How To Choose The Perfect Belt For Any Outfit
Belts have been documented as far back in history as the bronze age when crude materials were used to hoist cloth together, but it wasn’t until more recently, in the 1920’s that the belt really took off as we know it today. During this time, many Eastern European soldiers wore belts tightly around their waist, on the outside of their uniform (mainly for aesthetic reasons, but also to provide stability).
The belt itself has largely remained unchanged, with leather being the preferred fabric, and a long, tapered material being the usual shape. These belts replaced suspenders and offered men a more causal and easy way to adjust their pants. As such, we saw the introduction of the modern belt buckle, which tends to feature a timeless metal buckle or a cowboy or Patriotic buckle, with eagles or flags.
Despite the simple mechanics of a belt, we see this utilitarian tool used in all manner of ways; from the police officer’s duty belt to Batman’s utility belt, it seems there is a belt for every occasion. The trouble is, many guys go through life with only one or two belts – a black one and a brown one. Not only is this incredibly dull, but it ignores how much belts have to offer the dapper man.
What belt you wear can say a lot about who you are and what you do, and is within eye range when you are approaching someone. Pick the wrong belt, and you could look completely out of place. Choose the best belt, and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a compliment. Not to mention, the right belt will also save you embarrassment from any disastrous pants-down scenarios.
So, for this crucial reason, I’m going to show you how to pass the litmus test of men’s fashion: how you can choose the best belt for any scenario with confidence!
How Do You Wear A Belt?
When it comes to picking the right belt, I want to throw in a disclaimer right off the bat; there is no one perfect belt. Every man has different needs, and depending on the event and outfit, you are going to need several belts in your repertoire to meet the grade. Just as you have different shoes for sporting and formal occasions, belts offer different styles and use.
For example, a woven linen belt is an amazing accessory in springtime when the nautical look is in full swing. A causal woven leather belt looks great with jeans and boots but would be too bulky for use in the boardroom. And a high-fashion belt buckle might be just what you need to get the attention of a room at a party or red-carpet event but is less appropriate for a sporting game.
I always recommend looking at your existing closet and determining what clothes you regularly wear, to get a feel for what belt might suit your taste. If you wear suits to work or go to a lot of events, it’s easy to see why you would select a more refined, and real leather belt. But if you are a more active man, you may be asking yourself what options are out there for you.
It turns out; there are belts for every man and every conceivable option. So, long as you have a desire to wear a belt, I know you will be able to find one that complements your physique and outfit. If you don’t wear a belt very often, or you wear the wrong size, you might be surprised to learn that a belt can offer more than a way to hold up your pants.
The right belt will complete your outfit, acting as a subtle yet attractive accessory. Yes, it will hold your pants in place, but it will also make your waist appear more slender, and provide you will a comfortable and supported middle section. This is extremely important for portly fellows, of which, I will be talking to you fellas in a few moments – no man is too big to rock a belt, I promise!
The Sizing & Fit
The first step in choosing your belt is first to figure out how long should the belt be. Just as shoes have sizes, so do belts. For most store-bought belts, you’ll find these are offered in the same size as pants, although you will want to go up two or three sizes for the correct fit. When trying on a belt, always place the belt over your pants, and allow a few inches of the belt to loop through the first hole.
Here’s how a belt should fit: you want to be able to comfortably wrap the belt around your largest mid-section, and loop it into the first toggle without pulling harshly or breathing in. You should aim for two or three inches run of the belt, but watch out for belts that are too long (these shoot off from the hip and do not sit right).
If you don’t have enough fabric to do this, you will need to go up another size or two. Remember, no one has any idea what belt size you wear, so leave your ego at the door, and choose a belt that has the right fit. If you are still unsure or prefer the careful eye of a tailor, you can be measured professionally and have a belt sized exactly to your needs.
Here’s How to Determine Your Size
First, look at the pant size of your most comfortable pants
Add two or three inches to this size to get your baseline size
Try on belts within this size range, and allow for another two or three inches for space
Make sure you can wrap the belt around you and secure it comfortably
Adjust as needed until you get a belt that allows you to buckle up while breathing
Or, you can use this handy chart to see where to start:
I cannot stress the importance of trying on belts. You want to get a feel for the belt, and to make sure both the fit and style complement your needs. Belt buckles are another important consideration, and until you try the belt on, you may not know if the belt buckle sits comfortably, or digs into you. Watch out for buckles that pinch at the lip of your pants; this is a sign the belt is too large.
What Do You Match Your Belt With?
Now that you have your belt picked out, and have the correct style, fit, and design for your needs, it’s time to figure out the final piece of the puzzle: what do you match your belt with? I’ve heard people say your shoes and wallets should match your belts or that you can wear black and brown leathers together, but I wanted to get a definitive answer.
And, in true fashion, there is no one-size-fits-all, but there is what works for me. For dark leather, I stick to black leather belts. As jeans get progressively lighter, you can start adding in tan or brown leather for a more relaxed and casual look. Black belts tend to look more formal, and with dark jeans, turn a look from day to night seamlessly.
If you are wondering if you can wear a brown belt with black shoes, I have great news. Yes, you can, but there is one little caveat – you want the brown and black to be as close in tone as possible. By pairing a dark brown and black leather belt with shoes, you will create a more pulled-together look. A light brown and black leather will clash, and distract from your overall aesthetic.
Similarly, if you are wondering, do your shoes have to match your belt, the answer is no. Being strict with style rules means you lose personality. The trick here is to choose shoes and belts that have a complimentary theme. So, for example, it’s easy to pair a western belt with Western boots, but you can make this look more wearable by paring Western boots with a real leather belt for a more chic look.
And finally, for those of you who are wondering what color belt to wear with khaki pants or chinos, it’s best to stick with tan leather belts. In these cases, a black belt sticks out like a sore thumb. Again, the complementary rule is at play; you can layer up similar leathers, colors, and fabrics throughout an outfit to create an interesting juxtaposition that is less store-bought and more stylish.