Accessories,Boots,Casual Shoes,Dress Shoes,Pants and Shorts,Shoes

Belts for Men – The 3 Secrets to Picking the Right Belt

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Wearing a belt is something most men are accustomed to.

Given that you’re here, reading this, you’ve probably asked yourself this question in one form or another:

‘Is there more to belts for men than fit and quality?’

Well, yes, there is, actually …

… and after reading this short tutorial, you will have learned what many men never grasp about belts:

That it’s incredibly easy, but also very important, to pick and match the right belt.

The 2 Belts Every Man Should Own

Belts are all about holding your pants up and tying together the upper and lower half of your outfit. Even with 30 different belt models on display in your average retail store, most of these are useless to you.

belts for men assorted belts on display

That’s because we want clean, solid-coloured, functional, and inconspicuous belts that we can wear with all our trousers.

So where to start?

That’s easy to answer, given that most of us own a pair of leather shoes (for business and dressy occasions) and one pair of sneakers for casual occasions.

Therefore, the best place to start is with:

  1. A narrow leather belt (in the same colour as your leather dress shoes—to wear with your leather dress shoes.
  2. A narrow canvas belt (in the same colour as your favourite sneakers)—to wear with your sneakers

belts for men 2 basic belts comp

White shoes are the exception and should never be paired with white belts for men. For the best look with white shoes, choose a black belt instead.

If you want to take things even further with your belts, keep reading!

The Secret to Choosing Belts for Men Like a Pro

My secret techniques for choosing belts for men can be summed up like this:

1. The Belt and Pants Should Match Formality

Narrow belts with dress pants, chinos, dark jeans, and trouser shorts; and wide belts with lighter denims, cargo pants, and cargo shorts.

belts for men narrow vs wide belt comp

2. The belt and shoes should be of the same colour

Black with black, brown with brown, blue with blue, and so on. The only exception here is when your shoes are white or brightly coloured. On those instances, a black belt is usually your best bet.

BELTS FOR men secret 2 matching colour comp

3. The Belt Material Should Match the Shoe Material

Leather with leather, suede with suede, and canvas with canvas.

belts for men 3 secrets matching material

Secret 1: Match Belt and Trouser Formality

I think you’ll agree with me on this one:

A dressy leather belt wouldn’t look at home on a pair of rough cargo pants …

belts for men narrow belt used wrong comp

… and conversely, neither would a rough leather belt look appropriate on a pair of dress pants.

belts for men wide belt used wrong comp

So what makes belts for men dressy, and what makes them casual?

It’s actually all about the width of the belt. A wide belt (1-1/2″ or 3.9 cm) looks more casual than a narrow belt (1-1/4″ or 3.4 cm).

wide belt vs narrow belt

You can get belts for men that are even wider or narrower than these two. However, these are standard and, conveniently, also the easiest to find.

Wide casual belts are best worn with casual pants, such as lighter denim pants and cargo pants.

belts for men casual pants comp

Narrow belts, on the other hand, are best worn with dressier pants, such as dress pants, chinos, and dark denims.

belts for men dressy pants comp

So now you know how wide your belt should be, depending on what trousers you’re wearing. But belts also come in different colours …

… so how do you pick the right one for your outfit?

Use Secret 2 to find Your Belt Colour:

Secret 2: Match Belt and Shoe Colour

Colour-coordinating your belt with your shoes is—after picking the right belt width—often more than enough to get you through the day with style.

belts for men secret 1 colour matching compressed

The reason:

The correct width and colour will tie together your outfit, and those around you would have to be very close in order to spot that the belt material doesn’t match that of your shoes.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, most men own and wear black shoes on a regular basis. Because of this, a black belt is pretty much mandatory for all men to own, and to get the most mileage out of it, make sure it’s a narrow leather belt.

Since black is neutral and doesn’t stand out, this belt can also be worn with other shoe colours. Perfect if you don’t have a matching belt for those yet.

BELTS FOR MEN BLACK BELT BLUE SHOES COMP

With that said, the best thing you can do is to own several belts in colours that match all your different footwear.

