You can tell a lot about a man by his belt. Because knowing how to choose and wear the perfect belt is really telling the world you’re capable of conquering the simplest of tasks, but one that many often get very wrong.
Much like a tie or leather shoe, there are specific belts for specific occasions, and once you’ve nailed the dress code, there’s the challenge of finding the perfect belt colour, texture and buckle after sifting through the hundreds of luxury brands available to us.
However, buying the perfect belt and wearing it correctly can be easily learned as it’s largely intuitive. As for the other design and styling aspects? It’s more a matter of personal preference, which is why we love a good belt as part of our everyday wardrobe.
Men’s Dress Belts
A dress belt is designed to be worn with a suit, trouser separates or smart chinos. Sophisticated and chic, dress belts are typically 2.5 – 3.5 cm in width and are cut from the finest leather; think cow, calfskin and even crocodile.
Brown, black, and tan are the best colours – and conveniently complement your favourite pair of dress shoes – and you should avoid quirky belts (much like novelty ties). Outlandish belts only draw attention away from a slick suit and well-kept hair. For formal occasions and overall best practice, you’ll want to match – as best you can – your shoes and belt together. You can match your belt to other accessories too, such as your jewellery or watch, to help you pick between silver or gold-tone.
A subtle grain in the leather is fine, as is a nice polish, and stick with stitching that’s the same colour as the leather. Avoid chunky weaves if the occasion is formal, opting for a fine weave if you really want that point of textural difference.
Men’s Casual Belts
There are fewer rules pertaining to casual belts, driven by their more laid back outfit pairings. So, these belts are indicative of your individual style and personality type. Width is more varied; ranging from thin vintage-inspired leather to rope-style belts to wide, worn-in leather belts with big buckles. Ensure you pick a style that plays with the theme or code of your outfit. In doubt? Opt for something in malleable, unpolished leather in a neutral colour with a mid-size tarnished silver buckle. This type rides well with everything.
The Right Belt Size Matters
First thing: know your pants size. This is a number in inches usually, which correlates to your waist measurement: 30, 32, 34 inches etc. Then, buy a belt that is one inch larger than your current pants. For example, if you wear a size 34 pants, you could order a size 36 belt.
Dress belts should have a few inches of leftover leather to the left of the buckle once it’s fastened. Two spare holes on the belt or enough leather to tuck under your first belt loop is a good rule of thumb. Lean toward the shorter side rather than longer, which could leave you having to wrap the excess tail of leather around your hip a second time.
Casual belts have a little more room for flexibility, but an overly long tail end is always an awkward look.
Men’s Belt Types
Like shoes, it pays to have a selection of belts to choose from when dressing for your next casual, smart casual or formal rendezvous. Here are five to get you started.
Formal Dark Leather
A dark brown or black leather belt is the perfect starting point for dress belts. Keep in mind your leather shoe colour before deciding on your shade, or for the ultimate in versatility, opt for a reversible belt with brown and black colour options available to you, at the twist of the buckle.
Tan Weave Belt
Perfect for smart-casual attire such as a summer party or dress-down Fridays at the office, a tan belt offers the neutral versatility of dark brown but in a lighter shade, which pairs well with both summer neutrals and dark colours.
A cotton collared shirt, dark coloured or earth tone chinos, and tan shoes (loafers or sandals) are a perfect look. Fasten the belt normally, and then play around with belt styling, looping the end through the belt and letting fall down the trouser nonchalantly. You may want to consider a weave-style belt too, to add a little bit of texture to your trousers and some pizzazz.
Coloured Fabric Belt
Perfect for monochrome looks and summer events, the coloured fabric belt is for when the dress code lightens up. Look for something in a lightweight fabric, like a canvas or cotton or simple grosgrain, and go for a statement stripe or marl finish, dependent on whether you want a more textured look or print. D-ring closures, where the belt is threaded, pulled through and fasten between two metal D’s, is a common buckle for this style.
With the ends of the belt typically leather, this belt is designed to be dressed down with tailored shorts or dressed up with linen blazer and cotton trouser or vintage-fade jean. Stick to dress codes and keep the rest of your outfit downplayed. Be careful to not look too preppy with this belt.
While leather is traditionally dressy, suede is slightly more casual, without forgoing the quality of animal hide. Likewise, a shiny silver buckle can look out of place on distressed denim or casual shorts, which is why the D-ring closure is a great option, especially for gents not fussed on having to find a fitting hole in their belt. This belt falls blessedly in the dressy/casual/textural/cool category. Big tick.
Thick Vintage Belt
Perfect for the denim lover (aren’t we all?), the thick vintage leather belt is designed for that casual look most of us default to on the weekend: jeans, sneakers and a comfy cotton shirt. The rugged, worn-in belt (look at any shade of brown or black for that) is also a workwear-inspired outfit’s dream. Opt for a belt that is wider than most (though must fit inside your belt loops) and with a dull, metal buckle that’s bigger and bolder than most. This belt gets better with age so keep it forever.
How To Tie It
While a traditional belt is pretty straight forward to do up, the D ring belt is not. Here’s how:
1. Thread the belt through your pant loops until the D links are positioned where the belt buckle usually is. Pull the loose end of the belt through both D-rings.
2. Separate the two D-rings so there is enough space for the belt to pass between them. Loop the loose end of the belt back to the D-rings so that it folds over itself
3. Pull the loose end of the belt through the D-rings, going over the closest ring and under the second ring. Pull the loose end of the belt until it feels tight on your hips.
4. The D-rings should be resting flat against your pants. Tuck the loose end of the belt through the closest belt loop on your pants to secure it.