Is this belt WRONG?
You’re far from alone.
The rules for men’s belts are many and confusing…
But the vast majority can be broken when you know how.
Today I’ll be breaking down six of the most often-heard men’s belt rules and showing you just how and when to keep them… and how and when you can afford to break them. (All except #6… I don’t recommend you ever try breaking that one.)
This article is brought to you by Anson Belts, whose trim-to-fit men’s belts feature a high level of adjustability so you don’t have to compromise on fit. Visit Anson Belt and Buckle to find out more.
#1. Belt Loops Always Need A Belt
YES – Jeans originated as workwear in the early days of ready-to-wear clothing. Working men didn’t have a tailor to make their pants fit perfectly, so they needed a belt to hold them up. 90% of the time, jeans look wrong without a work belt (that’s a belt 1.3 to 1.5 inches wide in rugged, matte leather, often thicker than a dress belt). Tooled leather or western belts are other good options.
Belts with shorts don’t have as hard a rule, but again, if they have belt loops they were likely designed with belts in mind. Go for a lightweight casual belt like a webbing, canvas, or leather and canvas belt. A braided leather belt in bright colors makes a good accent piece for something preppy like chino shorts and a polo.
NO – These days, slacks, odd trousers and suit pants can do without if they fit well. A belt that’s mismatched or makes your outfit look too busy is worse than none – don’t wear a bad belt just to fill the loops.
Think carefully about whether your belt adds to the outfit or takes away from it. Of course there are rules and traditions (in menswear there always are) and those exist for good reason. But the deciding factor should be whether it’s looking good, on you, in this context, at this moment.
If you have a good-fitting pair of trousers and no belt to match and you’re worried about it, you can also get a tailor to remove the loops.
#2. Different Belt Rules For Suits And Separates
YES – Separates often look better with a belt, which draws the eye to the other pieces of your outfit. The matching jacket and pants of a suit create a continuous line that makes you look taller and slimmer – a belt can break it up and make you look shorter and fatter.
NO – If you’re tall and skinny, breaking up your line can actually be a plus. A belt adds visual interest to suits as well as separates – if you’ve got one that really adds something, try it and see how it looks.
After all, belts with separates still make you look shorter, just not as much. If you can accept it with separates, there’s a chance it’s occasionally worth it with a suit.
#3. Alternative To Belt = Suspenders
YES – Suspenders are a good option with smart men’s dress codes, from business casual up to formal wear. They look great on short guys and those with broader frames because they draw the eye upward, adding height.
Suspenders were designed as a belt alternative in the 1820s, when pants were so high-waisted that men COULDN’T wear a belt to hold them up. This application is still relevant for many types of formal trousers.
NO – Side adjusters are a third option for bespoke or made-to-measure suits. They let you tighten the waist of your pants with no visual interruption to your outfit at all.
Buckle side adjusters are the smartest-looking option. They allow you to make the waistband a couple of inches smaller, but not larger, so have the trousers made to fit you when you’re at your largest.
Button side adjusters work by fastening a tab to one of three different buttons. It’s best to fit the trousers on the middle button so you can make them bigger or smaller as needed.
You can also get your pants converted from belt loops to side adjusters if there’s enough material in the waistband. Ask your tailor about this option.
#4. Business Casual And Up = Dress Belt, Below = Casual Belt
YES – No wearing your rugged, casual belts to the office. It’ll look like it was ripped off a pair of jeans and awkwardly shoved onto a business outfit – not the kind of attention you want any accessory to get.
NO – In a pinch you can wear your dress belt with jeans. It’s not ideal, but most guys start there because they only own a few belts. It can look, well, nerdy – but that’s better than looking sloppy in pants that don’t fit you correctly.
#5. Dress Belts Need A Frame-Style Buckle
YES – This is the traditional look for a dress belt.
NO – The rule behind the rule is SMALL, PLAIN, and POLISHED. Newer styles such as the micro-adjustable buckle can work just as well, as long as they follow that rule.
I also got a question on wearing decorative plate-style buckles to the office. That’s a no in general, but it’ll go over better in a less conservative workplace or in a state with a lot of formal western wear.
You can also get away more easily with quirky buckles if everything else about your style is impeccable, or if you’re exceptionally good at your job. A single style eccentricity looks intentional and characterful on a man who clearly knows what he’s doing.
#6. NEVER Wear Suspenders With A Belt
YES – it looks as if you’re terrified of your pants falling down, and creates three sides of a square around your midsection – not flattering.
NO – Actually, there’s no argument about this one. Just don’t do it.
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