Belts, simply put, are a necessity. They’re a part of almost every professional outfit, and most casual ones too. That being said, belts shouldn’t only be regarded as a functional piece. In addition to, you know, holding up your pants, belts also serve the potential to be a great statement or finishing piece to any look. When you need to add a splash of color or distinguish a break from your midsection to lower body, there’s nothing more important–and easy–than a belt. Let’s take you step by step to picking out the belt that you need.
Belt Shopping Basics
What to Avoid
This seems like the logical place to start. There are tons of belts out there, and many of them are downright awful. Cheap materials like synthetic leather will look obvious on a belt and should be avoided. It’s worth it to shell out a little extra cash to invest in a belt that will last you for years.
The first thing to do before you pick out a belt is understanding what length you need. Belts are usually measured in inches or centimeters. You’ll know if a belt is the right size when you put it on. Unless you’re buying a belt online, never purchase a belt without making sure it fits first. If a belt is marked with waist numbers (30, 32, 34, etc.) the general advice is to buy a belt thattwo sizes larger than your pant size. This’ll allow for better adjustment so you won’t end up using the last hole on your belt and having too much extra belt sticking out.
Leather belts are classic and irreplaceable. A leather belt is something every man should own and is the hallmark of formal wear. That being said, belts have made the transition into more casual materials. Cotton and polyester belts are great and perhaps even preferred equivalents to leather belts when it comes to casual looks. They come in a lot of different colors and can stand out against a monochromatic outfit. If you still want to keep it somewhat formal, distressed leather is another good option that’s more on the casual side. Distressed leather adds some style and personality to an otherwise classic office belt.
Every belt technically has a buckle. It’s often the flashy buckles that are labeled as “belt buckles,” though. Flashy belt buckles are something that is often debated on. In our humble opinion, avoid them. Some belt buckles can work and add a focal point for an outfit. However, most of the time, they look excessive, especially for the price. The showy and blinged-out look comes off as too intense, and great style should always appear effortless. However, to each their own, so check them out and decide for yourself.
Types of Belts
There are several different types of belts and they all serve different purposes. For the most part, you should own one of each.
This is the belt you’ve probably always had at least one of. It is the belt you pair with your suits or any other formal wear. They are almost always black, brown, or tan, and made with leather or suede. The pattern on these belts, if any, should be subtle. These are not statement pieces, but rather, finishing touches that bring your whole outfit together. As a style tip, consider matching the metal on your buckle with the metal in your watch or other accessories.
Whereas formal belts are meant to be functional, casual belts are all about adding style. Experiment with colors and materials. Many casual belts are made out of leather or woven fabric, lending themselves to a myriad of opportunities when it comes to color and design. These belts are not necessarily meant to be matched with anything else in your look, so feel free to mix things up and incorporate one with pretty much any ensemble, except, of course, your formal business attire.
The Belts Checklist
If you’re looking to build a versatile belt collection, you’ll probably want to start small. Every man should start with at least 3 essentials: a black or brown formal belt, a tan or light brown leather belt, and a casual fabric belt.
1. A Black Belt
The versatility of the classic black belt is almost limitless.The common rule is that these belts need to match with the color of your shoes, or at least be close. You can always experiment with breaking conventional fashion rules and wearing contrasting belt/shoe colors, but matching will usually stand as a rule of thumb. Black belts typically go with black shoes or darker colors like blue. With these belts, there’s really no other option than getting a good quality leather belt. Obvious pairings for black belts are black and navy suits, but they work well with pretty much any outfit or color because of their neutral look. A black belt is truly the epitome of formal belt styling.
2. A Tan Belt
Like black, tan and brown belts typically pair with shoes of the same color, or lighter. These are also a staple of formal wear. Brown and tan belts are perfect for outfits featuring lighter colors, and match up well with bright blue and olive suits.
3. A Casual Belt
For when you’re looking to dress up a simple look or add some personality, the casual belt is where you turn. While casual belts can be found in neutral colors, this is a prime opportunity to incorporate some color and texture in your look. Here, you can really make a statement with your outfit.
When to Wear a Belt
Belts work for almost every occasion. While at the office, they’re most likely a requirement, but their relevance doesn’t stop there. Casual looks can benefit immensely from the addition of a belt. A belt will break up the monotony of an outfit by separating your upper and lower pieces. Additionally, belts can dress up an outfit while still keeping it casual and approachable enough for a night out.
When Not Forego a Belt
While belts can add style to a look, there are, of course, occasions when you can skip them. If you’re the type of guy that likes to rock suspenders, then definitely avoid doubling up with a belt. Also, the no-belt look can make a statement with a suit or some tailored pants, but only when done intentionally.
A belt is, of course, a necessity. That being said, there’s so much more to belt style than your standard black leather belt. Belts can add a great number of things to your look, whether it’s the formality and structure of a brown leather belt or the casualness and color of a braided fabric belt (and of course, anything in between). Knowing what belts you need and how to wear them is important for every man, regardless of profession or style
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