What to Look For When You Buy a BeltWritten by Gavin Humphreys
Belt up, we’re in for a ride.
Let’s not beat around the bush - belts and buckles separate the below-par shabby man from the big-league fabby man.
When you buy a belt, you are choosing the item that sits smack-in-the-middle of your outfit. It is literally at the center of everything else you wear. Whether that be a smart suit or casual jeans and tee, the belt should look the part.
When you invest in a belt, you need to take several things into consideration.
It’s not one-look-fits-all. There are rules to follow (or break) and lots of fashion tips. It is also essential to search out quality and durability.
This blog intends to give a resumé of what to look for and think about when you buy and wear a belt.
Although there are some other materials out there, a good leather belt with a brass buckle has proven unsurpassable over the centuries.
Leather is the quintessential material for a classic belt.
Look for a belt that is made from full-grain leather - this means that it is the complete thickness of the hide, and has not been split. Lesser materials, such as corrected-grain leather or faux leather will not age as nicely or last as long.
How do you spot full-grain leather? Firstly, ask. At Beckett Simonon we are proud of the fact we use the best leather, and it’s usually not something that people hide!
Secondly, look over the leather. Full-grain leather often is pretty obvious - it retains natural colorings and markings of the cowhide. Feel it - to the touch, leather should feel gentle, like soft skin. If it feels plasticky, it probably is plastic.
If it has slight imperfections or variations in color, that is a dead giveaway that it’s the real deal.
Bend the leather - outward, you should see it gently change color. If you bend it inward, you will see little wrinkles. After all, this is animal skin.
As well as the classic full-grain leather belts with a nubuck inner lining, Beckett Simonon offers belts in full-grain suede and gorgeous one-piece vegetable-tanned leather.
Our suede Nelson Belts are an unusual and attractive addition to an outfit. Suede leather is soft to the touch and easygoing on the eye. This material is water-resistant because of natural ingredients added into the tanning process. It's also not as tough to look after as its reputation!
Vegetable-tanned leather is a hardy, rustic option that is firm and solid. The Molina Belt is also quite broad (as a rule, less formal belts will be a bit broader - for that reason, the rungs in your jeans will also be wider). You can immediately see that our Molina Belt is crafted from one thick piece of leather, so should last many years.
The origin of the leather is also very important. Not only does the tanner influence the quality - but also the impact that that leather has had on the environment, and the well-being of the livestock and workers in the tannery.We source our belt leather from an Italian tannery that is steeped in tradition.
The Mastrotto Tannery in the idyllic Venetian town of Arzignano was founded in 1958, and is still run by the same family.
They recently achieved a gold-rating for environmental and working standards - and this is what attracted us to begin our partnership with them to source all our leather.
What’s more, they tan the thick, hard leather used in the Molina belts using an ancient vegetable-tanning method that uses natural ingredients.
Dressing responsibly can have an impact on how you feel about yourself, how others feel about you, and how you look. Plus, knowing about your clothing’s origins is always a great conversation starter!
Your buckle doesn’t need to be bold, but it should be brass.
Our buckles are made from brass that is forged by hand, using age-old techniques - the molten metal is poured into a sand mold that is crafted for each piece. This ensures quality and strength every time.
Brass has also become the most popular material for belt buckles because it doesn’t rust. If you are wearing your belt out and about, you don’t want to worry about not getting it wet!
Brass is an alloy, so depending on what ratio the metals are mixed, it can come in a range of colors. Our Molina Belts have a traditional, golden-colored brass buckle. Meanwhile, the Nelson Belts have a more silvery color.
Other metals you might find are pewter or stainless steel. These are not as classic but can be quite attractive when done well.
Matching the colors
The color of your belt is in immediate side-by-side contrast with your pants and your shirt. Interestingly, it is almost more immediately compared with your shoes and perhaps other accessories when we cast our eye over an outfit.
