Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

A Good Belt

Coach's Stirrup Belt
(Coach’s Stirrup Belt)

In response to a reader’s question about which belt is appropriate to which occasion.

As many long time readers of Easy and Elegant Life know, I prefer to have my trousers made with side straps. The trousers to my suits have neither strap nor belt loop as I wear them with braces so that they fall correctly and therefore look much better. I do own some off the rack garments and every pair of ready to wear trousers I have calls for a belt (although I have had the suits tailored to fit and had the belt loops removed on two of them.)

So which belt to choose and why? Obviously you need at least two if you wear more than just black, cordovan or brown shoes, for your dress belt must match your shoes in finish and colour. I would also say that the hardware should match all other metal you wear, but that’s going a bit too far in my opinion, as long as the buckle is discreet. I wear a gold wedding band, sometimes a gold signet and stainless steel watch, so there’s that issue.

Another issue is actually finding a quality belt in which to invest. Most belts are made of two rather thin strips of leather that are glued together over a plastic lining. Was it “glued” or “plastic” that made you wince?

In terms of elegance, the general rules apply. Thin, as always, is in. My belts are roughly one inch wide.

Wider belts, although utilitarian, especially if there are to be holsters for various devices suspended from them, are to be avoided. There was somewhat of a fad for them as they matched those square-toed Frankenstein shoes that were popular for some reason. And even if you are constantly in business casual dress, they just strike the wrong note.

There are a couple of good brands of belt out there — or at least there used to be. Coach and Trafalgar spring to mind.

I have owned two Coach belts in my “adult” life. The first saw me through high school and college. It was only that dreaded day when my waistline passed the 32″ mark that I was forced to buy my second, around 1990. I chose black for both.

My favourite brown belt is a glazed crocodile strap by Ralph Lauren that I got at a deep discount. With it, I wear a detachable, engine turned silver slide buckle engraved with my initials. I love the colourful ones that ADG has Flusser’s people make up for him.

Finishes on your belt should be roughly equivalent to those of your shoes. If you wear dress shoes, your belt should not be distressed, stitched, feathered or studded. Look for glove leather, bridle leather, cordovan, Cortina, calf skin. The exception is the exotic skins line. If you choose an exotic, get a real one. I like crocodile and alligator, make sure it is graded and Louisiana (a lot of alligator is caiman passed off as the real thing.) Glazed or not is your choice. Check the size of the scales, too. You’re probably looking for even sizes and smallish scales. (Ron Rider of Rider Boots knows an awful lot about hides, seek him out for involved questions and a seriously good product, if he offers belts these days.)

Casual belts run the gamut from woven leather to surcingle, ribbon and cotton webbing. You can get away with a thicker belt if you are wearing chunkier shoes or boots. Casual belts are suitable for jeans and khakis. For the most fun you’ll have reading about belts head over to The Trad’s spot for Fridays’ belts and a belt posts. Tintin has a way.

Hope that helps.

8 thoughts on “A Good Belt

  1. Great subject for a post! I agree that more attention needs to be given to this accessory. I find that most men wear belts with buckles that are too thick, or bulky, giving an unrefined look. The most difficult thing is to find a buckle that is neither too bulky nor too diminutive. The buckle of the Coach belt you’ve shown, too my eye, is just the perfect proportion to be elegant. One annoying thing I find about shopping for men’s belts is the lack of colour choice. You can have black, black, brown, or black. I find this most noticeable when looking for leather in beige, camel, tans, etc. to wear with summer trousers. With regard to cow leather, I was told European is better because they use dairy cows which live several years and are grass fed and don’t have weak, fatty hides as opposed to beef cows which are fed grain and live a much shorter life to be served as tender steaks. Their hides have some of the “marbling” that makes them have weaknesses and are not nearly as durable.

    I’ve dissected the products of Gucci and found them lacking in quality material and have noted questionable construction (your glue and plastic comes to mind!). When in doubt, go Coach, Ghurka, Hermès, Trafalgar, or even some that I’ve found fairly recently at Eddie Bauer that were made in England at a most reasonable price.

    And for summer, don’t forget the silk necktie as a belt…it is simple, charming in a Brideshead Revisited sort of way, and always brings compliments. And you can re-cycle that otherwise unusable tie with the small vichyssoise stain that won’t be seen when it is around your waist!

    Square with Flair

  2. I love belts and we have a favorite expression round here, “tighten the belt”
    Have you seen these incredible belt buckles – Christopher Ross….fox heads, frogs, hares, etc, they are grand and would be a nice fashion statement for tightening the belt.

  3. What a good post! As you rightly observe the vast majority of belts, even those from the big design houses, range from outrageously bad to just quite bad, even when sold for big bucks. What you should look for is bridle leather as it will last the average person forever. There are some maker in both the UK and the US (including me) who still make things the way they should be made, be we are few and far between. Our website is http://www.equusleather.co.uk and I think we have a good selection of handmade bridle leather belts if anyone is interested in seeing the UK take on belt making

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