Seventies Belt Buckles


My high school pal Mike McDaniel is great - he never throws anything away! He still has all the toys he ever had as a child, stored away in his garage. So, recently, when we were talking about the old days, I learned that he still had all of his belt buckles from the late Seventies. Better yet, he still had mine, too.

In 1978 and 1979 I got into a minor belt buckle kick and would go to the leather store in the Glendale Galleria, where artsy, better-made buckles were sold. These were manufactured by the Bergamot Brass Works, Inc., who is still in the business. During the Seventies, the grooming and clothing aesthetic included long hair, facial hair, denim, leather, suede and cotton "workman" style shirts, so novelty belt buckles fit right in. Attached to the end of a wide leather belt, usually in brown, it went with the leather watchstraps then in vogue.

When I left Burbank to attend college in 1980 I gave Mike a lot of my stuff, include my belt buckle collection, only half-expecting that he'd store it for me.

Cool dude that he is, Mike agreed to mail me back all of my old buckles, with his own thrown in as well. When the box came in the mail, my kids immediately started selecting buckles for themselves, which tells me that when it comes to fashion, what was once in will come in again. So be like Mike: don't throw anything away. Store it!

(By the way, sorry, but the buckles shown below are not for sale!)

The Indian Chief

My favorite. At the time I was into Neil Young, who was into American History - or at least clothing that suggested it - so the Indian head had good "vibes" for me. The only problem was that it was big, and when I got out of the Marine Corps in late 1978 I started to acquire a gut, which the Indian bit into when I leaned over. So while I liked it, I didn't wear it much. (Until, that is, when I lost the gut by buying a 10-speed bicycle and pedaling it all over Burbank at night. Then I got the gut back again, then lost it again, then reacquired it, etc.)

The Lion

My favorite buckle that I actually wore a lot. I include a reverse shot to show the fine quality of these Bergamot buckles; I really like the ornate scrolling on the retainer. The main problem with the lion was that he liked to eat the backs of guitars. I forget which one it was, but I picked up one of my many guitars once and began playing it while wearing this buckle. When I put the guitar away I was horrified to see a scratch on the back of it and some incriminating varnish and wood on the lion's nose. A sadder but wiser guitarist, I thenceforth took off my belt for extended playing sessions. The fact that I normally played sitting down was a good thing, else I might be playing with my jeans around my ankles.

Alice in Wonderland

In total contrast to the fearsome and noble lion was this one, from a Sir John Tenniel illustration in Alice in Wonderland. I thought it was cool when I first selected it, but felt rather gay wearing it. My youngest daughter wants it badly.

The Moon

As I was interested in astrology, the occult and the old-time woodcut-style illustrations usually found in the Old Farmer's Almanacs that I used to buy (and still do), the Moon was a natural choice. My taste hasn't changed much, apparently. When Mike's buckle box arrived in the mail, my wife had no problem figuring out which ones had been mine. I don't recall selecting this leering face for any special occasions, but it seems to call for appropriate wear, doesn't it? Meeting hot babes, perhaps, or the Boardroom. Or meeting hot babes in the Boardroom.

Lady Liberty

Again, a buckle that shows my interest in American History; this is reproduced from a World War I poster. While I really liked the lady with the sword and the shield, I can't say as how I liked the face on her, which made Lady Liberty look like Jocelyn Wildenstein the plastic surgery cat-lady. Not a Bergamot buckle, obviously. They'd have gotten that detail right.

The Dragon

Odd that I should have chosen this one, a slithering dragon who looks like he's clutching an old Volkswagen hubcap or a Frisbee in a smoke-filled opium den. One of the few occasions when I chose something that didn't represent me somehow.

The Union and Central Pacific Railroad

Again with the American History. It reminds me of the time just after I got out of the Marine Corps, when I was pondering what career field I should take up next. It was during one of my evening bicycle rides in Burbank; I was stopped at an intersection where a railroad train was halted. I waved to the engineer and struck up a brief conversation about his job and whether or not he liked it. (He did.) "That's it!" I thought, pedaling away, "I'll hire on with the railroad and be an engineer!" I did end up as an engineer, but a degreed one in electrical and computer network engineering. Sitting in frequent dull meetings feeling my blood congeal, however, I have reviewed that decision and wondered whether I would have enjoyed the rails more. I think I would have. Wearing this belt buckle!

Ornate Face

Another great Bergamot design in the style of... what? I'm not sure, exactly. An architectural feature? A Zephyr wind? Whatever it is, I liked it and still do.

Keep Every Body Country

Certainly not a buckle I'd choose; what's this one doing in here? Mike assures me that it was mine and not his, so I'm sure he's correct. Somebody must have given it to me. "Keep Every Body Country": What? Against their will? Doesn't this one seem a bit totalitarian and dictatorial? Wait a minute... KEBC. I bet it's a promotional item from a country music FM station. Sure enough, a google search shows that there was a KEBC FM in Oklahoma City. Maybe that's what it means. So... how did I come across this one?

White Western Star

One buckle I have never worn. I bought it in November 1975, the very first time I met my Marine Corps pal Erv. I paid him five dollars for it and immediately felt ripped off, but as it began my friendship with Erv, it was well worth it. This was at the time CB radios, trucks and convoys were popular, so I suppose I must have been thinking along those lines. Not something I would normally buy.

Aztec Calendar

This wasn't in Mike's mailing - did I keep this one and lose it? - but I once had it: the Bergamot Aztec calendar. Being a long-time Old Farmer's Almanac reader, it figures that I'd be attracted to this design.

KISS

This was Mike's from 1978. He wore this one, while at church, yet, back in the days when people were just certain that KISS stood for "Knights in Satan's Service." Upon seeing it my son immediately put dibs on it. That holographic rainbow effect stuff forming the letters was new in 1975 - I remember the first time I saw it, on a bumper sticker on a car in front of me in bumper-to-bumper traffic in L.A. I was so fixated on the sticker changing colors that I nearly rammed the car on a couple of occasions.

Led Zeppelin

Mike's. Once again, upon seeing it my son immediately put dibs on it.

Jethro Tull

Mike's. Not being a fan, my son could care less.

* * *

I should mention one last belt buckle, a Volkswagen "VW" logo, by Bergamot. I wanted one of these but hadn't gotten around to buying it. Then in April 1979 I got a job working at the reclamation yard at Lockheed, where I had to endure spending the entire day with a slack-jawed and grinning total moron named Keith who wore one all the time. I didn't want one after that.


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