Belts cause a lot of confusion for men. My clients constantly ask me, how many do I need? What buckle should I choose? How wide is too wide? How skinny is too skinny? Leather or suede? Matte or shiny?
And guys, you’re right to ask. It seems so simple, yet the wrong belt can really screw up your outfit and make you look like an amateur – I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The good news is you really only need four belts in your closet. Two dress belts for suits and dress pants, two casual belts for jeans and casual slacks. That’s it! But first…..
Why Wear a Belt?
1. It completes your outfit and makes you look more put together.
2. It will help your pants stay where you want them to stay because as you wear them throughout the day they’ll inevitably stretch a little. You should not be wearing a belt to hold your pants up – if that’s the case - you’re buying them too big.
You’ll need one black and one brown. Opt for leather. Think luxurious material for a dressier, more luxurious look. Also in general you’ll be wearing leather dress shoes with a suit so match the material – leather with leather.
Notice how good the brown leather belt looks with dress pants (below).
And how wrong the matte, suede belt looks (below). It's also too wide but we'll get to that next.
The width of your dress belt should be between 1 ¼” - 1 ½ ”. Any wider will look too chunky and casual for your sharp suit and dress pants and any narrower will look like you’ve borrowed it from your girlfriend’s closet. We don’t want that.
You probably know this already but always match the color of the belt to your shoes (with certain exceptions – keep reading). Black will be easy. When you buy brown shoes, try to buy a brown belt at the same time so you can make sure it’s the right shade. If you have very dark brown shoes and lighter brown or tan shoes then you’ll need one for each pair.
The buckle should be a simple, square, single prong in silver. Gold is ok, I guess, but less versatile as most of your hardware on your coats, bags, and shoes will be silver. No need for any fancy designer buckles (logos – though pricey - can look cheesy). Just keep it clean, simple and minimalist.
logos – though pricey - can look cheesy)
You’ll need one black and one brown. Start with leather. As you build your wardrobe you can play with suede, cloth, braided and other styles that can add variety in summer months (see below) but right now we are sticking to the essentials.
Width should be between 1 ¾” – 2”. I know it doesn’t seem like a big difference from the 1.5” dress belt above but it is. If you try to get away with wearing your dress belt with your casual outfits it will look too slim and out of proportion.
Now the casual category is where some guys get a little crazy. Some think that since it’s casual, anything goes. Anything does not go. Big hulking industrial style buckles, biker buckles, cowboy box buckles or any other kind of novelty buckle will do nothing for you – except encourage people to make fun of you. We don’t want that.
When you wear shoes other than black or brown leather you can always play it safe and wear your black casual belt but if you want to expand your belt collection, keep the basic rules in mind:
Width – Is it a casual or dressy outfit?
Color – Match shoes to belt
Material – shoe material to belt material
So for brown suede lace-ups, go for a brown suede casual width belt and wear with jeans. For blue canvas sneakers – try a blue cloth or braided belt. If you’re wearing white sneakers though, NEVER wear a white belt. Just play it safe with your casual width black belt.
How to know your size?
When selecting a belt, go one to two sizes up from your waist size. So if you’re a 34” waist a 36-38” belt should fit. You’ll know it fits correctly if the belt’s end finishes between the trouser’s first and second belt loop.
Pretty easy right? I’ve even selected some of my favorite “STYLIST APPROVED” BELTS for you to peruse.
Let me know if you have any questions, and if you have any belt or other style conundrums, snap a picture and shoot me an email at and I’ll help you find a solution.