The Company That’s Revolutionizing MLB Belts
Thanks to custom colors, personal monograms, and exotic leathers, the most overlooked uniform element is no longer an afterthought — and it’s also no longer uniform.
No part of the baseball uniform has received less attention over the years — both from fans and from Uni Watch — than the belt. And that’s understandable, because the belt’s role has usually been strictly utilitarian: The equipment manager puts the same basic belt in each player’s locker, the players wear them, and that’s that.
Lately, though, that’s been changing. If you watch an MLB game nowadays, there’s a decent chance that at least one of the teams will have inconsistent belt colors.
If you look closely, you’ll probably also see some players wearing their uniform numbers on their belts, although the location of the number varies from player to player.
Occasionally you’ll see something more unorthodox, like the snakeskin belt that Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Gallen has been wearing with his City Connect uniform this year (which I wrote about a few months ago on the Uni Watch blog).
For the most part, these new customized belts are rendered in team colors. But occasionally you’ll see someone wearing a belt that doesn’t sync with the team’s color scheme.
To be sure, most MLB players still wear the standard-issue belt, but more and more of their teammates are now going with the custom waistwear. While the intersection of pant and sock is still the least uniform part of the MLB uniform, the belt is not far behind — a once-unthinkable development. At this point, the belt is straddling two worlds: For some players, it’s a team-issued uniform element; for others, it’s a piece of customized personal equipment with a range of expressive possibilities, much like batting gloves or wristbands.
Almost all of these customized belts are made by a Texas company called Nokona. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Nokona has been making baseball gloves since the 1930s. Since they have a deep history with leather goods, they recently started offering customized baseball belts, which they call ShowBelts.
You can see Nokona’s little diamond-shaped logo on the belts in the photo shown above. (The full word “Nokona” is actually there, but it’s usually hard to make out the rest of the letters because only the diamond-shaped “o” is contrast-colored, while the other letters are just debossed into the belt.) You can sometimes see the belt logo peeking out during an MLB game.
Just like Nike and other uniform vendors have uni-builder interfaces that allow teams to design their own uniforms, Nokona’s website has a belt-builder function that lets players (or anyone else) choose their belt color, buckle finish, thread color, and a lot more.
I know from interacting with Uni Watch readers that some fans like the varied look of the new belts while others bemoan the lack of uniformity. Either way, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about how Nokona gained a foothold in the MLB belt market, so I recently interviewed Chip Sivak, the company’s director of sales and marketing. Here’s a transcript of our Zoom conversation, edited for length and clarity.