A few weeks ago I was ranting to a friend of mine about the fact that I had seen several men on public transport, not wearing a belt with their trousers. After much debate about the importance of the belt, it dawned on me that many men see them as unimportant when putting together an outfit. Granted it is a small item, but it is in the finer details where an outfit becomes truly stylish; so making the effort can really pay dividends.
Today I wanted to go over a few basic rules for men wearing belts, what you should look for when styling a belt with an outfit and my experiences in getting a tailored belt from a famous London specialist belt shop. You better buckle up for this one…
The Basic Belt Rules
There are a few simple rules to wearing any belt successfully, stick to them and you won’t go wrong. Ignore them and you may end up detracting from the look of your outfit.
1. If your trousers have belt loops, wear a belt – There are those who will say that you shouldn’t wear a belt with suit pants. Although this used to be true, nowadays the outfit looks incomplete if you have empty belt loops so it’s best to wear one to finish the look.
2. Match the colour of your belt to your shoes – Relatively simple but it’s worth noting that the colours don’t have to be EXACTLY the same. Dark brown belt with light brown shoes is perfectly acceptable.
3. Stay clear of novelty belts – Once you get past the age of 21 it becomes less acceptable to wear these on a regular occasion.
Styling Your Belt
To ensure you always have a belt that will work with your outfit I would advise that you have at least three different belts. One smart brown, one smart black and one colour of your choosing.
The black will work well with almost any attire that involves black shoes (predominantly smarter looks such as suits etc.) make sure this is made of good quality, leather, though feel free to add a little detail with subtle patterns and styles on the belt. The brown one can be a little more casual, a slightly stressed leather look works great with sandals and boots and a matte brown can complement boat shoes and brogues beautifully. Finally the colour of your choosing can be for smart or casual wear depending on your style, woven fabric and leather belts add great texture detail to summer outfits so feel free to experiment.
Buckles are also important, you can rarely go wrong with a silver/polished steel buckle but find one that suits the looks you go for. Polished steel or titanium look incredibly dapper with darker suits, whilst brass/gold buckles work well with more colourful outfits. From flashy to subtle and chunky to sleek, it is entirely dependent on what styles you prefer.
Finally, make sure the belt fits you correctly. If it’s too tight then your trouser waistband will crumple and it will look scruffy as well as feel uncomfortable. Too loose and it will droop at the front which looks neither smart nor stylish, not to mention you may end up with your trousers falling down in the middle of town. Ideally you want to be able to fit two fingers’ width (snugly) between your waist and your trouser waistband, the tongue of your belt should (at the the very most) be tucked through the first loop of your belt. Any longer and it will look like you’ve borrowed your dad’s belt.
The Tailored Belt Experience
Although having never considered this, it does make sense. You have a suit fitted, you have your shoes fitted so why buy a belt without it being properly fitted? Having wandered through Covent Garden several times whilst living in London, I had seen Elliot Rhodes and was curious to see what the “belt specialist” had to offer. Upon arriving I was greeted by one of their tailors who walked me through some of the styles of belts and buckles that he thought might work for the styles I preferred. The variety and selection was huge, with an array of patterns, colours, materials and designs to choose from depending on how you wanted to wear it.
All of their leather was sourced from Italy, excluding the more exotic animals (snake, crocodile etc.) which are sourced from America where the animals have died of natural causes. The presentation and quality of the products is immediately obvious and the care taken with each item is something you can see. Their newer woven collections proved to be something of a surprise as they were both light but incredibly durable, an incredibly valuable characteristic considering how much strain a belt goes through every day.
Having been measured I then got to see them cutting and re-assembling the belt from scratch, a view of the process can be seen below:
The style I ended up selecting (after a great deal of umm-ing and aahh-ing) was the Black Cordovan Brogue with a polished gun metal buckle, a belt perfectly suited to my sartorial appetite. Cut, fitted and re-assembled, it felt comfortable to wear and looked fantastic. A thoroughly enjoyable and high quality, bespoke experience that meant I found a belt that will last me a lifetime.
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