Late last evening, my phone began lighting up with Instagram and Twitter notifications, tagging me into threads and posts. Why were so many people sending up my Bat Signal on a hum-drum Wednesday night during quarantine? Variety had posted an interview with actor Sebastian Stan, now a bonafide Marvel Extended Universe superstar, in which he claims that there were no belts on the show "Gossip Girl."
"I remember going into the fittings and being told, 'You're never wearing a belt again from a fashion standpoint.' I was like, 'OK.' So I never wore a belt again," says the actor who played recurring character Carter Baizen. "In terms of 'Gossip Girl' fashion, I think that set a couple of trends. I don't know if I remember them entirely. But with men, I remember that. Don't wear belts. Just watch. There's not a belt on that show."
Believe me when I say this news shifted my world straight off its axis.
I consider myself to be something of a "Gossip Girl" historian, especially as it pertains to the show's fashion. And I had never noticed this in over a decade of rewatches. I even interviewed the show's costume designer, Eric Daman, on the occasion of the show's 10th anniversary, and it didn't come up at all. Not a single belt in 121 episodes spanning six seasons?! Consider me on the case.
Now, I knew right away that Stan's allegation didn't apply to the female characters on the show. I've spent nearly three years carefully documenting Blair Waldorf's ensembles on my Instagram account for a recurring feature I dubbed #WaldorfWednesday, and I knew I had IDed a belt or two in my time. (Side bar for a fun fact: Blake Lively and Penn Badgley weren't the only 'Gossip Girl' co-stars hooking up on- and off-screen. Stan and Leighton Meester were also an item at the time!) And, because I have nothing else going on, I started doing a #SerenaSaturday series, and right there, in the first outfit in the pilot episode, is a big ol' belt from Ralph Lauren. So we can safely consider the actor's claim that, "There's not a belt on that show," to be thoroughly debunked on that front.
But the men? That's a different case altogether.
It would seem par for the Brooklyn-in-the-late-aughts course that Dan and Rufus Humphrey would probably skip out on belts. They clash with patchwork-elbow cardigans and beat-up Lincoln Hawk band tees. Nate was usually too stoned to consider details like belts. And Stan's Carter was introduced as a rich kid gone wild when he supposedly rejected his parents' money and fell off the grid — a belt wouldn't exactly go with his knit poncho. It seemed improbable to me, though, that Chuck wouldn't have had a deep collection of belts. The man wore ascots, for crying out loud!
Short of a thorough rewatch, which would take me several days, I started to do some investigative digging, returning to my go-to sources for HQ stills from the show's heyday. (Hot tip for Warner Brothers: Make all those available online. Thank you!) Sure enough, in slide after slide, were men in untucked button downs, natty cowl neck sweaters and pinstriped blazers. Not a belt to be seen.
I found proof Chuck wore a belt at least once while doing Belle Epoque cosplay in Paris during season four's second episode, "Double Identity." Suspenders also showed up on more than one occasion.
Beyond that, though, my search came up empty belt-looped. I would agree with Stan's sentiment that the show set trends: In 2017, Daman told me he was most proud of his work with the character of Chuck because of what it did for menswear at the time.
"I think he relaunched menswear and being able to dress like a gentleman," he said. "It wasn't just about jeans and T-shirts and being 'super sport guy.' We took being masculine and made it okay to wear ascots and pink jackets and be flamboyant like a peacock, like men used to be. It wasn't seen as fay or dandy. I love that he really switched a button for men to dress better."
But did dressing better mean banning belts? I have reached out to Daman for comment — yes, seriously, I had the shame gene removed from my genetic code and I am unafraid to send embarrassing emails! — and I will be sure to keep everyone posted should I hear back.
Got a hot "Gossip Girl" fashion mystery you need solved? I'm your girl. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.