Gentlemen: Unless you’re wearing a swimsuit, you should be wearing a belt. We know that they can be constricting, but they can be adjusted after large meals and should be worn with anything that has belt loops: jeans, chinos, even shorts. You get a pass with sweatpants, but otherwise, be equipped with the basic belts that every man needs.
Black Dress Belt
Start out with a simple, unpatterned, mid-width black leather belt with a sleek silver buckle. One of these can take you from the office to an elegant wedding, with a quick stop at a bar along the way. Spend a little money on this staple, because you can spot a cheap model a mile away, and it will fray or even crack on you. This will be your go-to belt, so buy a second version of the plain black belt before you branch out with visible stitching and exotic leathers.
Brown Dress Belt
Brown shoes call for a brown belt—no cheating. Something with a respectable polish can be dressed up or down, and again, this accessory is an investment, so pony up for a brand you respect, or let your tailor pick it out for you. Look for something in the mid- to dark-brown range, and you should be safe. (Tom Ford uses words like “teak” or “fango” instead of “brown,” but you don’t have to get into that.) When you’re ready, branch out into cognac or even burgundy belts.
You can be more rugged with a casual belt, something you can wear with jeans or shorts without having to think about it. Stick to something in the chestnut family for maximum versatility. You can try something braided if you are adventurous, but it should always somehow look as if it would be at home around horses. As they age, the perfect casual belt will look even better—but they don’t live forever. If you find a favorite, buy a backup.
Honestly, if you’re a fairly low-maintenance guy, that’s it. Decent-quality versions of these will get you through a full life. You can add on with optional styles, like a slim belt, which has a more modern effect for dressier occasions, or a wider belt to support that enormous rodeo buckle. Fabric belts can inject some color in the summer, and suede belts are great for casualwear.
There’s nothing wrong with something flashy; if it jumps out at you in the store and gives you some swagger, go ahead and give it a good home. Have some fun with bolder colors and show off with some eye-catching textures. Wear a statement belt with pride—just not every day, and probably not to a job interview.
The number of basic belts that every man needs can vary, but just three building blocks are the start to any collection. Develop your own style one belt at a time and learn to trust your instincts. Just be sure to keep those championship wrestling belts on the wall.