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.
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:
- A narrow leather belt (in the same colour as your leather dress shoes—to wear with your leather dress shoes.
- A narrow canvas belt (in the same colour as your favourite sneakers)—to wear with your sneakers
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.
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.
3. The Belt Material Should Match the Shoe Material
Leather with leather, suede with suede, and canvas with canvas.
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 …
… and conversely, neither would a rough leather belt look appropriate on a pair of dress pants.
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).
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.
Narrow belts, on the other hand, are best worn with dressier pants, such as dress pants, chinos, and dark denims.
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.
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.
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:
- 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 …
… or if you’re in a pair of leather shoes, stick with your trusted leather belt.
If your shoes are suede … well, your belt should be suede too.
To sum it up, here are the belts you would wear with these shoes:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.