A belt is a flexible band or strap, typically made of leather, plastic, or heavy cloth, worn around the natural waist or near it (as far down as the hips). The ends of a belt are free; and a buckle forms the belt into a loop by securing one end to another part of the belt, at or near the other end. Often, the resulting loop is smaller than the hips. Belts come in many lengths because of the variety in waist sizes, and most belts can be adjusted at the buckle to suit the wearer's waist.
Belts are used variously to secure or hold up clothing, such as trousers, shorts, and skirts; to carry objects, such as tools and weapons; and to define or accentuate the waist.
Some garments have a series of belt loops at the waist, through which a belt can be threaded. A belt too wide for the belt loops on a garment can hold up that garment, but not as well as it could if it went through the loops.
On dresses, robes, and gowns, belts do not hold up the garment, but may draw in its waist and define or accentuate it. These garments, because they maintain their position on the body by hanging from the shoulders or by friction against the torso, do not need belts in order to stay up. The breadth of belts worn with such garments need not be limited by the size of belt loops: some wide belts called waist cinchers overlap with corsets in appearance and function.
Belts that do hold up clothing work by friction and often take advantage of the narrow circumference (and the compressibility) of the torso above the hips. (Suspenders, also used to hold up such clothing as trousers, rely not on friction, compression, and the waist–hip proportion, but on maintaining distance between the shoulders of the wearer and the waist of the garment: the garment is held up by suspension (hanging), without need for the friction and compression of a belt; and the same principle applies in bib overalls. A garter belt (also called a suspender belt) employs both methods: the belt maintains its position on the body by friction and/or compression at or near the waist and/or by being smaller than the hips, and it maintains stockings' position on the legs by suspension. A sock garter works in the same way as a suspender belt, but for one leg only, the upper band of the garter being worn around the thigh or the calf, rather than the waist. A plain garter, a band worn on one leg to hold up hosiery, works like a belt, using friction and compression.)
Belts often are used as fashion accessories, with many colours, styles, and finishes. In heavy metal subculture, bullet belts and studded belts are worn. Belt buckles, often made of metal, vary from simple, one-color finishes to elaborately decorated belt plates with embossed or bas-relief images or multicolored logos. Pouches to carry objects, such as coin purses, holsters, scabbards, and inrōs, can be attached to belts and used instead of a garment's pockets. Many belts are marketed for one sex or the other, despite their universal functionality.