During the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, the military started to use the friction belt buckle, the type of buckle where you pull the belt behind and through the buckle to keep the belt in place. It doesn’t have a prong and a hole. Those buckles were mostly made of brass, and as the war waged, and buckles were mas produced in large quantities, they became more widespread and some cowboys started wearing them too.
It wasn’t however until the early 1900s, that trend, fashion and style began to figure into the cowboy’s dress. This was the time that Hollywood began to romanticize, on the screen, the clothing of the cowboy. A distinct cowboy image began to come clear, with Hollywood finding ways to enhance elements that seemed particularly unique. In these early films, cowboys were wearing regular belts and buckles but by the 1950s, cowboys on the big screen had begun to sport larger, shinier western belt buckles with Western-related scenes and imagery. These images had a major influence on the cowboy’s pride and fashion sense, and cowboys everywhere adapted, in part, to the images on the screen. Although these large belt buckles that were bulkier were not necessarily conducive to the kind of work cowboys did, many cowboys’ dress ethic shifted from merely practical to stylish.