The Unnecessary Belt Is Back

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Photography by Getty Images

No functional purpose in sight. Just amped-up accessorizing.

Did you survive the useless belt era of the 2000s? You may be entitled to financial compensation. Just kidding — but you are entitled to break out your old waist-accentuating accessories. Because like it or not, the non-functional Y2K belt is yet again the height of fashion.

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Somewhere in the early aughts abyss — nestled snuggly between velour tracksuits and the dress-over-pants trends — the Y2K belt has lived on vaguely in the cultural consciousness. As a staple of new-millennium celebrity style, it took many forms. The decade saw a scarf fastened around Kelly Clarkson’s hips, a thick leather belt atop Beyoncé’s low-slung pants, and a slew of oversized monstrosities accentuating Kim Kardashian’s waist. The world arguably hit peak unnecessary belt in 2002, when Carrie Bradshaw sported a green buckled band around her bare (?) waist. These belts were confusing, random, and an apt representation of the era’s chaotic approach to accessorizing. And now, they’re having a renaissance.

All summer long, needless belts have been re-appearing — and we have the runways to thank. At Tory Burch’s Spring 2023 show, slinky belts were used as card-holder straps. On Blumarine’s Fall 2023 catwalk, thick statement belts were paired with ultra-miniskirts. And in recent weeks, the TikTok algorithm has been serving up an aesthetic mishmash of superfluous belted ensembles. There are big chunky belts worn atop spandex shorts. We have slinky chain link belts placed over tank tops. Some users are event styling them with body-con summer slips and lacy bridal skirts. While these tap into quintessential Y2K aesthetics, the trend has also been modernized for 2023. Take Michael Kors (below), where useless belts were paired with polished minimalist dresses. Regardless of how it’s worn, the controversial styling choice is, if nothing else, a little bit amusing.

Photography by Getty Images

After all, belts were intended as utilitarian garments. They were first created to carry tools, and over the decades they’ve primarily functioned to keep pants upright — with style coming as a secondary bonus. Somehow, the adoption of the belt into solely aesthetic territory is so wrong that it feels right. Like unsupportive mesh flats and deconstructed denim, useless low-slung Y2K belts eschew practicality in the name of, well, looking cool.

They don’t hold anything up. They don’t usually cinch the waist. They just sit plainly over clothes, like a necklace for your hips. But in all their frivolity and fruitless function, flashy belts are the epitome of self-expression. From chain link sashes to thick disc straps, there are options out there for both trend newcomers and seasoned Y2K belt pros.

Below, FASHION curated the best Y2K belt picks on the market right now.

The floral option


This vintage-inspired metal chain offers a rustic-meets-summery look. Accentuated with daisy-adorned medallions, it’s delicate, feminine and an easily accessible statement. And because it’s durable and lightweight, it’s great as an outfit add-on when travelling. To clean and shine, simply rub it with a dry cloth and voilà. Can your favourite necklace do that?

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The Western option


Notice how the belt is sitting *above* the jean loops? Ah yes, that’s the magic of this unwarranted garment. This chunky offering by Calgary-based brand Kate Hewko is made of vegan leather and comes with eye-catching buckle statements. With the versatility of a classic black belt and the added oomph of decorative jewellery, it takes you from a day at the stampede to an evening at an early aughts red carpet.

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Looking to channel your inner Halle Bailey er…Ariel? Allow us to introduce this cotton crochet belt. Decorated with seashell embellishments and accentuated by dangling fringe, it’s the perfect piece for a day at the beach or a warm-weather ice cream outing. Pair with a lightweight, loose-fitted linen frock for maximum mermaid effect. It may not be practical, but it sure makes getting dressed more fun.

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The nineties nostalgia option


If you’re anything like us, this picture of Claudia Schiffer in a tartan skirt with a gold chain belt holds a permanent spot on your style-inspiration Pinterest board. Introducing: The affordable dupe. This slinky garment has an easy clasp closure for slipping on atop skirts, pants or dresses. Reminiscent of vintage Chanel runways, the luxury accessory epitomizes the power of the unnecessary belt.

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The minimalist option


Monochromatic minimalism and cool Y2K belts? Not exactly two compatible concepts. But somehow, this brown leather Isabel Marant piece brings these ideas together. The straightforward design is elevated with a tab slot fastening (that has multiple styling options!) for an accessory that would appeal to Ashley Olsen and Paris Hilton alike.  If you’re feeling adventurous, it also comes in bolder shades.

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The boho option


A near-exact replica of this glorious accessory worn by Hayden Panettiere in 2005, this Western-inspired disk belt is the immediate focal point of an outfit. Embellished with round leather segments, studs, and a prominent coin buckle, it can be worn with jean co-ords for a rustic look or flowy maxi-skirts for a hippie-inspired serve. The disc belt — which some have said originated in Native American communities — was a staple on Y2K red carpets. This is as close as it gets to reliving that era. (Plus, it comes in six other colours.)

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