In the Middle Ages the leather belt was a symbol of power, domination and marital fidelity. The pants of the man and the woman in the skirt were held up by a belt. The leather belts of the nobility also served to hold the sword.
In the armed forces of Prussia, Tsarist Russia, and other Eastern European nations, it was common for officers to wear extremely tight, wide belts around the waist, on the outside of the uniform, both to support a saber as well as for aesthetic reasons. These tightly cinched belts served to draw in the waist and give the wearer a trim physique, emphasizing wide shoulders and a pouting chest.
In the 12th century, the belts were so long that they were wrapped twice around the waist. From the 13th to the 15th century men and women wore on the belt the alms bag, belt bag, toothpick, scissors, eating utensils and knives. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the leather belt lost its significance, since it did not hold the clothes any more.
Often the leather belt served only to emphasize waist made small by a corset worn under the uniform, a practice which was common especially during the Crimean Wars and was often noted by soldiers from the Western front.
In modern times, men started wearing belts in the 1920s, as trouser waists fell to a lower line. Before the 1920s, belts served mostly a decorative purpose, and were associated with the military. Moreover, prior to that trousers did not even have belt loops. In sports, trousers with belt loops were present in the 19th century already. Today it is common for men to wear a leather belt with their trousers.