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The Truth About Booth's Belt Buckle On Bones

Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) is a standout character in the procedural crime drama canon. He's young, but not foolish; brave and tough, but still presented as vulnerable; experienced, but never so arrogant that he won't accept help from others that have specialized knowledge he doesn't. That's why he worked so well as a main protagonist on Bones. He is the point on which the rest of the cast balances, with all the nerdy characters Booth himself lovingly describes as "squints" and Temperence "Bones" Brennan's (Emily Deschanel) own evidence-based hyper-rationality playing excellently off of Booth's more intuitive, gut-first nature. He softens, brightens, and adds humor to what could have been a very sterile show, consumed with proving how smart it was. Booth be an everyman among the niche, but he's an extraordinary one.

Another element that sets Booth apart from the many G-men of TV was his rebellious streak, which manifested most obviously in the form of his iconic "Cocky" belt buckle. It's big, red, a little bit cheeky, and in no way adherent to the normally-strict uniform policy of the FBI. He's even banned from wearing it at one point. This little trinket isn't just an eye-catching costume piece — its presence and eventual absence turned out to be a significant part of Booth's characterization over time, quietly illustrating his state of mind. Here's what makes Booth's most iconic belt buckle (and others!) such a significant part of Bones.

A striking piece of Booth's characterization

The belt buckle is absolutely meant to stand out against the relatively bland canvas that is the typical FBI black suit and white shirt, though Booth is often a little carefree about keeping that tie knot tight or the jacket properly buttoned. With just a look, the viewer can catch a lot of Booth's personality. That's the role of any good costuming, but the belt buckle in particular took on a metatextual life of its own over time.

As a result of Booth's Saw-like imprisonment during the events of "The Hero in the Hold" in season 4, he actually lost his belt and the trademark buckle he'd been wearing since season 2. At the episode's end, Bones presents Booth with a replacement. At this time, Booth and Bones are definitely flirting, but haven't quite achieved the on-again off-again arc that would continue through season 6 and finally, fully coalesce into a permanent relationship in season 7. The gift, first being from someone as hyper-rational as Brennan and secondly for being a replacement for something she had expressed previous distaste for was a big deal — something fans immediately recognized when the episode first aired.

Some groups of fans back in the day used the belt buckle as a kind of augury for Booth and Bones' developing relationship. During that time, the buckle mysteriously disappeared for a while when Booth was dating Hannah (Katheryn Winnick), only to reappear after the breakup. Even Hart Hanson, creator and executive producer of Bones, made sure that if you didn't notice, you were supposed to. In this way, it quietly became a method of intentional dramatic foreshadowing.

David Boreanaz kept the buckles alive

David Boreanaz made his belt buckles a part of his own character work. Season 6 marked the arrival of the story arc focused on Jacob Broadsky, a.k.a. the Left Hand of God. Boreanaz explained to Entertainment Weekly at the time that even after Booth broke up with Hannah, he opted to start wearing a particular buckle with crossed rifles, rather than the Cocky one, as part of his dedication to bringing Broadsky to justice. "I decided to put this back on until I resolve the sniper issue," the actor said. "It's almost kinda like I gotta get this guy, and it's my belt buckle of choice to do it." As the most outward token of Booth's inner moods, it makes sense that this patriotic and dutiful agent would reflect that need with his one personality outlet in an otherwise plain outfit.

It's never been covered in depth and Bones ended in 2017, but a lot of credit is owed to Boreanaz for the profound amount of care he put into building his character. He never stopped thinking about it, appreciating Booth's life changes, and even adapting his own passions into Booth's characterization. In a retrospective interview with EW during the show's final season, Boreanaz explained how creator Hart Hanson gave him acres of room to create his character, leading him to come up with a lot that was never used. "When I started the show, I was so in tune with specific props for him — pens, belt buckles, socks," he recalled. "I would do interrogation scenes with my shoes off and the striped socks... so I made it part of the character. He carried a zippo in his pocket because of what it meant, and there's the watch we never even got into, what was inscribed in the watch. There's so many detail-oriented things that I wish we could have tapped into. We did somewhat, but yes, it was difficult saying goodbye."