Secret 3: Match Belt and Shoe Material

Even though many men don’t seem to know this super-simple rule—just have a look at other men’s belts next time you’re out—matching the material of your belt and shoes couldn’t be any easier.

Shoes typically come in one of these three materials:

  • Canvas
  • Plain leather
  • Suede leather

All you have to make sure of is that your belt is the same material as your shoes.

So if you’re wearing canvas sneakers, choose a canvas belt …

belts for men sneakers shoes comp

… or if you’re in a pair of leather shoes, stick with your trusted leather belt.

belts for men brouge shoe comp

If your shoes are suede … well, your belt should be suede too.

belts for men suede material shoes comp

To sum it up, here are the belts you would wear with these shoes:

belts for men belt material overview comp

That’s the 3 secrets to picking the best belts for men for your outfit. You should know that they are listed in the order of their importance; therefore:

Match belt width before colour, and colour before belt material.

In other words:

It’s more important to choose a belt of the correct width, than it is to wear a belt in a matching colour or material (if you don’t have a matching coloured belt on hand, always choose black).

Likewise, it’s more important to adhere to Secret 2 than Secret 3:

Match belt and shoe colour before concerning yourself with materials.

belts for men order of importance comp

As I promised, now you know how to pick the right belt in order to tie together your outfit like a pro and look your best. Now it’s all a matter of acquiring the right belt for your shoes. And when it comes to belts for men, I use this super-simple strategy:

How I Always Have the Correct Belt on Hand

First of all, if you like the idea of looking pristine, picking a belt by following the 3 secrets is a great start.

Back when I first started buying and wearing belts, I had a hard time remembering which to buy and which I already had. Today that’s much easier. Now, whenever I buy myself a pair of shoes in a colour or style I haven’t owned before, I always make sure to buy a belt to match those new shoes at the same time …

… following the 3 secrets, of course.

belts for men buy belt with shoes com

I’ve come to learn the hard way that belts—especially men’s leather belts—just like leather shoes,  will eventually stretch quite a bit. It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re deciding between two sizes, because it’s almost always better to choose the smaller size.

So if the waist measurement of my jeans is 34, the largest belt I would buy would be a 36 (since it could end up being as much as 38 inches after it has stretched). Otherwise, I could end up with a belt tail that’s not only too long, but a real hassle to deal with as well.

belts for men long belt tail comp

Know When to Retire Your Belt

The lifetime of a belt depends on a couple of factors:

  • The belt material
  • Whether the belt buckle is plated or solid metal

When it comes to leather belts for men, the leather will become stretched and deformed after about nine to 12 months of daily use. Also, belts that are only glued—opposed to stitched and glued ones—are more delicate and can come apart more easily. At that point, a leather belt has lost most of its former glory and is ready to be replaced.

BELTS FOR MEN STITCHED BELT VS GLUED BELT COMP

Canvas belts can be much tougher than ones made out of leather. For these belts, the buckle itself will often show signs of wearing first.However, this can also happen to leather belts …… and the only real way to avoid this is to buy a high-quality belt with a solid metal belt buckle.

belts for men worn belt buckle

Brass was long the preferred metal for belt buckles, as it’s lustrous and stands up to wear very well. It’s still a classic, but today, stainless steel is the most popular and affordable buckle option for both canvas and leather belts for men.

belts for men stainless steel belt buckle comp

Which brings us to the last question:

What’s the Best Belt Buckle Look?

Let’s first start with categorising belt buckles. We basically have:

  • Novelty buckles
  • Designer buckles
  • Plain buckles

I find that belts that have too much going on can be hard to wear and still look good. Belt buckles aren’t the best place to show off your loyalty to a rock band or your sense of humour either, so novelty belt buckles really shouldn’t be worn with any outfit.

belts for men novelty belt buckle comp

Belts from different design houses can also be really tricky to nail.

If they’re plain and look good, and have a nice finish, they’re great. However, way too often I see belts for men of this kind with some sort of logo like Gucci or Louis Vuitton on the buckle, or worse yet, logos imprinted on the leather itself.

belts for men designer belt comp

Belts like these are more about brand loyalty and fashion than looking good. And if I had to choose, I would always shoot for the latter.

