The Ultimate Men’s Belt Guide

Belts, simply put, are a necessity. They’re a part of almost every professional outfit, and most casual ones too. That being said, belts shouldn’t only be regarded as a functional pieces. In addition to, you know, holding up your pants, belts also serve the potential to be a great statement or finishing piece to any look. When you need to add a splash of color or distinguish a break from your midsection to your lower body, there’s nothing more important–and easy–than a belt. Let’s take you to step by step to picking out the belt that you need.

What to Avoid

This seems like the logical place to start. There are tons of belts out there, and many of them are downright awful. Cheap materials like synthetic leather will look obvious on a belt and should be avoided. It’s worth it to shell out a little extra cash to invest in a belt that will last you for years. 

Length

The first thing to do before you pick out a belt is to understand what length you need. Belts are usually measured in inches or centimeters. You’ll know if a belt is a right size when you put it on. Unless you’re buying a belt online, never purchase a belt without making sure it fits first. If a belt is marked with waist numbers (30, 32, 34, etc.) the general advice is to buy a belt that is two sizes larger than your pant size. This’ll allow for better adjustment so you won’t end up using the last hole on your belt and having too much extra belt sticking out.

Material

 Leather belts are classic and irreplaceable. A leather belt is something every man should own and is the hallmark of formal wear. That being said, belts have made the transition into more casual materials. Cotton and polyester belts are great and perhaps even preferred equivalents to leather belts when it comes to casual looks. They come in a lot of different colors and can stand out against a monochromatic outfit. If you still want to keep it somewhat formal, distressed leather is another good option that’s more on the casual side. Distressed leather adds some style and personality to an otherwise classic office belt

Buckles

Every belt technically has a buckle. It’s often the flashy buckles that are labeled as “belt buckles,” though. Flashy belt buckles are something that is often debated on. In our humble opinion, avoid them. Some belt buckles can work and add a focal point for an outfit. However, most of the time, they look excessive, especially for the price. The showy and blinged-out look comes off as too intense, and great style should always appear effortless. However, to each their own, so check them out and decide for yourself.

Types of Belts

There are several different types of belts and they all serve different purposes. For the most part, you should own one of each. 

Formal Belts

This is the belt you’ve probably always had at least one of.  It is the belt you pair with your suits or any other formal wear.  They are almost always black, brown, or tan, and made with leather or suede.  The pattern on these belts, if any, should be subtle. These do not statement pieces, but rather, finishing touches that bring your whole outfit together. As a style tip, consider matching the metal on your buckle with the metal in your watch or other accessories.  

Casual Belts

Whereas formal belts are meant to be functional, casual belts are all about adding style.  Experiment with colors and materials.  Many casual belts are made out of leather or woven fabric, lending themselves to a myriad of opportunities when it comes to color and design. These belts are not necessarily meant to be matched with anything else in your look, so feel free to mix things up and incorporate one with pretty much any ensemble, except, of course, your formal business attire.  

The Belts Checklist

If you’re looking to build a versatile belt collection, you’ll probably want to start small.  Every man should start with at least 3 essentials: a black or brown formal belt, a tan or light brown leather belt, and a casual fabric belt.  

Black Belt

The versatility of the classic black belt is almost limitless. The common rule is that these belts need to match the color of your shoes, or at least be close.  You can always experiment with breaking conventional fashion rules and wearing contrasting belt/shoe colors, but matching will usually stand as a rule of thumb.  Black belts typically go with black shoes or darker colors like blue. With these belts, there’s really no other option than getting a good-quality leather belt.  The obvious pairings for black belts are black and navy suits, but they work well with pretty much any outfit or color because of their neutral look.   A black belt is truly the epitome of formal belt styling.  

Tan Belt

Like black, tan, and brown belts are typically paired with shoes of the same color, or lighter.  These are also a staple of formal wear.  Brown and tan belts are perfect for outfits featuring lighter colors and match up well with bright blue and olive suits

What Happens If A Leather Belt Gets Wet?

We don’t usually dress for the day considering that the sunny morning might turn into rain. And as such, there may be a time when you’re stuck outdoors in a downpour and your favorite leather belt is getting pelted by the rain as you run for cover. Alternatively, in busy living, it’s certainly not uncommon for belts to get left on pants as they are pushed through the washing machine! Ouch!

The good thing about leather is that it’s durable – but is it THAT durable? Here’s what happens when leather gets wet and how you can try to fix it if you need to.

What Happens When Leather Gets Wet?

Brown leather belt handmade

When wet, the oils in the skin of the leather bind together with the new water molecules. There is no effect when immediately wet, but when the water starts to dry and evaporate, it will draw out the remaining oil with it. When the leather loses these natural oils, it starts to become stiff and will lose its feel and quality. On top of this, water can also leave stains on the leather as it shifts the dye around, or it can even cause the leather to rot if the water doesn’t dry fast enough.

However, this also depends on the finish and treatment of the leather product. With high-quality products, you can get away with a little water contact without having to take any precautionary measures at all. Most common leather products are made using smooth, vegetable-tanned leather which looks great but is more easily damaged by water. So your first order of business would be to know what type of leather your belt is made of.

What To Do Once Your Leather Belt Gets Wet

As soon as you realize that your belt has gotten wet you need to take immediate action if possible. The faster you are able to start working on removing the water, the better the results will be. Once the water has set into the leather, there will inevitably be some level of water damage no matter what you do afterward. For this purpose, you should have the following items handy:

  • A clean, dry cloth
  • A microfiber cloth
  • A high-quality leather conditioner

The steps:

  1. Ensure that your hands are clean. Our hands have natural oils that can also be soaked up the water-stained leather causing further damage. Wash your hands with soap and water beforehand or wear gloves.
  1. Using the cloth, gently dab at the water droplets to remove them from the leather. This should be done both inside and on the outside.
  1. Then you need to set the belt aside, allowing it to dry without applying any unnatural heat. You don’t want the water to completely dry but allow it to become damp rather than wet. This is the part where you need to be patient or it will cause damage.
  1. Once it is damp, the next step is to apply a thick coat of high-quality leather conditioner. They contain oils that the leather will absorb which will replace the lost oils caused by the evaporating water. You will need to massage the conditioner into the belt and then leave it to dry for about 8 to 10 hours.
  1. After that time has passed, check the belt for areas that look overly dry than the rest. If there are any, apply a little more conditioner and buff the whole belt again. You should let it dry again for a few hours before you move on.
  1. Finally, to make the belt more water-resistant for future purposes, you can apply a coat of water repellant which can help save your belt from becoming overly wet for some time.

What Not To Do When Leather Gets Wet

  • Don’t apply any heat to make the water evaporate faster. This means don’t use a hairdryer or other similar appliances in the wet area.
  • Don’t only apply the leather conditioner into the stained areas and then work it in. This can cause the leather to become discolored in those areas.
  • Don’t leave it as it is and wait for the water to dry off in the sun or in an air-conditioned room.
  • Don’t rub the leather too hard when trying to get the water off. This can damage the area further.

We can’t predict when our leather products are susceptible to becoming wet. But if you know how to fix the problem if they do end up wet, you can save your belt (and money).