Ask Esquire: 'I Need Advice About Belts'

IMAGE Unsplash/ Tyler Nix

We've got an interesting question over at Esquire HQ. Myron S from IT asks: 

“Hey, Esquire Guy, how do use this thing called a belt?” 

“Uh, you wear it?”


But seriously, the answer is this: You don't need a belt. 

The function of the belt is to secure a pair of trousers, pants, jeans, or summer shorts on your person. In other words, the belt makes sure you are not under the constant threat of exposing yourself because your pair of trousers, pants, jeans, or shorts is slowly sliding down your bottom with each step. 

If these articles of clothing fit correctly, as in they sit where they should be (around the waist or a little below it, if that's your preference) and stay there, then there really is no need to loop a strip of leather or fabric around them.  

1| The case for going beltless
We are advocates of the simple and sleek, and foregoing the belt on, say, a two-piece suit or a shirt-and-jeans combo is one of the cleanest style moves you can do right now. 

The belt, for all its functional abilities to hold things up, cuts you in half and emphasizes your midsection. It creates an angry, hard line around your waist, making you look shorter and rounder. 

But imagine this: a coat and, more important, a pair of immovable trousers that both fit impeccably, a shirt in pink or powder blue, black oxfords, and no belt. Doesn't that look natty? You are one tall, uninterrupted drink of inky blue Italian cashmere.


And you feel better, too, because there is no jangly belt weighing your waist down (will come in handy when in need of a quick whiz).  

2| Do you know these things called side tabs?
A well-built pair of trousers fits so well that you don't need anything else to keep it around your waist. They also, in lieu of a belt and belt loops and in favor of a little give, have these things called side tabs. These are fabric mini-belts that can be adjusted according to your needs (as in before and after a pancake feast). In other words, you don't need a belt.  

3| But okay, if you really must wear one
We know. We don't live in a perfect world, and many men, including Myron S, will not have access to magic clothes that fit them perfectly (why?!). If only to avoid one of the annoying things a man does in public, the hoisting upward of his pants every five minutes, sometimes you do need to wear a belt. 

Following the rules of building a non-fussy shoe or watch wardrobe, get one in a very formal black, an informal brown, and then something a little fun. It is because another set of rules, the pairing rules, dictate that you match the color of your belt with the color of your shoes. Naturally, you will have black, brown, and fun shoes, right?

A few suggestions: a leather belt in midnight with a silver buckle, a braided leather belt in rich brown with a gold buckle, and a striped surcingle belt. Choose the right size (a dangling tongue is unappealing) and stay away from anything too wide.  

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4| Browns are puzzles
You'll have no problem with black, because a black belt goes with anything. Brown belts, on the other hand, are the Lokis of men's accessories. They are tricksy tricksters. 

Rules say that the colors of belt and shoe should match, but brown, unlike black, comes in too many iterations, from deep chocolates to light honeys. The trick is getting as close as you can. Stay in the same range, but no need to match the exact shade.  

5| While you're at it, consider finish
The only time when this matters is when shine is involved. A very shiny black patent belt with a not-as-shiny pair of black brogues will look off. Best thing to do: Don't get a very shiny black patent belt unless you have very shiny black patent dress shoes to go with it.  

6| “But I am wearing jeans and sneakers”
The rules become relaxed when entering the jeans-and-sneakers territory. A canvas belt in green stripes, a leather belt in black, and a woven belt in brown are all acceptable. No one will send you to fashion prison if your belt doesn't match your sneaker or jeans or shirt, but it wouldn't hurt either if it picks up a shade from whatever you are wearing. 

And if someone raises an eyebrow about your non-matching ways, do yourself a favor and avoid this style narc who is taking himself too seriously. Geez, it's just a belt.  

7| The joys of wearing a belt
A belt, like a tie, is a flourish. As long as it does not disrupt your flow (make you look like a stumpy blimp), go ahead and garnish your threads.


We are fond of the braided leather belt because it says: “I am serious but not very” or “I work in a cubicle trap, but know how to party.” The loops of intertwined leather convey a nonchalant energy or a dash of coolness that can sort out too-perfect clothing or dress up a casual rig. 

8| Got that?
Well, did you? Like other articles of clothing, the use of a belt is a sartorial responsibility. It can be a great addition to what you are wearing or it can trip you up. 

If you ask us—and you are!—the simplest thing to do is to get a pair of pants that fits you well. (Go thee to the tailor.) That way you don't need to remember all of these rules and fuss around with a belt.

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Clifford Olanday
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