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Monday, June 30, 2008

Challenging the Norm 4: Belts and Ties

Many of us are used to substitutions in our daily lives, especially when two things appear quite similar. Butter is swapped out for the equally yellow fat, margarine, a knife works just as well as a pair of scissors in opening a bag, and the generic acetaminophen tablets work just as well as Tylenol.

Substitutions in fashion are less common, since most pieces of clothing are markedly different in some way (otherwise, what would be the point of shopping). Occasionally, however, we can exploit some symmetries which allow us to utilize elements of our wardrobe in new ways. This brings us to today’s substitution items; belts and ties.

Ties and belts have a number of similarities:

  • Thin, nearly rectangular shape
  • Approximately the same length
  • Fastened in some way (buckle or knot)

Thus, I am (as always), motivated to mess around with this and switch things up. The two obvious questions:

  • Can we use a tie as a belt?
  • Can we use a belt as a tie?

After some research, I’ve found that the answer to the first question is “almost always,” and the answer to the second question is “with the right type of belt, and some modifications.” Let’s start with the easy one:

Using a Tie as a Belt

My first inclination was to find someway to fold the tie along the long direction to make the wide end fit inside the belt loop, but this seemed more damaging than just sliding it through the loop. As you can see here, it only cinches the tie briefly, allowing the full width to return for the majority of the belt:

Instead, we just pull the tie around through the belt loops, tightening all the way through until both ends are secured near a loop. It must be mentioned that the tie doesn’t have nearly the same fastening power as an actual belt, and thus is best worn with pants that don’t need a belt to fit well. As you can see here, starting the tie in the standard first belt loop leads to having a lot of the wide part off to the side:

Thus, I recommend beginning at the second loop; for most standard ties this brings the wide part to the center (if you want it there). You could, of course, do other things with the loose end, but that’s up to you!

While this doesn’t seem to damage the ties in any way, I’d have to imagine wearing one in this fashion is more demanding than as a necktie. You may not want to use your most expensive ties for this purpose (then again, maybe you do, just a warning).

Using a Belt as a Tie

The more difficult endeavor approaches. The work, however, can be done, with some minor modifications.

To begin, the ends of most belts to not appear very tie-like, but more rectangular (or possibly slightly rounded), though they do have the approximate width of a skinny tie. It is an easy hack to make the belt more triangular (or some exotic shape), and I’d imagine this wouldn’t detract from its value as a belt, but the choice is yours.

Now, for the actual “tying,” we begin with a small loop around the collar, bringing the belt buckle to the point where the standard tie knot would rest, right in the indentation above the breastbone and between the collarbones:

The long end should then be fed through the buckle, keeping it as straight as possible down the center of the shirt.

This is where you have to decide whether to create another hole in the belt at this location (one won’t be there, unless your neck is waist-sized), or to leave the belt loose. Either works, since there isn’t nearly as much tension in the belt as when worn on pants.

The last hurdle is the likely excessive length of the long end. You probably don’t wish to cut off a few inches, as this could ruin the belt’s utility as… a belt. Other options are to fold it under and fasten it (not recommended since it will be quite bulky), or flip the long end through the loop created by the short end of the belt (almost like a real tie). This will prove difficult given the twisting required by the strip of the belt.

Or, you could use a buckle with two hoops, like this belt from Old Navy, which facilitates easy looping and tying to adjust length.

There you have it, a strange reversal which could potentially double your belt count, and maybe add a few to the tie count (I’d have to say the ties make better belts than the belts make ties), while adding a lot to your originality and creativity.


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