A man tends not to think much about his belts, but chances are he wears his favorite more often than any other single item of attire, and a little thought is called for.

Defining the Waist

The first rule of choosing a belt is that it should match, as closely as possible, the color of your shoes. Tooling, contrast stitching, and other leather ornamentation should be kept minimal. Proper dress belts range in width from 1¼” to 1½”, with an exterior and underside generally constructed of a single length of smooth, dull, fine-grained leather like baby calfskin or pinseal. The exterior can also be made from more lustrously exotic skins like lizard or baby crocodile, but steer clear of glossy leathers that look cheap when new and terrible when worn and cracked. As with shoes, a quality leather belt is a smart and smart-looking investment in longevity.    

Sport and casual belts intended for wear with chinos and summer ensembles offer considerably more variety in material and construction, with perhaps the most traditional models being braided leather, leather-trimmed cotton web surcingle, and D-ringed grosgrain ribbon belts.    

When purchasing a belt to match shell cordovan shoes, be advised that because of the small size of the skins, real shell cordovan belts must be manufactured in three separate pieces.


The most prominent element of any belt is its buckle, and care should be taken to ensure that it’s not too prominent. A bulky buckle destroys both the trim look and supple feel of a finely tailored waistband, and visible branding invites ruin. A streamlined gold or silver-toned single-prong frame buckle is a safe and elegant choice. For those who want a bit more metal at the waist, an engraved silver engine-turned slide buckle offers a sleek but classic option.

Finally, a belt fits properly when it fastens at the middle hole, or when the end finishes between the first and second trouser loop.  If necessary, a shoe repair professional can shorten a belt at the buckle.