RAF Stable Belt

The woven stable belt is commonly associated with the post-war British Army, however it was also rapidly accepted into use by the RAF who issued it in their own traditional colours of light blue, red and dark blue. The earliest pictures of the RAF stable belt seem to come from 1947 and were initially used by the RAF Regiment before the design trickled out to the rest of the RAF. The design has changed over the years, however today we are looking at an earlier example in use up until the early 2000s:

This earlier design had a pair of leather tabs at one end:

And matching buckles on the other:

A silver slider is fitted to allow some size adjustment to the belt:

The belts are worn either as a trouser belt, or over the woolen jumper. They were never issue items, but they were commonly purchased by servicemen. Today these belts have been replaced with a design with a large chromed belt buckle as seen in this image of Air Marshall Barry Thornton.

One former RAF serviceman recalls the patchy acceptance of the stable belt over the post-war period:

And they then (stable belts, I mean) seemed to become very low profile outwith the Regt, especially during the RAF NS era, when BD morphed into tailored No2 dress, and eventually made an (outwith the Regt) reappearance in the early ’70s in time for Shirts, Collar Attached, and the Star Trek zippy No.2 jacket. I have a feeling that when they came ‘back in blues’ (though they probably never went in the first place) they were initially only worn with the short-sleeve shirt. Now, at that time, like the stable belt, short-sleeve shirts were personal purchase only, and there was an absolute ban on them being worn off-station (in fact, probably just home station only).

2 comments

  1. Not much of a thing here, although there are/were nice shiny ‘brass’ buckles for web trouser belts with a Branch/Regiment collar dog spot soldered on until it fell off on the second day’s wear and you epoxied it in place for eternity.

    What we did have were colourful ascots/dickies (RCAF tartan for us but some Sqn’s had their own) to insert in the neckhole of the universal workdress “unibag; morale destroying; colour: green, gawdawful; size: random” to make it slightly presentable, and for a long time Base/Sqn patches were sewn over the pocket.
    Both were completely against national dress regulations, but don’t let the SWO catch you without them.
    Oddly enough I can’t find any pictures on the net, that ‘uniform’ seems to have wiped itself from living memory, I might have to dig through some dresser drawers and take a picture if I find it.

  2. Between 1976 & 1999, these belts were almost exclusively worn by men, & only rarely by women and generally by those who were ‘keen’. Wearing them over the top of a jumper was generally a sin. The generally accepted method of wear was that the slider was worn centrally (where a buckle would normally be) with the fastenings worn on the left side and the only ‘adjustment’ of length being via the long leather buckle tabs. There were periodic debates as to whether the correct name was stable belt (see below) or staple belt to describe the fastening compared to the issue belt that had a sliding buckle

    The history was supposedly that the stable belt was an inherited tradition from the cavalry forebears of the RFC & early RAF and that the positioning of the slider in the middle of the stomach was to stop the wearer from slouching forward when mounted. The central buckle type belt came, iirc, originally from the Queen’s Colour Squadron and thence to the rest of the RAF Reg’t and on to the rest of the RAF.

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