A Guide to Men’s Belts

July 15th, 2015

At the Articles of Style office, we don’t wear a ton of belts. We’re tailoring guys, more often seen in side-adjusters and trousers that are properly adjusted to fit our waists. We also occasionally prefer the comfort of braces. But, of course, there will also be trousers with belt loops that need good quality belts.

Belts are one of those accessories that, if you buy quality and pick the right one, you shouldn’t have to replace it for a long time. I went through my personal collection, pulled out my most-worn belts, and put together a list of what I think would be a complete collection for a man’s wardrobe.

Here’s 5 belts that should have you sharply and appropriately dressed for any occasion.

The Black Dress Belt


This is the most formal belt in your collection. You should never wear a belt with a tuxedo or traditional formalwear, but if there’s a badass suit that requires something black and dressy, we recommend a slim leather belt (1″- 1 1/4″) with a simple silver buckle. If you can spring for an exotic skin, like this lizard, it will add a unique texture that is all luxury.

The Brown Dress Belt


In my personal collection this is the one that gets the most use. I wear a lot of tailoring, often with brown shoes (more brown in LA, more black in NYC). Again, for a dress belt we like something slim (around 1″ wide) and we prefer the exotics, like this American Alligator.

The Rugged Denim Belt


For a casual weekend involving jeans and/or other workwear-inspired pieces, look for a belt that is a little wider (1 1/2″ or so) and cut from a thick, rugged bridle leather that is ready to take a beating.

The Smooth Suede Belt


The key to good design is combining elements that are consistent in their level of formality and purpose. Take this belt for example: leather is traditionally dressy, but suede is slightly more casual. Similarly, a polished silver buckle is traditionally dressy, but an D-Ring is slightly more casual. This belt, thanks to its cohesive design, nails that perfect “dressy/casual” blend – which we’re all about.

The Slim Vintage Belt


Belts are a great accessory to dig for in Vintage shops. Just make sure it’s genuine leather (usually stamped on the inside) and it fits properly (if you’re crafty you can punch extra holes using a leather punch). This skinny vintage belt (just under 1″) is one of my go-tos for “casually tailored” looks involving unstructured tailoring, like a linen suit.

The Summer Fabric Belt


During the summer season dress codes lighten up and everything gets a little more casual, generally. Your belt should too. Look for something in a lightweight fabric (like this cotton weave or a simple grosgrain) that can be dressed up or down, for all those summer cocktail parties.

Thanks, as always, for reading. 

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

Shop Custom Menswear Made in America


Take me to the Shop

  • Don Joe

    Aaand again the rectangular plate buckle doesn’t even get a mention, let alone a recommendation. What is this, the 19th century?

  • Ilya

    Can someone suggest a specialist online retailer for belts?

    I’m looking for O-ring belt in brown faux-leather, possibly microfiber.

    O-ring belts turned out to be surprisingly hard to find even in genuine leather (looks like Ralph Lauren is the only brand to sell them, and even they have one model only), not to mention faux-leather.

  • Christopher

    Hi Dan – I’ve been a huge fan of this site. Regarding belts, I’m taking a different approach: 2 belts will get you out of almost any situation: black and dark brown. Maybe this’ll change over time, but I believe subtleness will be key. That said, I’m a big fan of Narragansett Leather (http://www.narragansettleathers.com/beltwide.html) and looking to make investments in quality leather that will last the test of time at a reasonable price. What do you think?

  • BKaufman

    What belt would you put with the slim, dark denim that frequently makes it on AoS in colder months; the office to night out type of posts?

  • http://www.online-instagram.com/user/easyandawesome/1217714417 olrichm

    What is that fun patterned belt in the banner picture up top? I really like that one

  • Reuben

    Dan or anyone who knows: Shouldn’t the belt match the shoes each time in every outfit?

    • http://www.TSBmen.com/ Dan Trepanier

      Not in my opinion. Generally the same color family is a good idea (I don’t wear black with brown, for example), but I find that belts and shoes that are too “matchy-matchy” (especially with specific/unique leather colors) can look overly thought-out and lack some creativity/style. Get creative…dressing with style takes practice, not a textbook. Cheers Reuben.

      • melmoth

        That matchy-matchy feeling extends to the watch band, possibly briefcase/bag. One day I had light brown (almost orange-ish though not as odd as that might sound) shoes, belt, bag and watchstrap. I got an inadvertent ‘Wow’ that made me feel kind of dumb. That’s why I like a mocha brief always. Even when it lines up with dark brown shoes and belt, it doesn’t really link the eyes along, as it were. Metal watch band too. Three matching leather details and you look like a mannequin at the department store. Belt and shoes should be a lazy, forgiving match, metal watch band and mocha bag for me these days.

    • Monco

      Although, I am not an expert like Dan, but I feel there’s no need to “exactly match” the belt with the shoes. Like, in a formal setting, a coffee brown belt would totally go well with tan brown shoes. In an informal setting, red sneaker does not demand a red belt and so on. If I am wrong then correct me, Dan.

    • Ilya

      Only when you wear dressy shoes. In other words, you don’t need to pair white sneakers with a white belt.

  • Dave Coakley

    I’ve picked up some great tips here. Really useful information, cheers AoS!

  • Lothar

    Look for big, smooth scales. The small, cracked ones, while interesting visually, are cheap and not likely to last long.

  • Chris

    Love the little things, Dan.

    You guys really seem to love alligator (shoes, belts) on here — but as a student building a wardrobe over eBay and in consignment stores, how can I be sure what I’m getting is quality/real?

  • TO

    I love this simple template and also think that there is necessity to add variation in the combinations of leather/metal colour from each example.

    …(i.e. having one of each of these ‘types’, more or less, in brown w. gold, brown w. silver, black w. gold, black with silver) so you’re prepared no matter what your shoes/accessories are.

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