It has been a long time coming, so we are excited to announce that our new side-release stretch belts have finally arrived. What is a side-release belt, and why did we decide to create one? Read on to learn more about the origin of this new belt and what makes it special.
To start with, it's actually a side-release buckle, which is a buckle with male and female parts that disengage when you press buttons on either side simultaneously. We've always thought that side-release functionality was intriguing, but there were two main drawbacks. First, most existing side-release buckles were not made for belts and do not appear suitable for clothing. Second, belt buckles have to be at least a few millimeters wider and thicker than the strap itself and, since side-release buckles have parts affixed to both ends of the strap, this means one of the end pieces needs to fit through one's belt loops.
So this was something that was in the back of our minds, waiting for a solution to percolate through. Eventually we decided jumpstart the process by creating a totally new side-release buckle built to our own specifications. The main criteria included a belt buckle that would:
- Have a symmetrical appearance when closed
- Fit through belt loops as easily as possible
- Have a low profile, so it would not bulge under clothes
- Snap together firmly and release quickly when activated
Some early sketches of the side-release buckle design
It turned out to be a much longer process than expected to create a new belt buckle from scratch. We previously had success designing our cam-style belt buckles, but those were based on an existing buckle that we reengineered. The side-release buckle did adopt some general concepts, but its unique design was created from scratch based on sketches. Once we had developed a CAD model that captured our functional and asthetic requirements, we proceeded to have the plastic injection mold tooled. As often happens, further modifications were needed to get the buckle just right.
Once the side-release buckle was finished, it remained to finalize the details of the rest of the belt. We added a movable slide, so that the size of the belt could be adjusted to the desired fit and tension. A metal slide was used because plastic ones were too bulky and might break. Instead of using a metal slide with a movable pin that can poke the wearer in the abdomen, we chose a rounded slide. This also makes it easier to thread through belt loops, though we did place the slide on the side that goes through fewer loops. The slide was painted matte black to match the rest of the belt.
The remainder of the belt was not especially complicated. As with our other belts, we used a Box-X stitch for extra strength where the buckle is sewn to the strap. Before creating the buckle, we decided to go with a 1.25" wide strap, so that the belt buckle would thread through belt loops more easily. We also elected to use thinner elastic webbing, since the strap would overlap near the adjustable slide. Because the elastic is thinner, it is more stretchy than our other elastic belts. As always, however, high quality woven polyester elastic webbing was employed.
There were a few additional details that might otherwise escape notice. Our Circle B logo was placed on the inward-facing side of the buckle to maintain a clean outward appearance. This also means that lefties, who often thread belts from the opposite side, won't have an upside-down logo on the front of their belt. When creating the buckle, the mold had to be revised so the ejector pin marks would be appear on the logo side of the buckle, since that side would be facing inwards. Lastly, the end of the female side of the buckle, which is intended to be threaded through the belt loops, is rounded to make insertion easier.
Hopefully this inside glimpse of the product development process demonstrates that a considerable amount of thought, time and effort goes into creating what appears to be a fairly straightforward belt design. Whether this particular style is your cup or tea or not, you can be assured that we are always thinking about new and innovative approaches to existing and future products.