Besides being much less expensive than designer belts, ordinary belts are also much easier to come by. Practically every good retail store I know of has a decent selection of leather belts with plain buckles.

belts for men brown belt with stainless steel buckle comp

In fact, I simply visit my local shoemaker, Hilroy Skorep. He’s an independent shoemaker who sells great shoes and matching belts without any fuss—perfect for a guy like me. So if you’re a belt short, take your shoes down to you local retailer (or shoemaker) and find a belt that matches them …

… because now you know exactly which belt to choose.

Now It’s Your Turn …

Now that I’ve shared my 3 secrets to picking the best belt for your outfit, I want to set the focus on you.

Do you have a belts for men question you want ask me …

… or, do you have feedback on my post? Please leave it below in the comment field now, before you forget.

 

Reader Interactions

61 responses to "Belts for Men – The 3 Secrets to Picking the Right Belt"

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    • Hi Odessa Hall.

      I love double Monkstraps, your friend has got great taste.

      Yes, ideally all your metals (belt buckle, watch clasp, jewellery) should match, pairing brass with gold, and silver with stainless steel.

      Cheers,
      Vegard @ Apparelillustrated

  1. Hi. Nice article. I usually match by belt to the shoes and also match watch band as well. I finally bought suede dark blue belt and it matches perfectly to my suede shoes. I was always wondering what kind of belt I can match to my white sneakers and light blue jeans. I usually choose black but it looks a little bit weird for me and I was not sure that it is proper before I read this article. I was also wondering about white belt to some shorts and white sneakers. I red a lot the white belt is not good for any outfit so I just want to confirm if it is really true that you cannot wear the white belt for the outfit I mentioned and if black one is the best option then. Please advise.

    • Hi Rafal,

      Iʼm glad to hear that you think my article is nice.

      Yes, white belts are not good. Thatʼs because they make the belt the focus point of your outfit (something they should not be).

      As a default I would have opted for a black belt instead.
      If your pants are light and black looks out of place, a belt in the same colour as your pants is a good alternative.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  2. I am very happy to have found your belt webpage. I’m pretty unpracticed in attire from a lifetime of just not having a lot of disposable income for nice clothing. I just bought a new leather belt of the Levi’s brand which appears nice for jeans… although after reading your page, I’m going to have to review how to wear it. Brown belt with jeans means brown shoes? (I like your idea, btw, of buying a new belt at the same time as new shoes).

    That said, how do I determine the proper length of a belt past the buckle? The excess of 4 inches or so? Is about 4″ okay… or too long… or too short?

    • Hi Jason,

      Iʼm happy you found my article too.

      Wearing a belt in the same colour as your shoes makes everything easier to match and good looking.
      Brown belts with brown shoes; blue belts with blue shoes; and black belts with black and oddly coloured shoes.

      Regarding the length passed the buckle, hereʼs what I do:
      I usually buy belts that are so small I have to use the second to last hole on the belt. That way the leather belt can stretch without me having to punch new holes for the buckle …

      … and I can also resort to the last hole on days when Iʼve had a lot to eat or drink.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  3. Hi Vegard,

    I just came across your site – you have some amazing articles! Thanks for sharing!

    I’m curious as to what belt and shirt you’d match with a pair of leather burgundy shoes and dark blue jeans. Burgundy belts aren’t too easy to come by and, in any case, would seem to clash with the jeans.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Cheers,
    LC

    • Hi LC,

      Thanks! Glad you found it amazing.

      Yes, I agree, burgundy can be hard to find (usually have to order online and pay a lot for them).

      Many find that if they wear a belt in a different shade than their shoes (burgundy in your case), their outfit will look untidy.
      Thatʼs why I always try to match the belt colour as closely as I can, or choose a neutral coloured black belt if I donʼt have the right belt on hand.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

    • Hi Bill,

      I usually donʼt accept product mentions in the comment field, but the Nexbelt seemed like a really great product.

