Essential Guide to Leather Belts
by Albert Varkki updated 01-05-2023
Some think that belts are only worn as a style accessory. Others think that they are purely practical. But men's belts are worn both for practical reasons and style. It may be a small accessory but it is one that packs a big punch – it can make or break the impression you make. The right belt worn the right way can truly complete an outfit but if you choose something misplaced then it will distract and ruin your overall appearance.
To hit the bullseye when choosing a belt, you need to know a few key things like when to wear a belt and what are different types that you can match with different outfits (for example, everyday wear vs. formal wear).
In this post we'll cover everything you need to know about choosing the best leather belt for various outfits, how to find the perfect size, and what to take into account when actually choosing a belt.
When to wear a belt
If your trousers have belt loops, you should wear a belt. After all, that's what they're for. If you don't wear a belt, it can look a bit careless, especially with more formal clothes with a shirt tucked in.
Even for casual wear you may want to ask yourself whether you can afford to skip the belt since more often than not only formal wear clothes can be tailored to fit you like a glove. Remember, belt is also practical and helps keep your trousers in place.
The difference between formal and casual belts
This distinction – formal and casual – is the main way to sort your belts into two categories. Both formal and casual belts have distinct features that simply won't go with the other style and knowing when to wear which can save you a lot of fashion police looks. Knowing the difference is also key if your work requires you to dress a certain part.
Formal belts are quite easy to distinguish from casual belts. Normally, a formal belt won't be too wide and its buckle will be very classy-looking. Typically the belt buckle will be rectangular and with a shiny finish, and not as big as a casual belt buckle.
The best formal leather belts should always be made of genuine high-quality leather. No exceptions. Full-grain leather not only looks good but is guaranteed to be very hardwearing, meaning that you can wear it daily without worrying about it loosing its appearance.
Equally, a formal belt won't have a flashy or distinct pattern and it will be either black or brown.
Casual leather belts on the other hand may be more versatile. They can be wider, have larger belt buckles in more varied shapes, and the colors can also be in a broader range. For example, while you wouldn't see brass buckles on a formal belt, they are completely acceptable on a casual leather belt.
Very wide belts normally only go with jeans, while medium-width belts are great with chinos, denim, and heavier fabrics like tweed.
You can also find fantastic leather belts that are great both for business casual looks and everyday wear, as the overall shape will be classy but might have an eye-catching accent like stitching around the edges, for example.
How to measure your belt size
When measuring your belt size, you shouldn't exactly measure the length of the whole belt. Instead:
1. Find a belt that you normally wear and one that fits well.
2. Lay the belt completely flat on an even surface like the ground or a table.
3. Using a measuring tape, measure from the end of the buckle to the center hole of the belt. If you don't use the center hole, measure to the whole you use the most.
Things to keep in mind
- Match your leathers. What it means is that the color of your leather belt should always match the color of your leather shoes. Don't be tempted to wear cognac belt with black leather shoes.
- Match your metals. The same way your leathers should match, you should always match your metals – the metal buckle should be the same color finish as any other hardware in your outfit (watches, cufflinks).
- Take care of your leather belt. While the best leather belts will definitely serve you for years to come, you should still make sure you do regular maintetance to keep them looking fantastic. The best part is – it's easy. All you need is a lightly damp cloth and an appropriate leather conditioner.
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