Thanks to EG reader Ace for the article inspiration. Have a topic idea to share? Let me know.
Belts are one of those afterthoughts, aren’t they? Kind of like your wallet after you purchase it: you don’t really think about it until you need to buy another one, which, if you buy quality, won’t be for years.
So if you’re like me, make this purchase count so you won’t be full of regret for the lifespan of this thing.
In keeping with the Lean Wardrobe philosophy, let’s focus on necessity and figure out what exactly it is that you need. Not saying you can’t have more, not saying you don’t want more. But if you only had one, this is what it should be.
What to look for in a belt: some pointers
- Good quality leather (The stuff you find in the clearance aisle at Ross will hold your pants up, but they miss the mark in terms of “good quality”, in most cases)
- Dark brown or black (Depending on the color shoe you wear more… if you’re an avid EG reader, I’m going to assume you’re buying brown. Go you!)
- 1″ – 1.5″ width
- standard, classic design
- matte finished hardware (this is a preference, as some prefer polished, but I say go with something understated)
A belt is utilitarian, for the most part. It has a job and if it does so successfully, well, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t hurt to look good while doing its job, so buying something you like and find attractive is worth it.
I believe the things you use and touch the most in your everyday life should be of high quality… things like your wallet, your everyday bag, your favorite pair of denim. Most of us wear a belt every day, so add this to your splurge list once you have extra disposable income.
Keep it classic. You want this belt to go with everything (aside from, say, your tux… or your PJs), so classic styling with understated hardware is the best choice.
The many shades of brown
Brown shoes brown belt, black shoes black belt. You’ve heard the rule. Since brown leather comes in many shades, and since we’re taking about the one belt you need, just pick one that matches close enough to the color of your shoes.
It doesn’t have to be exact, just close. Your belt and shoes are worn far enough apart on your body that no one really notices.
If you’re a fan of tan or walnut colored leather, you’ll need a belt for that as well. Here’s one I love.
Size up? Maybe.
I’d say the belt fits if you’re two to three holes in from the tip of the belt. Any more, and your belt’s too big. If you’re hinging on the last hole, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room.
In the past I’ve bought belts that are one to two sizes bigger than my typical waist size (so if I’m a 32, I buy a 34 belt). You may have to do the same. Not sure why that is, but I find that to be a more comfortable length, and true to my “three holes in” rule.
Things to avoid
Big ol’ Western-style belt buckles, crazy leather designs, synthetic materials, fabric belts, LED buckles with programmable sayings, plastic bling.
By the way, remember that all these belts would technically be okay (save for those LED or cheap plastic bedazzled shits), depending on the situation. But this article is focusing on the one belt you need, if you only had one. So if you’re all defensive right about now because you totally love your saucer-sized Western buckle, don’t be.
If you own any of these and love them, that’s fine, but make sure you have that one classic belt that goes with everything, in practically every situation.
Here are two I love, that fit the descriptions I laid out above. Check it.
J.Crew leather plaque belt in classic brown – $49.50
Tanner Goods Standard leather belt in Havana – $88
Now you know what to look for the next time you’re buying a belt. These will go with everything, from your dark denim, to chinos, to your wool trousers.
Regardless of the brand, and even if you can only afford one of those clearance things at Ross, just stick with as many of the above pointers as possible, and you’ll be okay.