Gear 101: Sam Browne Belts

When it comes to leather or rubber gear, there are those items that are must haves for any kit/outfit: pants, chaps, boots, shirt, etc.  In addition, there are other items of gear that may not fall into the ‘must-have’ category but add a lot of detail to the overall look: gloves, cap, belt, tie, gauntlets, cuffs, a Sam Browne belt, etc.

sam brown 2Any of these smaller items draw my attention because it tells me that the person wearing it is a bit of a gear freak (like me).  One of the items of gear that get my attention is a Sam Browne belt: the thin (or thick, depending) strap of leather that passes across the person’s torso and over the shoulder.  It’s usually attached to their belt and it tends a piece of gear than many don’t think about but that takes your outfit to a whole new level.

But what is a Sam Browne belt?

It was named after Sam Browne, a British army officer serving in India in the 19th century.  At this time, soldiers often carried swords into battle and it was during a battle that his left arm was cut off.  Soldiers usually used one hand to draw the sword while the other held the scabbard in place; however, Browne was no longer able to do this with only one arm.  To solve the issue, he came up with the idea of wearing a second belt that passed over his right shoulder and held the scabbard of his sword where he wanted it, on his left side.  This second belt was attached to a wider belt around his waist and was found so useful by other soldiers that it was made part of the standard military uniform of the time.

While guns eclipsed the use of swords, the Sam Browne belt was also adapted to carry firearms; particularly, it was helpful in carrying the heavy pistols used in the first half of the 20th century.  Today, the Sam Browne belt is mostly obsolete and is usually only worn as a part of military dress.

When I wear my Sam Browne, I often get asked if there is a proper way to wear it.  Should it go over a certain shoulder?  Does the shoulder it goes over mean anything?  From my understanding, a Sam Browne belt should always pass over your right shoulder – so from left hip in front, to right hip in back/center of the body.sam browne 1

Here’s why:

Soldiers fighting with a sword ALWAYS wore their scabbard on the left hip.  Even if someone was left-handed (which, at that time, was looked at as something suspicious) the soldier would still learn to sword fight with their right hand, using their left hand to hold the scabbard as they drew out the sword.

Some people have wondered if how you wear your Sam Browne is indicative of your position in the bedroom: dom/sub, top/bottom, etc.  Since a Sam Browne is a standard part of military dress, wearing it across your right shoulder is standard and “up-to-code” so to speak.  Since Leathermen and kinksters have other items of gear (such as hankies, keys, which boot the crop is in) that can easily delineate role – why force the Sam Browne to do something it’s not really made to do?  For this reason, most men in gear will wear their Sam Browne over the right shoulder, as tradition and history dictate.

You can get a Sam Browne belt at almost any high end leather/gear shop, ebay or other online retailer.  BE ADVISED You are going to want to have it fitted… it’s not one size fits all!  It is, however, very easy to take your own Sam Browne measurement (even easier if someone is there to help you).  Here’s what I did:

  • get a tailor’s tape measure, hold it on your left hip, just past your first belt loop
  • draw the tape measure diagonally across your body, over your shoulder and down to the back/middle of your right side.
  • take note of where the tape measure hits your belt – this should be the length of your Sam Browne.

A Sam Browne belt comes in two parts, with a buckle that can adjust.  This buckle should hit you around the lower left side or towards the middle middle of your torso, not too high past the center-line of your body.  (At least, I’ve never seen the buckle this high up, on the diagonal, near the right shoulder.  If I’m wrong here, please correct me!)  Making sure that you give the gear store your proper measurements makes sure that you will have a nice fitting belt, that can also be cinched up or let out.

Most Sam Browne belts sold today come with leather/rubber loops that you pass your belt through.  While historically I think the term ‘Sam Browne’ was used for both the belt around your waist AND the belt that passes across your torso, today I have only seen Sam Browne’s sold at fetish stores without a belt.  This means that you need a good leather/rubber belt of your own!

Putting on a Sam Browne is pretty easy.  I find it easiest to unbuckle the Sam Browne, so it is in two parts (there is usually a shorter end and a longer end).  I pass my belt through the first loop on my pants, then draw it through the loop of the shorter-end of the Sam Browne.  I continue to pass my belt through my other pant loops until I get diagonally opposite to where the other half of the Sam Browne is on front of my body.  I pass the belt through the loop of the longer-end of the Sam Browne loop and then finish putting on my belt as usual.

At this point, I leave my pants undone, un-zipped, and I change my focus to my shirt: getting it on, tucked in, etc.  Then I return to the Sam Browne: I fasten up my pants, buckle my belt and the pull the longer end of the Sam Browne from the back of my body, over my shoulder, and fasten it to the shorter end in front.  I keep the Sam Browne belt loose until I have everything tucked in as I want it, then I adjust where the loops sit on my waist and buckle the belt to the tightness I like.  If you have shoulder epaulettes, you want to pass the belt through the epaulette, don’t forget!

sam brown shirtlessBut you don’t need a leather/rubber uniform shirt to wear a Sam Browne.  I have seen many hot men wear a Sam Browne shirtless, with the thin strap of leather being the only thing on top… so sexy!  I’ve seen men wear it with a t-shirt… I wear mine in the summer with my Tom of Finland Leatherman t-shirt.  If you have Langlitz gear, or a leather jacket with a belt that passes around the back of the jacket, you can wear your Sam Browne on top of the jacket – a serious leather look for a hard core Leatherman!Sam Browne over Jacket

The best thing about a Sam Browne belt is it won’t set dent your wallet too badly.  You can get them in plain black leather, rubber, piped, colored – the options are endless.  665’s Sam Browne is only $42.00.  You can get one on ebay for even less (however, ebay quality can be iffy at times).

I hope this explains the Sam Browne a bit more and whets your appetite to get one.  They are a fun, versatile and often over looked piece of gear that everyone can wear and enjoy!


I used the following resources in writing this post: sam-browne/

Images were taken from google, Pinterest, and the web.  After reading the post and viewing the images, you can certainly see that some men wear their Sam Browne on the left shoulder.  No matter what tradition and history MAY say, wear your Sam Browne the way that makes you feel the best, hottest, and sexiest.  That’s the real way to wear ANY GEAR!

2 thoughts on “Gear 101: Sam Browne Belts

  1. What colour SB belt can be worn with what colour leather shirt ?
    Eg. Is a brown SB belt able to be worn with a black leather cop shirt?
    A white SB belt in same shirt etc etc

    1. Hey Chris! Thanks for your question… granted I am not an expert but, from what I know, you can wear piped Sam Browne belts or colored one with any colored leather shirt you like. Personally, I LOVE brown leather mixed with brown and I think a brown Sam Browne with a black leather cop shirt would be amazing! Other’s might say something different. I have a brown leather shirt that I often wear with a black Sam Browne and black leather tie… I think that combo is awesome. I also love mixing black leather with white… I also love red with black… I usually try to encourage people to wear their gear in a fashion and way that makes them feel outstanding and sexy! F*** the rest of us and whatever anyone thinks about it – if you feel great, that’s all that matters!

      When it comes to other colors, pipped, colored leather on a Sam Browne belt can often be used to signify the type of sex acts and sex play you are looking for… this is connected with the ‘hanky’ code and is still used often today. Red usually means fisting, yellow means piss play, black means heave SM… the list is almost endless. That doesn’t mean that you can’t wear a color that you love – I would just make sure that you know what that color stands for in the hanky code in case someone approaches you and asks 🙂

      Hope that helps in some small way!

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