Is there someone in your life who needs a new belt or belt buckle? You probably already understand that a belt is more than just a device to hold your pants up — it’s also a fashion accessory that should match your accessories and go with your outfit. But you might have questions about materials, fit, and color, as well as styling a belt and belt buckle.
Fortunately, choosing the right belt isn’t that difficult. You might need to measure your waist size, if you don’t know it, and of course you’ll need to keep in mind what kinds of outfits you normally wear when you’re choosing a belt, but you should be able to choose a high-quality, nice belt that will go with most outfits, and, if necessary, a belt buckle to add personality to the look. Here’s what you need to know.
Belt Materials: Leather and More
Traditionally, the best material for belts has been full-grain leather, due to its durability and resistance to stretching. Unless you or your intended belt recipient has an ethical issue with leather, it’s still the best choice. But there are plenty of vegan belt options available these days, made with materials like faux leather, canvas, and cork. Fabric belts are great for a laid-back look, and go well with linen suits, separates, and casual outfits.
Size and Fit
Belts are usually sized in inches, the same as pants. Ideally, a belt should wrap around your waist so that the tip goes through the first belt loop and halfway to the next one, after being buckled. This leaves some room for limited weight gain or loss, or day-to-day changes in waist shape, as well as variations in how different kinds of pants are styled at the waist.
Some wide belts these days, both for men and women, are sized small, medium, and large. Usually, these will come with a waist range. For example, a “medium” belt should fit waists of 34 to 36 inches or size 8 – 10 jeans. It depends on where you are wearing your belt as well. High waisted jeans can take a smaller belt than hip-hugging jeans.
Choosing Colors and Styles for Belts
Basic black is the most versatile color for a belt — it goes with everything. If you’re buying a belt for formal occasions, choose a formal belt with a frame-style buckle. A slim-styled, casual leather belt can also dress down a business formal look for a day at the office, or add stylish flair to casual separates.
In addition to black, you can also choose tan, brown, or navy belts, and all will work well with most outfits. Tan works well with earth tones and navy, while blue or navy can add a bit of color to a casual look with khaki trousers or even a linen suit. After black, dark brown is the most versatile color. It goes well with clarets, and really any outfits on the darker end of the color spectrum.
When it comes to choosing a color and style for a belt, avoid any garish or quirky colors or materials. Nothing screams bad taste like a loud belt. When choosing fabric belts, grab one with a real belt buckle and not a plastic snap buckle, unless you’re looking for a very casual belt. Braided belts, leatherworking, and metallic detailing should be reserved for casual outfits, or avoided altogether.
Belt Buckle Basics
A belt buckle can turn a belt into a fashion statement — that’s one reason why Western belt buckles have remained popular for so long. There are four basic types of belt buckles: clip, snap, tang, and military. Military buckles only work with a belt designed to accept the buckle — this style of belt has no holes, but instead a plastic ridge on the other side of the belt that catches in the buckle to hold the belt in place. If you go with this style of belt buckle, you’re likely buying a whole belt.
Other styles of belt buckle can work on any belt, as long as it’s able to have its buckle changed. If there are snaps or studs holding the buckle on, you should be able to change it. You can simply open them, remove the original buckle, and attach the new belt buckle.
Most belt buckles are made with some kind of metal, like brass, pewter, or silver. It’s not unusual to pay hundreds of dollars for a nice belt buckle made of silver with gold detailing. However, there are plenty of more affordable, plain silver belt buckles available. Brass is also a great material for a belt buckle, being affordable and durable. Pewter belt buckles are also popular, but while they come in a range of detailed designs, the metal isn’t as bright as silver.
Everyone needs a few different belts to accessorize outfits with. When you know what you’re looking for, you can find a quality belt that will last for years without stretching or tearing, and still look great.