history custom belt buckles

The History Behind Today’s Custom Belt Buckles

The custom belt buckle is a vital part of many rodeo, equestrian and other Western events, but it’s a product with a history that dates back much longer than these pursuits. Belts and buckles have been around in some form for hundreds or even thousands of years, though opinions differ slightly on when custom belt buckles truly became part of our culture.

At A Cut Above Buckles, we’re proud to offer a wide range of custom belt buckles for any purpose, and we’re also cognizant of the long history behind our products — both in the Western US and throughout the world. For our clients who are interested, here’s a brief history of belts and custom belt buckles so you can trace the origins of these products in our society.

Ancient Introduction

Technically speaking, the first buckles of any kind in known human history were created by the Greeks during the period of the Roman Empire. These buckles were made of either metal or bone, at least in most cases, and were used to secure clothing (a strange concept by today’s standards, of course). There are also tools created specifically for the purposes of creating these buckles, including the first rivet-making tools.

Belt Buckles

However, most agree that when it comes to buckles specifically for belts, it would be several hundred more years before the first such products were seen. Most accounts trace this back to the 16th century in Italy, where people began using ornately designed belts with metal buckles to secure their pants or other forms of lower-body clothing.

Of course, these buckles weren’t intended for personalization or much other decoration — the buckle was simply meant to serve its purpose. However, people were creative by nature, and soon they began adding embroidery or enamel work on top of these belt buckles.

Western US and Cowboys

Belt buckles were largely a functional item for several hundred years after this point, up to a vital piece of history for our company: When cowboys began using them for several purposes, including within rodeos and other Western events in the late 1800s.

Custom buckles really became a thing in the Western US, and it didn’t take long before just about every cowboy owned one. One way to tell a real cowboy from a pretender was which buckle they wore — that is, until other people started using them just for decoration or even fashion purposes.

And over the last several decades, custom belt buckles have served both these purposes well. They’re both must-have items for rodeos and equestrian events plus quality style options for many people, even those who don’t regularly compete in such events.

For more on the history of custom belt buckles, or to learn about any of our custom buckle options, speak to the staff at A Cut Above Buckles today.

men’s belt buckle style templates

Men’s Belt Buckle Style Templates Found Today

While many who wear them are well aware that custom belt buckles provide aesthetic advantages that can’t be matched by more traditional styles, there’s a lesser-known benefit here as well: Versatility. Custom belt buckles are available in several different style templates, serving different needs or desires in both the practical and aesthetic realms simultaneously.

At A Cut Above Buckles, we’re happy to provide a huge range of custom belt buckles, from our Signature Series designed specifically for rodeo or equestrian events through three-piece buckles and numerous other options, meeting every practical and stylistic need you may have. What are a few of these different styles you might consider for your belt buckle? Here’s a primer.

Plate Style

Originally popularized by military belts and related items, the plate style belt buckle is one that’s ideal for those customizing a specific design onto their buckle. They’re very easy to design, with nearly limitless possibilities for color and design schemes, whether your tastes lie in the realm of pop culture, sports teams or classic western.

They’re also detachable, making them ideal for switching up looks if needed. They’re often worn in casual settings, but can also be utilized for rodeos, equestrian and other events.

Frame Style

For more formal, traditional belts, frame-style buckles are the most popular option. Easily customizable as well, this style buckle comes with a detachable center drape, allowing for greater design possibilities on the foil of your choice. They’re also highly durable and resistant to scratches or other damage from daily use, making them perfect for various riding events if you choose to go this route.

Frame style belt buckles tend to be square or D-shaped, but can also be round in some cases.

Box Frame

The style that many of our custom belt buckles come in is the box frame alignment, which involves a larger design up front and a strap that presses against the inside. This belt type does not require holes, and fits right inside the hollow box that contains the outward design. For the largest and most prominent custom belt buckle designs, the box frame is typically the way to go.

O-Ring and D-Ring

These styles refer to belt buckles where the belt is fastened by threading it through the buckle. These options often can’t be customized quite as much, but they’re extremely durable and long-lasting. They also tend to be more traditional in overall design, especially when it comes to classic western belts.

