A buckle is a fastener that attaches at one end of a strap allowing the other end to pass back through in order to secure clothing, shoes and other objects. Throughout the nineteenth century, highly elaborate buckles were worn on wide belts.    Buckles were also an indispensable decoration on  the shoes and also knees of gentlemen throughout the eighteenth century.  Shoe buckles and knee buckles would often be matching.  Making buckles became a highly skilled craft and were mass produced in almost every metal. Buckles reflected the status of the wearer as well as the occasion. Some buckles were very expensive and would be made from gold or silver, set with gems and have fine enamel work.  Buckles set with pastes and also bright cut steel were common.  By 1790, shoe buckles began to fall out of use, except as part of ceremonial or court dress.

Shoe buckle

London, c. 1790
Buckle, Silver, bright-cut and granulated with steel
V&A Museum

Shoe buckle

England, c. 1760
Shoe buckle, silver set with pastes
V&A Museum

Knee buckle

London, c. 1780
Knee buckle, gold
V&A Museum

Shoe buckle

England, c. 1800
Buckle, earthenware, painted with enamels and iron prongs.
V&A Museum

Pair of shoe buckles

England, c. 1776-1820
Pair of shoe buckles, cut steel mounted with jasperware plaques
V&A Museum


Paris, c. 1900
Buckle, silver
V&A Museum

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