How To Buy A Men’s Belt | Guide To Finding The Perfect Belt

Most guys don't really pay attention to their belts. To them, it's simply a tool to keep their pants from falling down.
What they don't realize is that belts have a significant impact on your overall outfit. It can either be the centerpiece that brings it all together or the one thing that destroys it.
So, how do you make the right choice? How do you know what measurements to look out for? What color and material should you get?
How To Buy A Men's Belt | Guide To Finding The Perfect Belt
Gentlemen, we're going to answer all that and more in this article. We're going into the basics of men's belts and how to find the perfect one for you.

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  1. The Anatomy Of A Belt
  2. How A Belt Should Fit
  3. Belt and Buckle Styles
  4. The Different Categories Of Belts
  5. How To Buy A Men's Belt
  6. Bonus: A Brief History of Men's Belts

1. The Anatomy Of A Belt

Men's belts are clinching mechanisms that go around your waist, making use of tension to hold up a person's trousers.
The largest part of the belt is called the strap. This is the band that goes around your waist. At the very end, there's the buckle.
belt anatomy infographic 3
The infographic above lays out the key components of a classic belt.
The buckle consists of the frame, the bar which goes through the leather to keep it in place, and the prong which goes through the belt loop.
Simple? Good.

2. Brass Tacks: How A Belt Should Fit

Now, let's get right to the main point: Fit.
At the end of the day, a belt is a practical addition. Before it looks good, it needs to do its job.  So, how do you find this out?
A belt's size is determined with your waist measurement. So, the first step is to know what trousers fit you in the first place.
belt fitting guide infographic
Need to know the right belt size to buy? Look no further.
If you wear a 34″ trouser waist, a belt labeled 36″-38″ will probably be in the right neighborhood. Of course, the easiest way to check is just to try the belt on in the store, at least wrapping it around your waist over your pants.
Just remember that it'll sit a bit tighter when it's worn properly.

3. Belt And Buckle Styles

The bigger your belt buckle the less formal it is. Dress belts typically have very small, flat belt buckles (and tend to be narrower belts themselves).
Larger buckles with rounded shapes are common on more casual styles. Almost all dress belts will have either a gold-colored or silver-colored finish.
  • Buckles with a tongue: In these cases, the belt slides through a loop of metal.
  • Belt Buckles with a hook: A plate made of metal or plastic is attached by slipping a hook on the back of the buckle through the front of the belt.
  • Buckles with a sliding hatch: The belt goes through a metal latch, where a peg presses the belt in place.
  • Braided belts: Since the belt is woven, there are no holes. Instead, the tongue can slip between any of the bands.
belt frame styles infographic
The classic frame style is the most formal one. If you pair it with a black belt, you're set for black-tie occasions.

Buckle Styles

  • Frame styles: The essential style of formal men's belts – a simple rectangular shape.
  • Plates: They are usually decorative and informal, common on cowboy and biker belts. These belts feature a hook towards the back which goes through the strap.
  • Box frame: The box is hollow and the belt passes inside it, with a peg that keeps the belt in place inside. This means that these belts require no holes.
  • D-Ring: One-or-two rings make the buckle and the belt is fastened by threading through them, usually a casual style.
  • Snap buckles: This is made up of two ends that snap together like a seat belt. They're not often used unless trekking the outdoors.

Strap Styles

  • Leather is the tried and tested option – it's much more formal than other styles, but keep in mind the color and shading, as that will change the formality of the belt.
  • Leather-backed ribbon allows you to stand out from the crowd with bright colors. They usually go well with activities such as sailing, and pair well with boat shoes.
  • Canvas is commonly used with uniforms with plain buckles to emphasize functionality.
  • Webbing is a material often used for the outdoors. Don't pair this with a suit.
  • Vinyl is cheap and colorful. They are certainly part of a young man's game, worn often to instill a rocker aesthetic.

