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The Extravagance That Goes to Waist

Barry Robinson owns 12 belts, ranging from the $16 cotton belt he got on sale at work -- he's a part-time sales associate at Club Monaco -- to the $150 black leather Gucci belt with "G" in gold. The 21-year-old is decked out in grays and blues, from his shoes to his belt to his pin-striped dress shirt.

"Someone would look like me and think, 'He's thought this through. He's doing something here,' " says Robinson. "Women have been accessorizing for years. It's the men's turn to catch up."


Urban Outfitters sells more than 40 types of belts in its Georgetown store. (Juana Arias -- The Washington Post)

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Meet Marc Radasky, 25. Not so long ago, back when most high school boys sported the same black braided belts that were often too long for their baggy jeans, Radasky owned a "basic brown belt" and a "basic black belt."

"I didn't know any better," says Radasky, sitting alongside his girlfriend, Kelly Mills, 23. He's showing off his belt, which he says is called mermaids. Yes, it's a sea-colored belt with little mermaids. It's one of more than 22 belts he owns, and if you owned 22 belts, you'd never leave home without one.

"I never, ever do," says Radasky, who works for the Republican Jewish Coalition. He owns several belts from Brooks Brothers ("a black leather one, a dark brown leather one, a light brown leather one, to match with my shoes," he adds), a few from Gucci, several from Vineyard Vines, where mermaids is from, and one from Prada. "I don't wear gold chains," he says, as if to justify his purchases. "I don't have earrings or tattoos."

He throws Mills a look.

"I think she likes what I wear, how I dress," he says.

Mills nods.

Her boyfriend's half-tucked look -- right now, Radasky's blue-striped white button-down shirt is only half-tucked in so his belt shows -- is a "signature move," Mills says. (It's a signature move for a lot of other guys, too. So is wearing your belt in just one or two loops, or completely outside them.)

Radasky nods.

"I don't think the options were available before for men to accessorize the way that they're doing now," Mills says. "That belt shows that he's got some personality."

Back at Urban Outfitters, 30 or so minutes after facing the belt rack, Fiedler, with just enough prodding from Trece, makes a choice.

Not the studded one. Not the one with a big buckle. Not the one with black-and-blue stripes.

He's going with a simple brown cloth belt for $24, "still a steep price," he says. It's not really his style, Fiedler adds, but he thinks he'll grow to like it.


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