Custom leather belts are both practical and a time-honored men's accessory. In the conservative business world, they allow you to add your own stamp of style to your outfit. They can complete your look correctly and show that you have a great sense of style.
Choose poorly, though, and they could be a distraction that kills your look altogether.
If you're like most men, you probably have a few staid standbys in the closet. These are belts that you wear with everything. Maybe it's because someone once said they looked great. Perhaps it's because you don't know what to look for in a great belt. Whether you're looking for a casual leather belt for men or a leather dress belt, you need to know what to look for.
When Do You Need a Belt?
You don't have to wear a belt all the time. From a practical standpoint, you only need to bother if your pants keep sliding down. From a realistic perspective, though, those empty belt loops on your pants look a little lonely empty.
A good rule of thumb is that if you can see belt loops, you should wear a belt. If a belt doesn’t appeal to you, get a good pair of suspenders instead. NEVER wear the two together.
If you're a little on the heavier side, suspenders draw the eye vertically up and down your body. This has the effect of lengthening the body. A belt, on the other hand, cuts your body in half visually. This effect could make you appear stockier.
The other thing to consider when deciding whether to wear a belt or not is how you’re wearing your shirt. If you’re wearing your shirt untucked, it doesn’t really matter.
That statement brings us to our next clue on when to wear a belt. If your shirt’s out, you’re probably casually dressed. If you’re casually dressed, it’s not essential to wear a belt. Now let's move over to the belts themselves.
What to Look for in a Great Belt
Let's be absolutely frank here – belts all work on the same principles. They all have a strap that wraps around your waist and something to fasten the ends with. That said, one belt can be very different from the next. The materials and type of fastener used do impact the style.
Let’s look at the individual elements that differentiate belts.
The buckle can be a great way to change the look of a belt. Your typical conservative work buckle is utilitarian. It'll usually be a frame-style buckle that is as plain as possible. This simple style makes it easier to match the buckle to your other accessories.
A dress belt, on the other hand, is a little flashier. It will usually have a high-gloss finish and be silver or gold. Dress belts aren’t the stars of the show, but supporting actors. As a result, they’ll be tastefully designed, with smaller, flatter buckles.
A casual belt buckle may be gold or silver but usually has a more matt finish.
Finally, we have the "Look at me" buckle. The buckle you put on is loud and proud, and might even border on obnoxious. It's got a lot of detailing and personality.
These buckles are show-stoppers but not always in a good way.
The Width of the Strap
A thinner belt is considered more formal. When choosing something for a formal occasion, choose one that’s one and a half inches wide at the most. Belts wider than this are more suited for casual wear.
That said, you also have to consider what the width of the belt looks like on you. If you're slenderly in build, you should consider a belt about one-inch wide. Anything much wider might seem out of place.
Bu the same token, a stocky man, should steer towards the slightly wider belts. Could you see one of our football legends wearing a skinny belt? Of course not, it would look ridiculous.
What the Strap is Made Out Of
Here's where we separate the men from the boys. Here we're going to emphasize quality over quantity. One high-quality leather belt will take you a lot further than a bunch of out of style fashion items.
Get yourself two or three quality options to form the basis of your wardrobe. If you want to add cheap fashionable options after that, knock yourself out.
When it comes to dress belts, good quality leather is your only option. A high-quality leather belt will cost more but will last a lifetime if you care for it. We'd recommend getting two belts in black and brown that match shoes in your closet well.
A well-dressed man needs very few accessories. Throw on your dress belt, add a good quality watch, and you’re done.
If you have ethical concerns about using real leather, there are some excellent vegan leather options available.
The type of leather also impacts your style:
- Cowhide: Choose the buttery Italian leather made from calfskin or the hardwearing full-grain leather. Nubuck is okay in quality and cheaper, but it's not quite the same. Leather is a classic option that's always appropriate.
- Alligator and crocodile: These alternative forms of leather are usually considered casual. They shine up well in a dark black and brown and can pass for formal.
- Ostrich: Ostrich leather is pricier, but it’s a bold look that not everyone can pull off.
- Faux leather: We put this in under protest. These are often made of polyurethane. The upside is that it's hard to kill them. There's also a lot less maintenance involved. If you're going this route, do opt for a good quality option that looks realistic.
In darker colors, you might get away with wearing these to work. When you start moving into the multi-colored, patterned arena, you're heading toward casualwear. If the pattern is very understated, you could still make it work.
Generally speaking, though, the only colors that really apply to formal situations are black and brown. You might get away with navy as well. For an extremely formal event, even a brown belt is considered too casual.
Choosing the right belt is surprisingly easy. You'll never go wrong with a high-quality black leather belt. Choose a simple, elegant style, and you'll be able to wear it anywhere. Consider adding a brown belt as well for variety.
From there, you can choose one show-stopper belt for when you want to be the center of attention. Other than that, how many belts do you need?