Which belts to ware in different occation

Formal or Casual?

We can summarize the differences between formal and casual belts this way:


  • Smaller, sleeker buckle
  • Thinner strap width
  • Thinner, softer, sleeker, strap material, sometimes with a sheen
  • Always leather


  • Larger buckle
  • Broader strap width
  • Tougher, thicker, stiffer, more rugged, often matte strap material
  • May be leather, or different materials

Just as with shoes, there’s overlap between dress belts and casual belts. Dress belts are largely for wearing with suits and business attire, but can sometimes be paired with more formal sports jackets/ blazers and trousers. Conversely, casual belts are largely worn with jeans, khakis, and shorts, but can work with nicer chinos and more rugged sports coats.

But when an outfit clearly falls into one category or the other, you should choose the belt that best pairs with your clothes. If a dress belt is worn with casual pants, its proportions and materials will make it look too delicate, quite nerdy, and generally out of place. Conversely, wearing a casual belt with a suit will look jarring and throw off the formal effect you’re trying to evince.

The Top 3 Go-To Belts for Men

If you’re having trouble deciding which belts to add to your wardrobe, we suggest these 3 as your basic essentials:

Dress belt — for business and evening wear

  • 1-1.5-inch strap
  • Only about 0.1 inch thick
  • Black or brown leather
  • Usually shiny
  • Undecorated — maybe a little broguing or hand burnishing
  • Small, plain, polished buckle — normally frame style
  • Match leathers, match metals

Casual belt — for jeans/khakis

  • 1.5-inch strap or wider
  • Can be thicker than a dress belt
  • Tan or natural leather
  • Matte, rugged and can be braided, textured, or decorated
  • Can have a larger and/or more decorative buckle — plate, box, or frame
  • Doesn’t have to match leathers exactly (e.g. brown with tan, tan with white)

Webbed fabric belt — for summer casual

  • 1.5-inch strap or wider
  • Choose a strap color that goes with your wardrobe
  • Strap can be patterned
  • Usually has a double D-ring buckle
  • Wear with chinos or shorts

How to Choose the Right Size Belt

Your belt size should be 1-2 inches longer than the size of your pants waist. So if you take a 40 in pants, you want a 41-42 inch belt.

Alternatively, you can work out the size of your new belt from your old belt. Measure from where you always buckle it to the opposite end of the strap, and get the closest size to that.

When buying a plate buckle, remember the throw (distance from chape to hook) adds to the length of your belt.

If you love a belt that’s the wrong size (or your size has changed since you bought the belt) DO NOT be tempted to gouge a hole in it with your pocket knife or kitchen scissors. It will be obvious, and the belt will end up breaking. Take it to your local cobbler to get a hole made properly.

Dress belts should only have a short tail end. You just want a few inches of leather to the left of the buckle when it’s fastened, long enough to tuck through the first belt loop or the loop on the belt itself if it has one.

Err on the side of shortness if you need to, rather than wrapping a long tail of leather around your hip a second time.

Casual belts can have a little bit more of a tail, although too long will still look awkward. Military-style canvas belts with brass buckles traditionally get their tails docked right down to the buckle.

How to Find a Quality Belt

Your casual belts can come and go, and you may actually like their being replaced every few years, so you can try some new styles. But with a more formal belt, you want something that you can use and enjoy for a long time. A quality belt can last for years if not decades, so it’s worth investing in a top-notch piece that looks good and wears well.

Very similar-looking belts sometimes vary widely in cost. The quality of the leather is one common factor: calfskin is the most common material used for belts, and a good belt will have a soft, supple leather. Flex the belt to make sure it hasn’t turned brittle or started to crack. Another good test of leather is to score the back very lightly with your fingernail — if a faint line appears, the leather is still soft and fresh. Old, hard leather will resist your nail.

Construction is the other major factor affecting the price of a belt. Look for small, tight stitching with no loose ends wherever the leather has been sewn. Buckles attached with a snap on the back of the belt can be changed out, while a buckle stitched in place is the only one you can wear with the belt; some men may find the flexibility of a snapped belt worth paying more for, especially in good leather. Belts can be custom-cut at some leather goods stores.

Brand names, in my opinion, are NOT worth paying more for when it comes to belts, because nobody’s likely to notice where your belt came from! If you’ve got a little extra to spend, invest in quality construction instead.

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