The sexes diverge on why we wear belts. For women, they’re a lift to tired looks, a way to tweak a silhouette or introduce a pop of colour. For men, they’re how you fix big trousers. They own one for a decade and rotate it through every set of belt loops in their wardrobe.
But accessories should never be an afterthought. Even ones whose primary purpose is to keep you decent. The right belt can fix off-kilter proportions, or add life to monochrome outfits. It can make you look like a cowboy or an Italian dandy. And yes, it can keep your trousers up.
Match, But Not Too Much
It’s an age-old question – should you match your accessories to your outfit? “It looks pretty contrived,” says ASOS menswear insider Oliver Hooson. Use contrast colours instead to give your outfit depth.
The one occasion which does, however, call for a matching belt is black tie – a slim black version will effortlessly pull together an all-black formal look.
Use Your Loops
Your suit shouldn’t require a belt to keep it up – that’s what a tailor’s for. But there’s something melancholy about a belt loop left idle.
You have two options: when your tailor’s taking in your waistband, have him unstitch the loops; or fill them with a slim, leather belt. As a rule, narrower means smarter (although stop before you get to shoelace width). Keep the chunky leathers for just as rugged workwear.
Flash In The Right Way
If you’re wary about outfit experimentation, then use your belt to dip a toe. The right bright can lift a staid work outfit or elevate off-duty monochromes.
“It’s like interior design,” say Hooson. “If you go nautical with a navy suit trouser, a grey crew-neck jumper and brown double monk-strap shoes – brighten that up with an orange, NATO style belt. Brown and orange work well together.”
Nail Your Fit
There are two kinds of oversized look: the wide, long-legged fits championed by brands such as Raf Simons and Vetements, or wearing clothes that are just too big for you.
A belt will not turn the latter into the former. Cinch a pair of baggy trousers and you’ll get unexpected pleats and a bumpy waistband. A belt is a way to wear trousers that don’t quite fit, not to pull off hand-me-downs.
It will, however, make wide legs easier to pull off – by splitting top and bottom, you balance mismatched proportions. A move that works as well today as it did in 1973.
Gieves & Hawkes
Superman Buckles Aren’t So Super
Remember those studded ‘Jesus Loves You’ belts that swept the high street some five years ago? Best leave them there. Modern style is all about simplicity with a twist, so keep it sophisticated and ditch the superhero buckles.
“With casual outfits you can get away with so much more,” says ASOS Insider Ashley Morrison, “Just make sure it’s not too crazy. Superman is cool, but not on your clothes.” Try a webbed, plaited leather or bold coloured canvas belt instead.
Steal A Runway Move
Runway looks rarely translate into reality – they’re conceived as an exaggerated concept for fashion magazines, not your commute. Still, there are one or two ideas which can work, like Gosha Rubchinskiy shoelace belts.
Adopted by skaters who found leather belts dug into their hips, they’re a simple way to bite menswear’s most hyped designer. “It’s cheap and effective,” says Hooson. “But not so good with a suit.”