Big statement belts are back, and they’ve heard about gen Z’s obsession with functionality

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Published Jul 7, 2023 at 08:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

As we move deeper into the 2020s, the Y2K fashion resurgence only seems to be picking up more steam, making it hard to keep track of it all. Feel like you’re lost in a virtual style whirlwind of bedazzled trucker hats, bold baby tees and baggy cargo trousers? You’re not alone. As Vogue senior style and fashion editor Christian Allaire puts it: “The decade’s trends may be polarizing, but at least they [aren’t] boring.”

What’s the latest iteration of the Y2K craze, you may be wondering? Big belts. Some are just for show, while others can be your multifunctional best friend. Let us explain.

The big belt trend over the years

The origin of these big belts traces all the way back to the mid to late-19th century, when Navajo Native Americans began crafting and wearing concho belts. Since then, the style has fluctuated in and out of popular culture, as worn by celebrities like the late lead vocalist of The Doors Jim Morrison, Ralph Lauren himself and even the members of Destiny’s Child in decades since. Although saying that, Beyoncé has always been able to pull off just about every fashion trend out there.

These statement belts were seen all over red carpets and paparazzi photos of the noughties, and they’ve been slowly making their way back into the mainstream as of late. Some examples of the style can be seen in Dsquared2’s Fall 2023 ready-to-wear catwalk, Rita Ora’s street style earlier this year, almost all of TikTok star @aliyahsinterlude’s outfits or even Rihanna’s now-iconic pregnancy announcement photos from early last year.

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What the return of big belts in 2023 looks like

So, what’s the difference between the statement belts of the 2020s compared to those of the 2000s? According to Allaire, “statement belts are having a moment—but don’t call it a Y2K comeback.”

Further elaborating on this, the fashion expert explained: “whereas the 2000s belts were extremely flashy, these belts are a little more discreet for the everyday,” which makes sense, given that minimalism, earth tones and quiet luxury continue to be having a big moment.

Part of the draw towards big belts may also have something to do with the fact that they carry the momentum of maximalist fashion trends—think logomania or Barbiecore—while still just being part of a more pared-down look. They can either be used as a lavish accessory à la Hailey Bieber, or made of natural, organic materials, like this simple statement belt from New Zealand-based brand Jasmin Sparrow. Whether you’re into an alternative, goth-adjacent aesthetic, something more easy, breezy hippie, or anything in between, there’s a big belt out there for you.

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Statement belts, however, aren’t just mimicking past trend cycles. In some cases, they’ve also become a subversive clothing item. In a PAPER Magazine article, culture journalist Maria Poggi pointed out: “Typically used for functionality, the leather belt strap is now being experimented with in a provocative, post-ironic way.” Rather than being worn at the waist or low on the hips, belts have been seen as corsets or even tops. For a NYLON cover, singer-songwriter Rina Sawayama wore two belts as a top and a mini skirt made entirely of belts from Hodakova, a Swedish designer.

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Celebrity stylist Briana Andalore is quoted in the article saying that she’s a big fan of subversive belts, and that, to her, they’re reminiscent of 80s power suits. “It gives a no fucks attitude and you can find so many amazing vintage belts. I love Western scorpion ones,” she said. Content creator and fashion designer Myra Magdalen echoed this, telling Poggi that “belts are easy to find at thrift and second-hand stores and they are adjustable so they make for a great and easy accessory to style in new ways.”

Belt bags but make it luxurious

Another iteration of the big belt resurgence that we can’t overlook is belt bags. These can be seen as an expansion of the crossbody bum bag trend (think Lululemon’s Everywhere Belt Bag which is literally everywhere at the moment). However, instead of slung over your shoulder or across your torso, these belt bags are typically worn low, often at the hips.

Given that it’s festival season, we’re not surprised that this boho style is making a comeback. They’re a great lightweight accessory for carrying essentials, and a lot more practical than teeny-tiny handbags. Plus, they pair well with low-waisted skirts and trousers, which have also become summer staples as of late.

Want to dip your toe into the big belt trend, but not sure where to start? Try adding a statement belt to a dress that’s already in your wardrobe, or over your favourite button-down shirt to accentuate your waist.

“To modernize the look ever so slightly, swap the prairie skirt for a fitted tube, satin slip skirt or denim midi style instead,” says Kara Nesvig, a freelance writer for Byrdie. Another option? If you’re going for a more 2000s-inspired look, you could layer it over a low-rise skirt so that it sits below your hips. The same could work for a pair of low-waisted jeans or trousers. To finish off the fit, don’t forget a bedazzled hat and studded shoulder bag. Gen Z are always looking for an excuse to dress like Sharpay Evans from High School Musical.

Ready to start accessorising? Below, scroll through some of our favourite statement belts and belt bags for inspiration:

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