For more on the general belt buckle style templates out there, or to learn about any of our custom Western or rodeo belt buckles, speak to the staff at A Cut Above Buckles today.

How to Clean Your Rodeo Belt Buckle in Utah

How to Clean and Maintain Your Rodeo Belt Buckle in Utah

When you receive a custom belt buckle in Utah from A Cut Above Buckles, you’re not just getting a stylish accessory — you’re getting a lasting memory of an achievement. Many of our clients buy our buckles as gifts, but intend to keep them in the family as heirlooms. But whether you plan on sharing your rodeo belt buckle in Utah with future generations or not, you’ll need to know how to keep it in its best condition. From your favorite custom belt buckle maker, here is a guide on how to maintain your buckle.

Understanding Rodeo Belt Buckles in Utah

There are several different methods of making rodeo belt buckles. One of our most used techniques starts with casting a buckle using a non-precious metal and a mold. Using non-precious metal for the base of the buckle maximizes the product’s durability, and using a mold allows us to work tiny, intricate details into the buckle.

Next, we plate the cast buckle with a precious metal, such as silver, gold, bronze, brass, or copper. This creates the elaborate shine and color you usually see in a trophy buckle.

Knowing how your buckle was made and what materials it’s made from will help you better understand how to clean and maintain it. Using the wrong tools and materials to clean your plated buckle could cause some of the plating to be damaged.

How to Clean Your Belt Buckle

Although we recommend finding out what type of metals your buckle is made of before cleaning, if you’re unsure you can always use a 100% cotton polishing cloth. This can be used safely on all metals. Start by simply wiping the buckle with the cloth. However, you can add some mild soap as needed. Be sure to always remove all excess soap and water when you’re done cleaning.

If your belt buckle has many tiny relief details, a cloth may not be able to reach all of the nooks and crannies of the design. For buckles like these, you can use a soft bristled toothbrush to gently remove tarnish and dirt from your buckle.

You may be tempted to use silver polish or jewelry cleaner on your belt, but it’s better to avoid these items. Abrasive silver polish pastes, aerosol silver cleaners, and other jewelry cleaners can be far too harsh on your belt buckle. Using the wrong products on a rodeo belt buckle in Utah can actually cause the buckle to become more tarnished.

Whatever materials you end up using, be sure to clean the buckle slowly and gently, and never soak your trophy buckle in water.

Maintaining Custom Western Belt Buckles in Utah

You can make cleaning your belt buckle easier on yourself by doing some routine maintenance on your buckle.

Storing your belt buckle in cloth bags designed for silver, or even in an old tube sock, can help to prevent scratches and tarnishing. Buffing your buckle with a cotton cloth once a week will also help keep the tarnish away. And finally, avoid getting lotions, perfumes, hand sanitizers, and other harsh products on the buckle.

At A Cut Above Buckles, our products are made to last. If you take these steps to clean your rodeo belt buckle in Utah, it’ll look good as new for years to come.

Why Custom Belt Buckles Make Great Gifts and Prizes

Why Custom Belt Buckles in Utah Make Great Gifts, Prizes and More

A custom made rodeo belt buckle is the ultimate prize to show off to Utah friends and neighbors. Why stop at the lavishness of a pre-made rodeo belt buckle when you can make it one-of-a-kind too? At A Cut Above Buckles, we offer custom rodeo belt buckles in Utah because we know it’s what our customers love. Our designers work tirelessly to come up with only the best ideas for our custom belt buckle orders, and our silversmiths then carefully and expertly execute the designs.

Custom belt buckles from A Cut Above Buckles feature intricately carved images, such as cowboys roping calves, feathers, wild pony racing, flowers, bucking bulls, and more. We use a non-precious metal base with gold and silver overlay so that you come away with a belt that is shiny and showy on the outside and sturdy and durable on the inside.

When it comes to customization, the options are endless. Here are a few of our favorite ways customers use our custom belt buckles.