      Thanks for the tip!

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  4. Hi,
    I am curious if you know the name of the type of belts that allow you to run the tip of the belt under on the interior side of the belt vs. over the top of the belt. It makes for a cleaner look without the excess tip of the belt flapping.

    • Hi Nick

      I tried doing some research on this belt type, but unfortunately I came up blank.

      If anyone else here knows what they are called, or which brand these belts are, please let us know.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

    • Hi Sendi,

      Whether or not it looks good is in the eye of the beholder.

      I always try to match my footwear/belt/glove colours as closely as possible, however dark tan and brown doesnʼt sound bad.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  5. I wanted to add a piece of info that I didn’t see in your post. A lot of the cheaper leather belts these days are laminated (leather on the front, some other material in the center, and a thin piece of leather glued into the back). It isn’t always obvious when this construction has been used as I found out the hard way after buying my husband a belt which I assumed was all leather. After about 6 months, the belt started to delaminate! Ugh! In any case, it turns out that a belt that is made from one piece of leather is called a “full grain” leather belt. These kinds of belts will last for many years as they are cut from a leather hide, just as you would assume! I wanted to give others the benefit of our unfortunate experience.

    • Hi Donna,

      Thanks for the info. Glad you added this so everyone can befit from what you learned the hard way.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  6. “Belts are all about holding your pants up and tying together the upper and lower half of your outfit.”

    You’ve got this all wrong, I’m afraid!

    Belts serve mainly a decorative purpose.

    • Hi John,

      They certainly do serve a decorative purpose, which makes it very important to get belt right.

      Also, Iʼm glad you donʼt have the same problem as me; my pants wonʼt stay up if I wear them without a belt.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  7. Hi,

    I have been researching men’s belts that the ‘tail’ or end slips behind the buckle and is not seen when worn.

    Can you help me, what style name is there for this type of look?

    • Hi Linda,

      I have gotten this inquiry several times, however at the moment I do not know what this belt style is called or where you can get them.

      An update will follow as soon as I know more about this belt type.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  8. Hi Vegard

    Great article

    I bought a pair of tan shoes with an oily finish and cannot find a belt with the same finish, every thing has more of a shiny finish.

    Can I wear a belt in the same colour range even if it has a different finish?

    Thanks
    Alam

    • Hi Alan,

      Thanks. Glad you liked my article.

      Yes, you are absolutely right Alan. The most important thing to get right after deciding between a narrow dress belt or a causal belt, is the colour. If you canʼt find a belt in the exact same finish thatʼs okay.

      I have brown suede shoes and often wear a shiny brown leather belt with those (same colour but not same finish).

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  9. Great article. What is the scoop on 1 loop or 2 loops near the buckle (where the extra length of the belt goes through)? Is one considered dressier than the other? Thank you.

    • Hi Bill.

      On all my dress belts thereʼs only one loop to thread the belt through near the buckle.
      One loop is usually enough too, since the best look for a belt is when the end isnʼt that long.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  10. This article is greatly informative and perfect for someone who’s only begun to be introduced to these fundamental concepts of fashion. Thank you Mr.Vegard for writting such a succint explanation. On a side note, I was wondering what the canvas belt and shoe shown here are?

    • Thanks Erick.

      The canvas belt is this one from Saddler.

      I am not sure where I got the sneakers and I canʼt remember what brand they are either. However, you can find a similar pair to these plimsoll sneakers on Amazon or Nordstrom.

      Good luck with your new style!

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  11. What a great article. I’ve been wearing belts all my life, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t know these basic rules. Thank you! Here’s my question. What kind of belt do I wear with light denim jeans and a pair of red/citron Saucony men’s Kinvara running shoe? Perham this is a fashion mistake, but I really have no clue. Thanks!

