To say belt loops didn’t exist before the 20th century would be incorrect; they just weren’t common.
Bob Charnes, owner of the Arizona Gunfighters re-enactment group, says some baseball uniforms had belt loops by the late 1850s. They didn’t catch on with the general public at that time.
Most 19th-century cowboys either wore suspenders or had a pair of pants tight enough around the waist that
they didn’t need a belt to hold them up. It was the hot summer of 1893 that drove some men to give up their braces and opt for belts.
The fashion took awhile to take hold. Levi Strauss didn’t put belt loops on its jeans until the 1920s.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org