A one-of-a-kind, personalized belt buckle makes a great gift for friends, family, and other loved ones. Whether it’s dad’s 75th birthday, your son’s graduation, or a milestone anniversary for you and your spouse, a custom belt buckle is a gift they’ll cherish forever. In fact, some families commission custom belt buckles for the purpose of passing them down to their descendents as a family heirloom.

Custom belt buckles can be engraved with the recipient’s initials to make the gift all the more special. When you get a loved one a custom belt buckle, you’re showing them that they’re one of a kind too.


Before he was a successful businessman, the founder of A Cut Above Buckles was a rodeo competitor. At A Cut Above Buckles, we know how meaningful it is for winners of rodeo contests to display the spoils of their skills and bravery. That makes us the perfect people to design and execute custom trophy buckles as prizes for your next rodeo contest. When the rodeo contest winner walks around town with our custom trophy buckle, everyone will know he’s a winner.

For Businesses

Belt buckles emblazoned with your brand logo or company name make great merchandise for your business. You can resell them as company swag, or you can give them away as gifts to employees and clients as a way to promote your business. However you decide you want to use custom belt buckles for your business, A Cut Above Buckles can help. We even offer discounts for bulk orders.

Your Custom Belt Buckle Maker

When you get a custom belt buckle in Utah from A Cut Above Buckles, you know you’re getting a high-quality, handmade, artisan product. After over two decades of being in the business, we know a thing or two about trophy buckles in Utah.

A cut above buckle

The Origins of Rodeo Belt Buckles in Utah

In 2021, most of us associate trophy buckles in Utah with cowboys, rodeo champions, and the wild west. Today, those immersed in the culture surrounding country music and rodeos don these ornate, oversized belt buckles to make a statement. But where do trophy belt buckles come from? Your custom belt buckle maker, A Cut Above Buckles, is here to answer that question.

The Military Origins of Cowboy Belt Buckles

Before cowboys ever wore belts, they wore suspenders. In fact, in the 1800s, most men wore suspenders, not belts. The only time belts were worn in the United States before the 1920s was by military personnel, who wore them not for function, but for decoration. In Europe, it was custom for soldiers to go into battle looking their best by wearing large, engraved belt buckles. While soldiers wore buckles made of brass, higher military officials had buckles made of gold.

This tradition made its way into the United States. Revolutionary War veterans would don such belt buckles, as well as those who were fighting in the Civil War. At first, belt buckles mostly were decorated with engravings of military symbols, but soon symbols of western culture began to be incorporated into belt buckle designs as well.

When Did Cowboys Start Wearing Belts?

In the 1920s, Levi Strauss started producing jeans with belt loops. This was the first ever American brand to mass produce these types of pants, and consumers — including cowboys — began making the switch from suspenders to belts, as they were much more convenient and functional. Around the same time period, rodeos began awarding winners with rodeo belt buckles.

What was Hollywood’s Role in Popularizing Trophy Buckles in Utah?

Around the same time as the belt renaissance of the 1920s, Hollywood was producing a number of films that romanticized the lives of cowboys — think Tumbleweeds (1925), the Virginian (1929), The Big Trail (1930). Filmmakers would turn up the cowboy aesthetic to make their films more appealing, and soon real cowboys started dressing more like movie cowboys.

Hollywood was also responsible for popularizing shiny belt buckles. Edward H. Bohlin, a Swedish immigrant and leather crafter, worked closely with the moviestar Tom Mix, making him custom saddles and belts. Mix was primarily known for his roles in cowboy movies, where he would sport Bohlin’s custom belts, which featured silver trim and accents. Bohlin’s belts were some of the first to have the luster we see on belt buckles today.

A Cut Above Buckles is your trusted custom belt buckle maker honoring the history of western aesthetics in the United States. Our founder and president Andy Andrews is a real cowboy, so you can be sure that your trophy belt will be expertly crafted. Whether you’re a cowboy, a veteran, a rodeo champion, or a fan of western culture, A Cut Above Buckles has something for you.

Equestrian Awards by A Cut Above Buckles

Equestrian Awards with Monogrammed Logos now available!

We now offer a variety of affordable alternative equestrian awards and rodeo awards! Mix things up at your next event with custom jackets, horse blankets, and more alongside your custom trophy buckles.

