’re used to wearing 1 1/2″ wide belts like most guys wear with their jeans, this belt and buckle will seem absolutely dainty in comparison. However, it is the most appropriate size for a dress belt and won’t take that long to get used to.

    Also, Beltmaster straps attach to the buckle via two snaps, so changing straps out to match your shoes is a cinch. Stock up on straps.

  4. Dear OXFORD CLOTH BUTTON DOWN. First complete disclosure, I work with Trafalgar and its parent company Randa Accessories. Second, I applaud ingenuity and thriftiness, especially if it is in reality, a clever way of saving money. And I have no problem if indeed, this said thriftiness and cleverness achieves the goal of getting the same thing for less, even at the expense of my client. BUT I feel compelled to pass along some critical information here which in fact may be useful and seem counter intuitive, but is reason why your workaround is actually not a good idea, does not last and in the end, is not economical. Your comment, ‘I have heard that my strap may wear down after use which will result in the inability to “latch,”’ is because you have bought a strap that is not Trafalgar. Trafalgar straps are guaranteed to fit with Trafalgar buckles in that they are exactly the correct thickness and the thickness is what keeps the compression grip. Even a 1mm difference will matter so another strap is unlikely to fit or stay and is not a good solution. Initially the strap you bought might fit. However, over time the compression buckle compresses the leather so that the buckle will not latch and be the reason the other manufacturer’s strap no longer fits. This will not happen with a Trafalgar strap. You could purchase a 1′ Tragfalgar alligator-embossed strap, http://www.trafalgarstore.com/item/Alligator_Embossed_Leather_1_inch_Belt_Strap:More_Colors_Available/3962, for $50 (about the cost of the 3 straps from the other manufacturer) and be guaranteed to never have this problem. Trafalgar straps last a good long time as they are a great value for the money. And one more thing regarding monogramming, the rule with monograms, the order of the letters being first, middle, last, is only for all-the-same-size letter monograms (the only kind Trafalgar offers with these buckles.) This is not the case for all types of monograms.

  5. J.W. says:

    OCBD, can you tell me how the buckle is holding up now after a year of use? I am curious how the rhodium performs over the life of the buckle. Thanks for any help you can provide – love the blog.

  6. oxford cloth button down says:

    J.W. – Thanks for the kind words. The buckle is in great shape and looks exactly the way it did when I bought it. However, I only wear it once or twice a week. A good bargain in my opinion.

  7. David Merrill says:

    Nice belt! I’d welcome a comparison between the 1″ & the 1 & 3/16″ Trafalgar belt buckle, is the size difference in the height or the width?

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