    • Hi George,

      Thanks. In fashion thereʼs no mistakes, only preferences 😉

      When it comes to your choice of belt, I would definitely have stuck with a black canvas belt. Since youʼre wearing them with a light pair of jeans, I assume the occasion is rather casual. For that reason I would have chosen a wide rather than narrow belt.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  12. Hello Vegard,

    I was googling ‘what type and width of belt to wear with chinos’ and I landed here. Not only got my query answered, but I’ve also learned rich and relevant information. Therefore, I find myself morally obliged to express my gratitude towards you! Thank you and Kudos, BTW!

    Can’t wait to finish typing this comment to have a browse through your website.

    • Hello Somali,

      Iʼm glad Google and my website could help answer your question about what type and width of belt to wear with chinos!

      Let me know if you have a style question you would like answered. I am more than happy to help.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  13. I’m looking at a handsome pair of loden suede chukka boots, but cannot locate a belt to match.

    What do you recommend?

    Thanks,
    Joe

    • Hi Joe,

      Those chukka boots are handsome indeed.

      As for belt, I would check to see if the dealer from which you will buy the chukka boots also can provide you with a suede belt in the same colour. Alternatively a belt in regular leather in the same colour.

      If you canʼt get hold of a belt in the same colour and material, you could simply use a black leather dress belt as a 3rd alternative until you get the right belt.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

    • Hi Ray,

      The brown leather shoes in this article are made by Barker Shoes. It’s a model they no longer make, but check out their site and you might find something similar 🙂

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  14. Wow, thanks Vegard.
    Your articles are always on point. I read the one on shoes the other day and I got a pair of navy canvas loafers to go with dark jeans, and now I was looking to get a belt that could go with these.
    I’m going to start following apparelillustrated articles now. They’re helping me become a better dresser.
    Cheers!

    • Hi Khushal,

      I’m glad my articles can be of help!

      I think it’s awesome that you’re taking action!
      Too many just think to them selves “I’ll do it later” and then they never do, ending up where they have always been.

      Keep up the good spirit!

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  15. Great article…and lots of good information. With that said I have a question:

    I recently purchased a pair of Cole Hann Grand Chukka in the color they
    call “metallic”…Online it appeared to be just a dark grey…however now
    that I have them, I found out they are basically a dark grey brown or as more
    fashionably named “very dark taupe”…IMO they look basically very dark almost burnt
    grey…with that being said what belt color can be worn with that? Does it depend
    on the pants I’m wearing? They pair great with light tan, or light checked beige
    slack or even grey checked….and help would be a great help.

    • Hi Matthew,

      First off, congrats with the chukkas!

      Now, your belt colour should be the same as your shoes regardless of what pants you are wearing.
      If you don’t have a matching belt colour, just wear a black belt, as that goes with [almost] everything.

      Regarding the pants, I’m having a hard time picturing the colour of your shoes. Could you reply with a picture link to the shoes? If you did I would be able to guide you further on pants colour.

      Cheers, Vegard

  16. Do you have issues with the middle of the leather belt sagging? Is this because my belt is too tight or too loose? All my belt exhibit this after a relatively short period of time.

    • Hi DW,

      Yes sometimes I do. I think it has more to do with the numbers of belt loops than whether you wear it too tight or loose.
      Belts tends to sag on pants that only has five belt loops. More expensive pants usually have seven belt loops which helps prevent sagging.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  17. Hello:

    Im looking for a belt to wear with jeans particularly Levi’s 511’s. I ordered a Carrhart belt and the buckle was too big uncomfortable when sitting down. I’d like a belt with a smaller buckle that would pair well with jeans and chinos. Is there such a belt that is specifically marketed to what Im looking for and any suggestions? Thanks Joe M

    • Hello Joe,

      It’s hard to give you an exact recommendation, but if you want to wear your belt with both jeans and chinos …

      … I would definitively go for a narrow belt with a plain belt buckle (belts like these are sold everywhere).