Add your organization or event logo and lettering to our new alternative awards. Choose from our custom apparel, hay bags, equipment bags, rope, saddle and tack bags, saddle pads, horse blankets, and more. Extra warm water resistant jackets are available for men, women, and youth. These alternative equestrian awards make great affordable second and third place trophies. Or try them out to honor your event participants or coordinators. They work great for rodeo awards, barrel racing awards, livestock show awards, 4-H awards, county fair awards, etc.

At A Cut Above Buckles, we are always striving to do better and offer more. We are famous for our high quality trophy buckles and custom belt buckles. We put this same effort and attention to detail in our new equestrian awards and other awards. Let us know what you think, and what other equestrian awards you would like to see us offer here! We are already adding monogrammed fly masks and different saddle pad varieties to this new category. Our staff specially recommends the carry-all bag and the accessory bag: two additions everyone can use on the go in their trailers! Assorted thread colors are also available on your monogrammed logos. Ask about assorted colors/patterns available in our hay bags, sports medicine boots, and our overreach boots. Delivery for our equestrian awards and rodeo awards is up to six weeks. Let us know if you need it sooner and we will do everything we can to accommodate you.

Take a look at our new “Other Awards” category here, and feel free to give us a call anytime at (951) 600-0444 or email customorder@acutabovebuckles.com to order.

The Solace Cross: A Tool for Comfort, Hope, and Faith

The Solace Cross Available Now in our Online Store

The Solace Cross: A Tool for Comfort, Hope, and Faith

The inspiration behind the Solace Cross came from a gentleman fighting for his life during his battle with cancer. In 2007 he suffered several chemotherapy treatments. To get him through each treatment, he carved a small cross and placed a marble in the center that he would rub as he prayed for strength to endure the pain. These replicas are to inspire others with the same hope, grace, strength and courage of that man.

The solace cross is available now on the A Cut Above Buckles Online Store.

Trophy Buckle to be Awarded to our Make A Difference Challenge Winner!

Announcing the Winner of the A Cut Above Buckles Make a Difference Challenge:

Mrs. Jackie Harris of Pittsburg, PA

For her ‘cut above’ hard work and dedication towards helping sick children and raising funds for cancer Societies and animal welfare, “saving lives one ride at a time” through her organization ‘Dreaming of Three.’ (Scroll Down to see Jackie’s Story).

Jackie will work with our designers to choose a design she likes (or create a new design!) for her hand-crafted personalized buckle she will receive for winning the Make A Difference Challenge.

We were overwhelmed with amazing stories of many people who are ‘a cut above’. We were so inspired by many of these stories that we are going to award custom key fobs to 14 additional nominees who are also working very hard to make a positive difference. These hand-cut custom key fobs will be designed by A Cut Above Buckles Founder Andy Andrews and Vice-President Kyle Graff.

The 14 additional nominees receiving hand-cut custom key fobs are: Mark & Donna McCain, Brian Whitehead, Joe Powell, Paul Riggs, Michael Minix, Chance Long, The Riders of Innisfail Trail Ride Against Cancer, Penny Mitchell, Tia Borden, Pam Wolfe, Zac Peterson, Mark Drum, Stephanie Castle, and Justice Barker.

At A Cut Above Buckles, the phrase “A Cut Above” stands for more than just our name. We think it’s a way of life- to do more, go farther, last longer, and be a little bit better every day. Jackie and the additional 14 nominees recognized have gone far above and beyond to help others, overcome obstacles, and work hard to make a positive change in the lives of others, their community, and society.

Thank You again to all who participated in the A Cut Above Buckles Make a Difference Challenge. Stay tuned for our next Challenge.

Jackie’s Story:

Jackie Harris is the founder of Dreaming of Three (DO3), a non-profit organization to help raise funds for Cancer Societies and Animal Rescues by equestrians donating a portion of their winnings to these groups. She started up Do3 only last year after she lost both her father and step-father only 3 months apart from Cancer and Heart Disease. She only started Do3 expecting it would just be her and small group of people, but it quickly spread like wild fire and now Do3 is over 100 members strong dotted all over the U.S. Riders and Rodeo Competitors from all disciplines are welcomed to join and may choose to donate in many different ways. Some donate through winnings, some through hours in the saddle or pledge per ribbon won. Others who cannot ride can donate by matching another members donation.

