There seems to be a pride in using a beaten up belt. Isn't a belt cheap, shouldn't a MA practitioner be in clean and well maintained attire ?
People actually sell belts that have been distressed, especially black belts that have their color faded so much that they can almost pass for a dirty white belt.
Many martial artists distress their belts themselves as soon as they get them. There are recipes for doing this online.
While this is done on purpose nowadays, in the past it was just something that happened over time and with a lot of experience. Belts faded in color and became frayed. That's how you knew someone was a really experienced black belt, as opposed to a new black belt. The more experience someone had, the more distressed their belts looked.
In the past it was almost a matter of pride to have a faded black belt. It showed their dedication, time, and effort they put into practicing their art. But nowadays, many people just go out and get pre-faded belts. So you can't judge anything by the condition of a belt nowadays.
Is it right? Does it mean anything?
Well, to me it seems fake, vain, and pointless. I would never do that. But in many schools, this is the norm. It's just part of their school's culture. From that perspective, it then becomes a "when in Rome" kind of thing. You do what everyone else there does.
Hope that helps.
My Sensei gets a new black belt every ten years so they become frayed as you can tell. But he actually gives those belts to the students that he has trained for the longest and he considers close friends . So to have a frayed black belt for this reason is something good in our dojo but nobody frayes them on purpose .