Belt Buying Guide

Belt Buying Guide: The Three Belts that Should be in Every Man’s Closet

The finishing touches sometimes speak louder than the main parts of the ensemble. Why? We strongly suspect it has something to do with attention to detail, but whatever the reason, it just does. You can show up at the office with the waistband of your pants rolled over and your shirt bulging out, looking like you dressed in the hazy aftermath of a frat-party hangover, or you can snug everything up neatly with a belt that matches your shoes and creates that crisp demarcation between pants and shirts that makes you look sharp and smart, like a man to track on the organizational chart. It’s your choice, but we’d say go with the belt.

And when a suit and tie are called for, whether that’s every day on the job or once a year on special occasions, don’t even think about omitting the belt. So if you’ve come to the conclusion that you need to wear a belt basically every day you’re wearing pants, the next questions are, what kind and how many? You can probably get away with two, but we think three makes a good minimum, and if you suddenly find yourself getting into this accessories thing (think of the conversational opportunities to impress potential girlfriends), a few more can add some significant style to your wardrobe. But let’s start with the basics. Here are the three belts that should be in every man’s closet:

The Dress Belt: If you wear a suit once or twice a year for weddings and funerals, this belt may not get a workout. If you’re climbing the corporate ladder, it may be your go-to belt every weekday during work hours. Either way, the dress belt is a wardrobe necessity. This is no time to make a brash fashion statement. Stick with a narrow leather belt (there’s a reason the belt loops on your dress pants are smaller than the ones on your jeans) that matches the color and shininess of your shoes and has a buckle that isn’t too big or gaudy. What if you wear both black and brown shoes? A reversible belt can solve the dilemma.

The Casual Belt: OK, quitting time now, so you go home and throw on a pair of jeans. Suddenly the dress belt seems about as appropriate as that joke about the three nuns that your Uncle Milton told at your grandmother’s funeral. Unlike the dress belt, the casual belt lets you make a statement, though you might want to keep the brashness under control. Stick with the policy of matching your shoes, in general, though you have more leeway, especially with sneakers. The casual belt is usually wider and may be braided, have stitching or sport some other decoration. Leather remains the preferable choice of material.

The Personal Style Belt: The two above are the essentials. Stop there if you steadfastly stick to the minimum basics. But the personal style belt is a fun addition to the wardrobe and can be just about anything that matches your personality. If you have a favored old pair of cowboy boots you only drag out of the closet for outdoor concerts, consider a matching lizard-print belt. If you’re taking the sailboat out, a canvas belt might be the right touch. If you spend your days on the links, one of the Nike or PGA Tour belts in the brilliant colors the young guns prefer these days is an option. Just remember that the farther you stray from the norm, the more panache you’ll need to pull off the style. In other words, if you’re smacking them straight and true down the fairway, your neon yellow belt may draw admiring glances from those who wish they were equally daring.

Those are the basics. You can stop there and nobody (except maybe that ex-girlfriend with the collection of 250 scarves) will consider you inadequately outfitted for civilized society. Belts are relatively inexpensive and usually long-lasting accessories, however, so adding a few more significantly expands the style of your wardrobe at little cost. For example, when paired with khakis for a casual Friday kind-of -look, a leather belt that’s a bit wider than your dress belt but less adorned than your casual belt can be the perfect match. Having a separate belt to match each pair of shoes is also a shortcut to a buttoned-down, put-together look, as well as having belts with gold or silver accents to pair up with whichever watch or jewelry you’re wearing. A Western belt or one with fancier stitching or metal adornments might be the right look for a party atmosphere, depending on your personal style and personality. So outfit your three-belt closet, cinch your waist up snug and show the world you’ve got your life all buckled up and in order.