This isn’t a blog about matching - but it’s something to consider when you are buying belts. You should be aware of how it will fit into your wardrobe.
Matching colors with your outfit
Our belts come in a range of up to five colors - to decide which colors match with your outfit, it’s worth developing a working knowledge of the color wheel.
Colors that you find next to each other (in other words, that are similar) work well together. The other simple rule is that you can also choose colors that are on the opposite side of the wheel - that’s why a blue suit with tan belt and shoes works so well.
It’s fairly safe to say that black belts go great with pretty much everything.
There is lots more information out there if you want to develop your color matching know-how. The Beckett blog post about how to match shoes with pants is a great place to start!
Matching colors with your shoes
Invest in belts that are going to match with your shoes - this forethought will have you always looking on top form.
The ideal situation is when a company sells belts that match their shoes. This will ensure that your purchases are similar colors.
That is what originally inspired Beckett Simonon to start the line of belts. By using the same high-quality leather, our designers have developed a range of belts to go superbly with our shoes, boots, and sneakers.
The colors don’t have to match exactly (although it’s extra-smart when they do) but try to get it as close as possible. A similar material and tone is enough to be pleasing to the eye.
As you can see below, the colors don’t need to be identical, nor does the type of leather - these Oxblood-color pebbled-leather Dowler Boots and look stunning with an Oak-color Nelson Belt.
If you like to keep a minimalistic wardrobe, the important thing is to own quality belts that match your shoes. If you pare down your wardrobe to own five essential pairs of shoes, boots, and sneakers, then make sure that you own the best two or three belts that will always match.
When combining shoes and belts, this should influence your choice of accessories. Again go for similar shades of metal, and for accents (such as a pocket square or watch) try to go for something that works well with the belt and shoes.
Smart vs. casual
When you are buying a belt, you should be aware that some are smarter than others.
For casual options, if the belt has designs or markings, it is less formal than a sleek design. Equally, a belt with an ostentatious buckle or a clasp is at the not-so-formal end of the scale.
Dress belts are usually a little narrower and lighter than less formal options.
As I mentioned above, Beckett Simonon has a range of three styles, which are varying in their formality.
The Nelson Belts is the most formal and has an attractive thin outline. The calfskin outer layer and nubuck inner layer are beautifully sewn and finished by our artisans to work great with dress pants or a suit.
That’s not to say that they don’t look stunning to dress up a nice pair of jeans!
The Suede Nelson Belts are the same design, but the choice of material is better suited for semi-formal occasions (this is equally true for suede shoes).
Molina Belts are a superb option for a rugged gentleman look because they combine hardiness with elegance.
Alternatives to belts
If you want to vary your outfits or if you are dressing for an occasion, it’s a good idea to consider including alternatives to belts into your wardrobe.
Some pants sustain themselves with a tightening system - like Miami Man wears in his distinctive post-apocalyptic outfit. The most formal suits will be tailored with this system.
If you go for suspenders, never combine with a belt - that’s a no-no. Equally, you should never wear a vest with a belt.
For black-tie events, you can go for a cummerbund (again, this replaces the belt).
However, for 99.9% of your day-to-day life, belts are likely to be the best option.
A belting finish
So, to summarize, it’s important to take into account several things when you buy your belt, especially:
- Quality of the materials
- Matching the colors
- Smart vs. casual design
Furthermore, you should always consider your wardrobe and the styles that you enjoy to dress in and fit your personality. After all, if you feel comfortable, you will look and perform at your best.
Make sure you have a good, high-quality collection that you can call upon when you need it. There is nothing worse than getting ready to go out, and you can’t find an outfit that matches - you waste your time trying to find solutions when all you need is a little pre-meditation in your purchase choices.
If you have any questions about buying belts, such as the sizing option that you should go for, the Beckett Simonon team are always happy to answer your doubts.
You can leave me a comment, too - what do you look for in a belt?
So, get belting and invest wisely when it comes to belts. After all, they are the one accessory that we all need!