4. The Different Categories Of Belt

Dress Belts

Dress belts will typically be made with fine-grain leather, both on the top and underside. They should not exceed 1.5 inches in width, or it becomes a casual belt (which I'll cover below).
The end should be long enough to finish through the first loop of your trousers only.
The quality of the leather is the one common factor: Calfskin is the most common material used for such belts, and a good one will have soft, supple leather.
Though, some bolder variations can come in lizard skin or crocodile leather.
belt anatomy infographic 2
The wider the belt, the more casual it is. Take care not to go beneath 1.5 inches though, as you'd be hitting female territory.

Casual Belts

Like I said above, casual belts are usually about 1.5-2 inches wide. A casual men's belt can utilize the same colors and leather as its formal cousin, but it can come in many more styles.

Reversible Belts

These belts come with a twisting buckle, allowing you some versatility in your wardrobe. All you have to do is pull the buckle up and twist, and voilà – you have a second belt.
Reversible belts are commonly found with black and brown sides.

5. Buying Men's Belts

Very similar-looking belts sometimes vary widely in cost.
Flex the belt to make sure it hasn't turned brittle or started to crack. Another good test of leather is to score the back very lightly with your fingernail — if a faint line appears, the leather is still soft and fresh. Old, hard leather will resist your nail.
Construction is the other major factor affecting the price of a belt. Look for small, tight stitching with no loose ends wherever the leather has been sewn.
Buckles attached with a snap on the back of the belt can be changed out, while a buckle stitched in place is the only one you can wear with the belt – some men may find the flexibility of a snapped belt worth paying more for, especially in good leather.
Men's belts can even be custom-cut at some leather goods stores.

Belts & Jean Labels

Speaking of designer goods, some high-end jeans have a famous label right between two of the belt loops. You may be tempted to leave the belt off so that the label can be displayed more prominently.
Don't do this.
Un-belted jeans, even expensive ones, make you look like a slob. Choose a slim belt that lets part of the label show and leave it to other people to notice your fantastic style – or not. If they weren't in the know you weren't going to impress them anyway, right?

Belt Colors

Leather should always match leather. That rule stays with you in dress and casual wear: brown leather shoes go with a brown leather belt, and black with black.
Glossy belts should be paired with highly-polished shoes; matte shoes go with matte belts. If you're wearing casual shoes that aren't made of leather, you have more freedom to work with. Cloth shoes can be paired with cloth belts of a different color.
Rare animal patterns can be very expensive but are often considered casual.
A very high-quality ostrich-skin belt is too ostentatious for a business setting (but can be very sharp-looking out on the town).
Snakeskin and other reptilian patterns are eye-catching options as well — just keep in mind how much attention you want being drawn to your midsection.
That's where people's eyes will be going if the belt is the most distinctive part of the outfit. The same holds true for brightly-colored belts of more conventional materials.

6. Bonus: A Brief History Of Men's Belts

Congratulations! You're an expert on belts now, but have you ever wondered how they came about?
For centuries, noblemen looked down on belts as a peasant fashion. REAL gentlemen only used suspenders, the alternative being seen as a so-called “Gothic” invention.
This all changed with World War I. When US troops deployed against the Central Powers, they wore a yarn belt over their uniforms. When they returned, they brought the belt with them. These veterans became the first “belt-conscious” gentlemen.
During the jazz age of the 1920s, the men's belt exploded. Younger men started to ditch vests and suspenders in favor of belts – no doubt because it was easier to dance. By the end of the 20s, the belts outnumbered suspenders by a four-to-one ratio.
By the 1930s, belts started to reign supreme. Manufacturers started making baggier trousers with integrated belt loops.
The man who solidified the belt into popular menswear was none other than The Prince of Wales, Edward VIII. He was the first man to match his belt to his shoes, formally bringing the belt into the fold of gentlemanly clothing.

In Summary – Men's Belts

  1. The Anatomy Of A Belt
  2. How A Belt Should Fit
  3. Belt and Buckle Styles
  4. The Different Categories Of Belts
  5. How To Buy A Men's Belt
  6. Bonus: A Brief History of Men's Belts
Though it started as a low-class alternative to suspenders, the belt overtook its pretentious counterpart by the 1930s. There's a lot to choose from – whether your goal is back-tie, a night out in the town, or mountain-climbing, you now have the knowledge to make the right decision.


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