      Just remember to keep the belt colour coordinated to your shoes and buy several different coloured belts if you have shoes in more than one colour.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  18. Can ANYONE tell me the name of the style of belt where the ‘end’ doesn’t show…in other words, when the end goes thru the buckle the end comes out behind the starting strap… This a very sleek style and I would love to give my husband for Valentine’s, but can’t find on web – wish I knew if this style has a name : (

    • I’m having the same problem. I’ve been to almost every store in my city and can’t find one. I have bought 2 belts like this in the past at Walmart a few years ago but sadly they don’t carry them any anymore. Kohl’s had more belts than I could imagine, 8 racks! and every single last one of the hundreds of belts ALL had the stupid buckle and the tail of the belt on the outside. Having the tail go behind so it’s not seen or in the way seems like such an improved design so I cant believe that in 2017 I’m still looking at belts that have the same design and function as belts from 400 years ago!

  19. I wear black leather Doctor Martens, dark denim jeans, and a 35mm black leather SlideBelt. The SlideBelt is a dual ratchet design and the full grain leather strap has no holes. I’ve never liked lighter denim and stick to darker washes. This works out because SlideBelts are only sold in 35mm widths. There are some other ratchet type belts available in 40mm designs (Mission). However, I like the buckle design on the SlideBelts. 🙂

  20. I really liked your article. I already knew some of these ‘rules’, but I did learn a thing or two.

    I have a few questions.
    Question 1:
    Regarding the ‘loop’ part of the belt.
    Is it better to have a loop that is metal and part of the buckle? This is quite often how it is with reversible belts.
    Or is it better to have the loop to be the same material as the belt itself (i.e. leather belt and leather loop).
    Interestingly, all of your belt pictures show the loop to be the same material as the belt itself.

    In my experience, a metal loop can be more noisy than a leather loop. And a metal loop can stick out quite far and potentially have sharp edges which might catch your child when they run into you for a hug. I’ve leaned towards metal loops in the past…but I’m rethinking my opinion regarding loop material recently.

    Question 2:
    You can get a ‘two-for-one’ if you buy a reversible belt. Brown on one side, black on the other. What is your opinion on reversible belts? They usually have a metal loop.

    For me, I usually wear casual brown leather shoes…so I need a brown belt. Then I have the black belt for other shoes. So a reversible belt works nicely for me. However, when you put the belt through the buckle and then pull it back against the buckle to insert the prong in the hole in the belt, I find this pulling of the belt to bend it backwards against the buckle to be stressful. If you don’t have a reversible belt, then this pulling is always on the one side, and in the same direction. Maybe not so damaging? But on a reversible belt, you change which way you wear the belt, so this pull against the buckle to seat the prong causes stress to BOTH sides of the belt, and I’ve noticed that my reversible belts seem to ‘come apart’ at that stress point within a year – maybe sooner. So then the belt begins to look tattered. Also, a ‘crease’ can begin to form across the belt much sooner where you keep bending it back because you’re bending it back on both sides of the belt in the same spot. Similar to how bending a thin piece of metal back and forth in the same spot will cause fatigue and breakage – it seems that the same thing will happen with a reversible leather belt much sooner than a single sided belt.
    My advice: if you buy a reversible belt, MAKE SURE that it isn’t just glued, but is also stitched down the length of each side as well. This should help it to last longer. OR – spend a bit more and buy two belts and avoid a reversible belt.

    I recently decided to buy two Black Brown 1826 belts at the Bay – one black and one brown. But they went on sale, and sold out of my size before I could buy. Now all they’re stocking for the Black Brown 1826 are reversible belts. 🙁

    Bummed in Ottawa

    • Hey Robin,

      Whether you choose a metal or a leather loop is up to you.
      I find that a leather loops usually makes the belt more symmetric and low-key looking.

      I can imagine the belt wearing out sooner if it’s reversible and not stitched.

      Another thing I can see as problematic, is that if I for example uses the black side 80 per cent of the time and the brown only 20 per cent …
      … when the belt gets worn out, I’ve only gotten to use the brown side a fraction of what I could.

      Buying two ordinary belts – one black and one brown – seems like a simpler and more economic decision in the long run.

      Cheers,
      Vegard

  21. Hello,

    I’ve just read your guide to selecting and choosing the right belt – I thought it was brilliant!

    Thank You So Much for sharing this with us!

    With kind regards,

    Lesley-Ann Thomson