Brace yourself, guys, but a return to the white belts of the '70s is probably in your interest

Brace yourself, guys, but a return to the white belts of the ’70s is probably in your interest

Anthony Kim is known for his flashy belts.
Robert Seale/SI

In an era when pro golfers are walking advertisements for their apparel sponsors and tend to look identical, there is one unique style element, a lone spark of rebellion: the belt. Think Anthony Kim’s jewel-encrusted belt buckles with the initials AK emblazoned in rhinestones on a big silver oval, bringing a touch of in-your-face, Elvisy flash to the hushed enclaves of championship golf. Another big belter is Camilo Villegas, who wears biker-style Western belts, the kind you expect to see on a rodeo cowboy. These young guys are fashion rebels, hell-raisers for individuality and personal style on the course.

(Photos: Guess the pro’s belt buckle.)

Both players’ leather of choice is white. When you watch pro golf nowadays, you’ll notice that a startling number of players wear white belts, a style not seen in streetwear since the disco era.

The white belt harks back to the leisure suit of the ’70s, when pastel colors were fashionable and belts were paler to match. Picture Jack Nicklaus tearing up the Old Course in St. Andrews in flare-bottomed white trousers, a light-blue diamond-patterned shirt, white leather wing tips with gillies and a white leather belt. It’s not a look one enters into lightly, but it has its appeal.

On the golf course a white belt can serve a style function. For example, when worn with white trousers and a white shirt, a white belt keeps the silhouette unbroken and is thus slimming. If you were to wear a black or a brown belt with white trousers and a light-colored shirt, the belt would graphically bisect the silhouette, cutting you in half, so to speak. This is no fashion crime, but it does emphasize your waistline, which is generally not a good thing. Similarly, a white belt can bridge the divide between a white shirt and patterned trousers with an element of white.

The same rule applies to dark belts. If your trousers and shirt are light in color, a dark belt will cut you in half visually. It’s probably a good idea to have a neutral-colored belt — tan or light brown — for those situations.

It’s hard to be enthusiastic about the brightly colored belts — yellow, red, green and so forth — that some golfers wear, usually in cloth and presumably to color-coordinate with brightly colored shirts or trousers. Such direct coordination, like wearing a pocket square that too closely matches your tie, indicates a lack of imagination.