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J4L: All About Men's Belts

Date: 10-Sep-2014 - Written by Debbie Davies

In life it’s often the little details that make a difference and this is especially true in fashion. When putting together an outfit, the little touches and attention to detail will turn a great look into a perfect look.

From hats, neckties, pocket squares and jewellery, to leather manbags and wallets, all accessories are important and require careful consideration. After all, accessories often say a lot about our personalities. However, despite what many of us may believe, most accessories are not essential. Indeed, simplicity is often a virtue.

One item that is essential, however, is a belt but perhaps because of the necessity of wearing a belt, it is an item that is often overlooked. We all own belts but they rarely seem to play much of a role in our looks. However, a belt doesn’t have to be used just to hold up trousers, it can also be used to make a statement.

 

Belt Basics

Let’s start with the basics. Whether jeans, chinos, cords or suit trousers, the sign of a well-fitting pair of trousers is they stay up without a belt. This is especially true of suits. Because of this, suit trousers should not ideally be worn with a belt. Suit and smart trousers are generally available in a range of measurements or tailored to an individual and so should fit perfectly. If they don’t and you find you do need a belt, you should try a different size or pay a visit to your local tailor. With other types of trousers, you should aim for your belt to enhance your look.

When choosing a belt, the key is to match your leathers. Fashion beginners should match a black belt with black shoes and a brown belt with brown shoes etc. Bear in mind, however, that this doesn’t always apply. You can wear a bright green belt if you want to but don’t waste time looking for a pair of bright green shoes to match. In this case, you should match the prominent colour in your belt to at least one other aspect of your outfit.

You should also think about spending a bit of money on your belt. The same goes for leather wallets and manbags. The more you spend, the better the quality leather you’ll get. High quality leather will both look better and last longer which gives you greater cost per wear value in the long run. With belts you may also find that cheaper quality leather stretches a lot quicker and more vigorously with regular use, especially if you have to use the belt to holder your trousers up and are pulling it a bit tighter than it should go in relation your waist. Spend some money on your leather wear and you won’t forget it.

Formal Belts

All belts can be roughly divided into casual and formal styles as certain belts are indicative of particular occasions or purposes. For example, a plain, unfussy, slim, leather belt with a small buckle will be best suited to the more formal end of the scale whilst a coloured fabric belt will be more at home in casual outfits.

 

All belts can be roughly divided into casual and formal styles as certain belts are indicative of particular occasions or purposes. For example, a plain, unfussy, slim, leather belt with a small buckle will be best suited to the more formal end of the scale whilst a coloured fabric belt will be more at home in casual outfits.

If you really have to wear a belt on formal occasions because your waist is an odd size, you can’t afford new trousers, you haven’t got around to taking them to the tailors yet, or you might just think that wearing a belt with your formal wear looks more professional than without, then your first port of call should be a slim, plain black or brown (depending on shoe colour), leather belt with either a silver or gold buckle. Silver is perhaps the more subtle colour of the two and would be most appropriate for the office or formal occasions. You might also consider, should you be a fan of something a little chunkier, the slide buckle. However, remember that attention should be paid to the overall look and weight of the buckle. If it’s too casual and you might make yourself look like an awkward teen that hasn’t quite yet got the hang of a suit.

If your situation allows (either work has a more relaxed attitude to uniform or the event allows more playfulness) and you feel that a belt could help make something of a worthwhile statement, then you might want to consider opting for a more casual style. A brown or black leather plaited belt could be a good starting point as it still retains the formality of material and colour but the design is more casual and unstructured.

Casual Belts

The casual belt is thankfully a much more versatile and variable accessory than the formal styles. You are not tied to a particular uniform so you have more freedom in what you want to wear – what style, what size, what colour and what type you choose is pretty much endless. The same goes for choice of buckle. The vast majority of casual belts need not be overly complex; unless you are looking specifically to make a statement then you are probably better off keeping the colours and material simple. The leather colour rule still applies, but you might find you want to vary the shade more to avoid taking your colour matching to extreme.

The casual belt is thankfully a much more versatile and variable accessory than the formal styles. You are not tied to a particular uniform so you have more freedom in what you want to wear – what style, what size, what colour and what type you choose is pretty much endless. The same goes for choice of buckle. The vast majority of casual belts need not be overly complex; unless you are looking specifically to make a statement then you are probably better off keeping the colours and material simple. The leather colour rule still applies, but you might find you want to vary the shade more to avoid taking your colour matching to extreme.

 

Standard casual leather belts will generally be wider and have a larger buckle to better suit larger and more bulky jeans. You will also notice a great deal of variation in buckle style, ranging from the slider buckle to the D ring buckle. The choice is entirely personal preference and will depend on what kind of look you are trying to achieve and to what extent you require it to hold up your trousers.

A canvas, fabric, woven or standard belt will work very well with chinos and when you want to add a little Riviera chic to your wardrobe. A subtle blue or white belt makes a good combination when paired with stone or navy chinos, but it would also be worth trying to match it to one of the colours in your shirt (should you be wearing one), just to create some outfit coherency.

The plaited belt is another worthwhile option here and is quite possibly one of the most versatile casual belts available. It suits many key trends and adds a hint of individuality and character effortlessly. To be even more unique, why not try a suede example?

Statement Belts

If you really want to make your belt work for you, as a key feature as well as an accessory, you have to go all out and make a bold statement. Whether you do it with block colours, bold patterns or a mixture of both you have to make a point and mean it. There is little point in you going half way; you may as well be out there. If you really want to make your belt work for you, as a key feature as well as an accessory, you have to go all out and make a bold statement. Whether you do it with block colours, bold patterns or a mixture of both you have to make a point and mean it. There is little point in you going half way; you may as well be out there.

If you go for a pattern, you could still try to co-ordinate with the outfit as a whole. Think of it in a similar way as you would choose a tie, picking a subtle colour and matching it (not necessarily shade specific). If the belt has leather ends (e.g buckle straps) then it would still be worth matching it to your other leather items. This won’t of course correspond to those wearing trainers or shoes of a less popular colour (green, blue etc).

 

The statement can be as bold as you want it to be but you must still consider what kind of look you are aiming for. An outfit that relies on simple, classic items for a clean, refined and stylish look will not work well with a bold block colour belt – the contrast will be too stark. Stick to a subtle pattern with brighter colours, something with a simple stripe will do just fine.

A block colour belt is a great way to add colour and individuality to any outfit, so long as it is appropriate and considered. You could try pairing a block coloured belt with some tailored grey trousers and a white shirt for a great formal/casual crossover; throw on some loafers and you have a very wearable spring/summer outfit. Utilising a block colour belt will create a very obvious divide between the top half of an outfit and the bottom, so you could also consider being a bit more playful with the other colours in your outfit, using the belt as a separator. The statement belt will work in much the same way as a casual belt but it will definitely play a bigger role in any outfit you choose to create. By being careful with colour or pattern choices, you can add flashes of colour and sparks of personality without shouting about it.

Conclusion

The belt is an often underestimated accessory; its purpose is almost entirely practical and the vast majority of people will have been brought up on a diet of black or brown leather. However, to ignore an item that can have such a big impact on the overall aesthetic of an outfit would be naive – they deserve more consideration.

These days the choice of men’s belts on the market is almost endless, almost guaranteeing that there will be a belt that suits your personal style. It’s just a case of finding the one that is most appropriate.

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