Utility Glam: How to Rock Belts, Buckles, and Buttons

 

The “utility glam” trend, an offshoot from the Y2K aesthetic of the early 2000s, has once again taken the fashion world by storm. Characterized by its fusion of tactical elements like pockets, buckles, belts, adjustable straps, and hardy fabrics, utility glam seems to resonate with a generation that values both strong visual appeal and practicality in terms of what’s in fashion.

Whether you’d like to adapt the utility glam fashion philosophy to your workwear and attire for corporate events, or just your outfits for casual days out with family and friends, there’s a way to make it work for you. Below are some tips for striking a balance between comfort and functionality—as well as making an unforgettable visual impression on others—through the styling approaches of utility glam.

Start with Your Base Utility Glam Garments

When utility glam comes to mind, you likely think of a broad range of clothing styles and materials. That’s because the utility glam label as we know it encompasses a number of trends, from more vintage-inspired steampunk looks that go heavy on leather and metallic buckles and buttons to more futuristic and military-inspired looks that make ample use of cargo pockets and polyester straps.

Regardless, if you’re new to utility glam, a few basic garments can immediately get you to sport this style with ease. Some examples of utility glam wardrobe staples include the following:

Classic khaki, black, or olive green cargo pants

Camo-printed jackets or pants

Parachute pants

Heavy or distressed denim clothing

Shirts, vests, or dresses with lots of pockets

Plain solid-colored boiler suits

Combat boots

Strappy or studded platform shoes

High-top sneakers with straps as well as laces

Start with these utility glam essentials and the basics you’ll need to pull your looks together, for example a cargo mini dress with some opaque women’s tights. Once you get used to the feeling of having multiple tactile elements on your clothing, you’ll eventually be able to add even more of them or experiment further within one of utility glam’s sub-trends.

Balance Your Look to Be Both Rugged and Refined

By wearing the basics listed above, you’ll be able to introduce utility-inspired elements to your outfits. Now it’s time to focus on the other part of the equation: the glam.

One thing you’ll love about the utility glam aesthetic is just how easy it is to pair with other fashion styles that are considered softer, more feminine, and more sophisticated. You’ll see this for yourself when you pair cargo pants or trousers with a chic tucked-in blouse, or match a heavy denim or canvas jacket with lots of buttons and pockets with some patterned leggings. Contrast heavier and sturdier materials like canvas and leather by also wearing breezier fabrics in your outfit, like silk chiffon or satin.

Don’t worry if some elements of your look seem to clash. That’s honestly part of the fun, and perhaps the best way to infuse some unique glamour into an otherwise ordinary-looking ensemble.

Highlight Tactile Accents

In terms of tactile accents like snaps, buttons, straps, and buckles, utility glam typically advocates the approach of “more is more.” You shouldn’t be afraid to go to town with all the little accouterments that make your clothes, accessories, and footwear so distinctive. Remember, that’s where the excitement lies with utility glam.

Don’t hesitate to double up on certain visual elements of your outfit, for example by wearing both a watch and a leather bracelet with a buckle on one wrist or pairing a zippered cross-body bag with zipper pocket pants. You can even sport elements like buckles and buttons where they aren’t usually expected to be. Why not match a belt buckle choker to go with your leather satchel, for example, or wear zipper earrings with a zipper-laden vest or pair of bottoms? These could help you achieve a refreshing new take on the preppy and punk looks, respectively, while still staying within the bounds of the utility glam aesthetic.

Experiment with Proportion

Another awesome thing about the utility glam approach is that it allows you to be daring about aspects like proportion. While you can opt for tailor-fitted clothing for some parts of your outfit, like your shirt or bottoms, you shouldn’t be afraid to play around with fit and dimension with others.

Embrace the baggy or chunky effect that some utility-inspired pieces of clothing can afford you. Try wearing a multi-pocket vest with a lot of snaps, or a buckle-laden trench coat, to make your silhouette more interesting and to help you pull off a bolder visual impression on others.

Play Around with Colors

While it’s common to associate utility-inspired clothing with metallic and neutral color palettes, don’t forget that the buck doesn’t stop there. Consider the bright and adventurous colors that utility glam clothing came in when it debuted in the noughties, and draw inspiration from the looks that Y2K influencers and celebrities rocked at the time.

Try on cargo pants, boiler suits, multi-strap shoes, and other utility-inspired items in shades like apple green, tangerine, electric blue, or bright purple. Doing so will make it clear that your outfit fulfills multiple functions—with wowing the crowd being one of them.

 

 

At its core, the utility glam trend is a refreshing combination of both fashion and function. Think beyond the practicality that elements like buckles, buttons, zippers, and pockets offer you, and use them to add a touch of sophistication and individuality to your looks!

 

 

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