THE EVOLUTION OF THE BRITISH ARMY STABLE BELT
It seems that stable belts began to become popular across the Army as a whole around the turn of the 20th century, although they probably originated with the cavalry a little earlier sometime in the 1880s/1890s. All units at that time had horses on their establishment and those soldiers told off to attend them reported for Stable Parade in Stable Dress which consisted of very high waisted and pocket less breeches, or trousers, held up by braces and collarless, woollen flannel shirts with sleeves rolled up. This was to facilitate the rigorous physical effort and flexibility of movement necessary for mucking out and grooming.
Braces at that time had no elastic as rubber was expensive, they were made of cotton with no 'give' whatsoever and so soldiers commonly allowed the braces to flop down from the waist so that they could bend over freely. For trousers that fitted loosely (due to the high waist) this meant that they tended to slip down and at first soldiers cinched them in with leather belts. Later on the regimental saddlers began to make belts from the same, plain canvas or wool strapping used for the horses Surcingle and utilising the same double leather strap and buckle arrangement for security (if one strap broke the other would hold and prevent the saddle from coming unseated). One particular feature of these early stable belts was a sewn on (or in) pocket, secured by a stud or clip, within which loose change could be kept, or a pocket watch, as there were no pockets in the breeches. As you might imagine these became very popular as the pocket was useful ad the extra breadth afforded by the canvas strapping made them very comfortable.
Around about the turn of the 20th century it began to be popular for officers to wear neckties in regimental colours both for sport and less formal, country dress. This habit probably began with the Queens Household troops and Line Cavalry, but quickly spread throughout the Army and it appears as if this use of regimental colours spread to the canvas or wool strapping used to make stable belts. For this reason the stable belts invariably followed the same colour scheme (but not always the same pattern arrangement) of regimental neck ties. Initially the pocket continued to be fitted to the now coloured stable belts, but as trousers began to be fitted with pockets, by the 1950s this feature had dropped out of common use.
It is probable that the epoch of stable belt use was the 1950s when just about every regiment had adopted a stable belt of some kind to brighten up the drab and utilitarian uniforms of a post war Britain that (in the Army anyway) still hankered for the pomp and circumstance of the Victorian Army.
I have noted the following variations or unique features of stable belts at various times over the years:
With thanks to Bob Bennett