A belt might seem like an ‘afterthought’ article of clothing for most guys, but it’s actually a powerful and subtle way to put the finishing touches on a great outfit or even a way to elevate a good outfit into a great one.
The aim of this guide is to not only give you some great recommendations on the best belts for men, but to also arm you with the knowledge on when to wear those belts, the difference between casual and formal belts, and some general things to avoid when wearing a belt.
Types of Belts
Belts can be categorized in a hundred different ways, but for all of our sake, we will split belts up into two categories: casual and dress.
Casual belts are your day to day belt wear. This is the belt you’re going to wear mainly as a form of function (holding your pants up) and to of course add a bit of flair to your wardrobe.
Men’s Casual Belts
A general rule when looking for a casual belt is to keep the shade slightly different than the shoes. This is a way to keep the entire outfit succinct but without looking overly-matchy.
The one exception is that black will always look good with black.
Most belts have a width of one to two inches, but the best belt for a casual look is usually going to fall between 1 1⁄4 and 1 3⁄4 inches.
The thickness can vary as well, from about 1⁄8 to 3⁄4 inches. The best fitting belt will be long enough so that it can fit through the first loop after the buckle.
Although it is also important to veer away from a belt that is too long. A good rule is to keep the belt under three inches out from that first loop.
A casual belt can have whatever sort of buckle you prefer, small, large, shiny, single or double pronged are all good options. Although usually a D-ring buckle is the most common.
The basic rule for buckles is to keep it aligned with the formality of your outfit.
There are plenty of other styles of a casual belt including canvas, webbed, needle point, and the critter belt. The latter two are associated with a preppy style.
Braided belts are another option and can offer a nice texture.
Belts follow the same style tips as any other article of clothing, less is more so be careful not to over do it with other accessories if you opt for an interesting belt.
What Belt To Wear With:
When it comes to jeans you can pretty much wear any kind of casual belt without it looking out of place. Leather belts, canvas belts, etc… no belt will look out of place with a nice pair of jeans. Though I do recommend sticking to black.
My favorite kind of belt to wear with shorts really depends on the shorts. I only recommend wearing a belt with a pair of chino shorts, and I recommend matching the color of the belt with the color of the shorts, eg: (brown shorts / brown belt). I also recommend sticking to leather belts, but you can opt for different styles of leather belts – braided leather belts for example look really good if you’re going for a preppy look.
When wearing a belt with chinos, you can start to have a little bit more fun mixing and matching colors. Light colored chinos (khaki, white, stone) work great with dark color belts like black. Chinos more in the realm of the blues like Navy work absolutely amazing with a brown belt.
Best Brands For Casual Belts
There are plenty of good brands that offer nice casual belts from Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, and LL Bean to more expensive brands like First Settlement Goods, Worcestershire Leather, and H.W Earl.
Leather 101: When buying a leather belt, always go for FULL GRAIN LEATHER, which is high quality, durable and ages well.
Men’s Dress Belts
In a formal occasion, the belt and the shoes should match in both color, hue, and tone.
If you can, it is best to even have them made from the same leather. It is also nice to have a slight shine to the leather finish, especially in comparison to a casual belt.
A formal belt should be slightly less wide, rounding out around 1 1⁄4 to 1 3⁄8 inch width and a 1⁄8 inch thickness.
Much like the casual belts, they should follow the same rule of length. A lot of formal belts have stitching on either edge to give a tapered look.
Dress belts should be as minimal as possible. Be sure to avoid any belts that have unnecessary stylings as it deters from the polished formal look.
The buckle should be single pronged, polished, and slightly narrow. This will give a nice refined formal look.
Although there are a lot of reversible belts that have one side black and the other brown, it is often noticeable from activity of wearing it so we would advise against it.
It is better to commit to one good belt that can work for multiple outfits, than two that look sloppy.
Exotic leathers such as crocodile, snake, or even ostrich can be a good option for a dressy but not overly formal event.
Matching Dress Shoes & Dress Belts
The biggest rule to keep in mind when wearing a leather belt is the “shoe and belt mismatch” rule.
If you’re wearing dress shoes and a leather belt, always keep the following in mind:
- If you wear brown shoes, never wear a black belt.
- If you wear black shoes, never wear a brown belt.
- Matching brown shoes with a brown belt or black shoes with a black belt is completely fine.
- Bold colors and white leather belts look tacky, steer away.
Best Brands For Formal Men’s Belts
Meermin, Epaulet, and Crockett and Jones are all good brands to find the perfect dress belt for you.
A Word about “Designer” Belts
As much as we love seeing celebrities in designer Gucci and Hermes belts, their are very few situations I would actually recommend wearing them as a non-famous guy.
They either come off as super try hard, like you’re trying to look rich, or they look like you’re wearing a fake designer belt, which makes you look like an even bigger dork.
In general, stay away.
9 Best Belts For Men
We really took our time to find you the very best belts for men in 2022
Don't let the name fool you, this Bonobos leather jean belt is super versatile and can be worn with jeans, shorts, chinos, and even some dress pants. The quality of the leather is superb. This is what I would consider the quintessential 'every day' belt that every guy should own.
Treading the fine line between casual and dressy is the J.Crew classic leather belt. This belt has the amazing leather quality you'd expect at this price point, with a minimalist look that makes it the best belt for a smart casual look.
Our last belt recommendation leaned more towards the dressier side, and this Levi belt leans much further to the casual side. This Levi's belt is wider than the previous two, if you prefer that. It's excellent quality and durability and really gives a more rugged look.
I trust Uniqlo as a brand for all of my pieces of basic clothing, and belts are no different. This Uniqlo belt is a great looking belt if you're opting for the 'braided' look. Made from South American leather, this built is going to age and build character the more you wear it.
There is 2 big reasons I like recommending AE dress belts. The first being that they're known for being a brand that prides themselves on top quality leather goods, and two, I highly recommend getting your dress belt from the same place you get your dress shoes, and as you would have it AE is one of the best places to buy a spiffy pair of dress shoes, so you're killing two birds with one stone.
Leather Belt Care and Storage
It is important to note that even though leather can be maintained, it is still a very tough material and does not need anything when you first buy it.
If the leather is dry you can use a tiny amount of leather conditioner applied with a cotton rag.
Wipe off whatever is left over after five to ten minutes. If the leather is dirty, you can clean it with a soft rag and a little bit of warm water.
If it needs a little bit more cleaning, you can try a leather cleaner. Although cleaners like these will take off some of the natural oils, so you must follow with the conditioner.
Otherwise, you will notice the leather cracking.
Lastly, any scruffs can be buffed out with some friction, although this is more of an issue for dress belts, as casual belts can have a little bit of character.
For storage, the best option is to opt for a belt hanger. This way the belts will remain straight and avoid any unnecessary strain.
There are plenty of options from a quick amazon search, but if you don’t want to invest in an extra hanger you can simple curve an old wire hanger into an S shape.
Alternatively, you can keep your belts rolled up and in a shoebox, but this may wear out the leather quicker.