Q And Answer: Belts

April 22, 2010

Q and Answer: Belts

Eric writes: I understand that a belt should be roughly the same color as the shoes it is paired with but are there other guidelines? What dictates a belts width, texture, or buckle color and style?

A standard men’s dress belt is about 1 ¼" wide.  That will look “normal” with almost any trouser.  Narrower than 1" and you’re wearing a fashion statement.  Wider than 1 ¼" and the belt is casual; more suitable for jeans or work wear than for dress wear.

As you say, the color of your belt should roughly match the color of your shoes.  They don’t need to be a perfect match (some even argue that a perfect match tries too hard), but they shouldn’t look dramatically different.  The hardware is usually either brass (or some other yellow-colored metal) or nickel (or some other silvery-colored metal).  Which you prefer is up to you.  There are those who match the metal of their watch to their belt buckles and cuff links, this is a bit much for me.  The buckle should be plain.  D-ring and fancy buckles are for casual wear.

As far as the finish of the belt, I prefer a rough match to my shoes, as well.  Dark brown suede shoes means dark brown suede belt.  This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, though.  As with shoes, suede is more casual than smooth calf.

With summery shoes or sneakers, you have a few options.  You can go with a leather belt that roughly matches the leather on the shoes.  You can also go with a more casual belt.  During the warmer months, I often wear a braided rope belt with my canvas sneakers, and sometimes a colorful ribbon belt.  With off-white summer shoes, I often wear a surcingle belt, made of cotton or cotton and wool, with leather ends.

One slightly off-topic note: not many people realize that belts can be altered.  If you’ve lost some weight, take your belt to the shoe repair store, and they can shorten it for you.  They do this by removing the buckle, cutting down the buckle end, then re-attaching the buckle.  That way, you retain the same number of holes on the pointy end.

(Belts above are by the good folks at Narragansett Leathers.  We love them.)