Do3 also holds numerous fund raisers to help animal rescue groups. After hearing about Northstar, a paint horse who was doused in Kerosene and set on fire, Jackie immediately set up an online Auction and over $7,000 was raised to help Northstar. The story was so remarkable that the Northstar Foundation was set up, to help other animals who have been afflicted with trauma from humans.

Another amazing party of Do3 is the Rodeo Kids Program. Jackie started this when she first started up Do3. The Rodeo Kids program is set up for State Captains of Do3 to take a child who is battling or won the battle with cancer/disease for a fun filled night at the Rodeo. The child can watch the Do3 member compete, and typically if applicable, the rodeo announcer gives a shout out to the child and the child gets to meet the Rodeo Queen, Bull fighters, and others. They also get to have dinner at a nice local restaurant nearby and are showered with gifts from members and sponsors of Do3.

Jackie’s most recent large endeavor has been the Extreme Retired Racehorse Makeover Barrel Race for off the track thoroughbreds. Many Thoroughbreds are very capable of having success in the western discipline, and the challenge is to match 12 capable trainers with 12 off the track Thoroughbreds. After 100 days they compete in a free-style class and barrel class. The race has picked up a ton of momentum and is getting news coverage all over the US.

Now that Do3 is really getting on its feet members are able to hold their own Do3 Events to help out even more. For example, a local ‘See No Evil Benefit’ Barrel Series helps raise funds for the Texas Rodeo Kid Dominique McAllister, and what started out as a one day race has expanded into a series due the over-whelming response received from sponsors and locals.

According to the friend who nominated Jackie, none of this would have ever happened if it wasn’t for Jackie and her endless task of “Saving Lives One Ride At A Time”-

“She is the epitome of inspiration and has done so much for so many in such a short amount of time. I absolutely cannot imagine anyone more deserving than her. She without a doubt deserves recognition for creating Do3 and making such a difference in this world.”


A Cut Above Buckles Goes to Vegas for NFR: Trophy Buckle & Award Display Doubles in Size for 2012

National Finals Rodeo

After lots of preparation and hard work, the much anticipated A Cut Above Buckles Headquarters stands open for business at the Cowboy Marketplace during the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Located at the Mandalay Bay in booth 750, the new line of over 50 award products, custom trophy buckles, leather & tack, and accessories are on display between Thursday, Dec. 6th, and Saturday, Dec. 15th.

To conclude this very busy and successful year, A Cut Above Buckles invites the public to come by and see the latest trophy buckles and awards in person. Visitors can pick up a copy of the new trophy buckles and awards catalog, purchase items available from the online store, and speak with a professional sales rep to help design and order custom awards for upcoming events. CEO and Founder Andy Andrews will also be available to meet visitors and discuss new buckle and award designs.

With a display twice as big as last year’s, newly designed buckles, new trophy tack, trophy spurs, and more, Cut Above’s growing presence at the Cowboy Marketplace is reflecting the growth of this family-owned business. Over the past year Cut Above added 200 new buckle and award designs to a re-vamped website that now includes an online store with buckles, tack, jewelry, and accessories. Highlights of this year include the introduction of the official A Cut Above Buckles Facebook Page now followed by over 600 fans, new regional sales staff joining the growing Cut Above team, and earlier this year the official A Cut Above Buckles Bull, Smooth Sailing, competed with the American Bucking Bull Inc. Back Seat Buckers.

A Cut Above Christmas Gifts

The Perfect Christmas Gift: Our Custom Personalized Pocket knife

If you’re not sure what to get the special cowboy or cowgirl in your life, our custom personalized hand-engraved pocket knife is the ideal one of a kind gift designed to last.

Choose from a large variety of letters, initials, names, logos, stones, motifs, and borders to create a unique gift that you design. We also offer engraved, antiqued, or black backgrounds and an optional customized clip for your custom knife. All knives are hand-engraved.