You know how to match shoes and belts together, but you may still be having difficulty in deciding where and when to sport a particular style of belt.

Finding a good combination can often be fraught with problems; what size to wear, what materials when, and even buckle dilemmas are abound.

However, you’ll be glad to know there are only two basic styles to choose from – formal and casual. Both have their place in your wardrobe, but always be careful not to get the two confused:


Formal belts are commonly black, brown or tan. They are almost always leather or leatherette, although exotic variants, such as lizard skin, do exist. When choosing a formal belt, always stick with a simple, metal-colored buckle – save those oversized cowboy variants for another day!


Casual belts are typically cotton, polyester or nylon, but come in a range of colors, shades and patterns. Checks, stripes and zebra prints are all a lot of fun, but can look a little zany if not worn right. If in doubt, stick with simple shades that complement your favorite footwear; these will always look good with the right pair of jeans.

How to wear formal belts

Formal belts should fit snugly around the waist. Always try and find a belt that’s a size up from your waist measurement: therefore if you have a 35 inch waist, you should be buying a 36 inch belt.

If you are in a situation where you’re wearing a clean, crisp white shirt, you should be wearing a nice formal belt – never go strapless on these occasions; formal wear without a belt looks too relaxed.

Finally, always remove the belts from garments once you’re done for the day. Leaving them in the loops weakens both trousers and belt. Hang them loose in your closet; storing them buckled up will break the leather.

How to wear casual belts

Casual belts are far more flexible – both stylistically and physically. Feel free to be more experimental with your look. Move the buckle slightly off-centre to give a more relaxed impression.

Avoid wearing elasticized belts and bands though. These cinch your waist, giving the impression you’ve chosen to look like a ‘sack of potatoes’. Paul Gallo also reminds us in his blog:

“When wearing shoes in bright colors … wearing a belt in the same color will often seem like too much of a good thing. If you are wearing red shoes I can pretty much guarantee that your shoes are the focal point of your outfit and a red belt would only serve to knock your look right over the edge. Consider a brown that has some red tone to it like a caramel color or such. If your brightly colored shoes have a dark sole you may choose a belt that compliments the tones there instead of the upper.”

Finally, if you’re still stuck as to what goes with what, take a quick browse at the mannequins on display at your local male fashion emporium. See how they try to make the belts match up? That’s what you want to try and replicate for yourself.

About The Author

Johnathan Bell is the founder, owner and main author of Guy Style Guide, a website dedicated to everyday male fashion, style and grooming. The primary mission? To guide clueless men through the tricky mindfield that is the growing world of male couture. Find him on , Twitter and Tumblr.

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