Got something important coming up and want to look your best? Maybe you're buying for yourself or for someone else. When it comes to dress belts there is literally thousands of possible options so here are 5 key things to consider beyond simply how it looks.
Dress belts: How it is made? Is it going to last?
Dress belts are designed for when you want to look your best. Often this will be at key moments in life such as a wedding, major birthday or a critical business meeting. Ideally the dress belt in your closet is going to stand the test of time but the key factor affecting this is how it's made and what it's made of.
Most dress belts are going to be made of leather but there is a confusing array of words used to describe leather but the only really long lasting options are either full grain leather or top grain leather. EVERYTHING else is going to be less durable. It's just the nature of the beast.
The other aspect of materials is what is the buckle made from. The vast majority of dress belts are going to be made with some kind of cheaper metal like zinc alloy as it can look a bit like a silver or gold at a fraction of the cost. Typically this will then have some kind of surface level coating or treatment. Both of these factors means a combination of heat, sweat and friction virtually ensure the belt won't look as good in just a year or so. The only option is to use highly durable materials such as actual silver or stainless steel. These materials are either more expensive or so tough they are expensive to work with. You literally get what you pay for.
The final aspect of how it's made that is key is the type of belt buckle that is used. The most popular style of belt buckle is a frame buckle
However the nature of these buckles means you are actively stressing the strap every time you take it on or off. Even high quality leather will get worn faster under these day to day conditions. The best option, especially for dress belts, is the buckle where it's simple a flat metal buckle which is attached to the strap at one end and the other end slides under the buckle and a pin under the buckle goes into a hole. This design is both more suited to formal or business attire but also will last longer.
How can the dress belt be worn
The worst item of clothing for a man is the one they can only wear once. Dress belts that can only be worn with one outfit will be limited and unlikely to ever make the position of 'favourite belt'. There is a range of factors that impact how broadly a dress belt could be worn.
Is it interchangeable?
If the colour of the strap can be swapped out the belt can be worn in more situations. This makes the belt more useful. Dress belts that don't have some way of being interchangeable don't provide as much optionality. The most common form of interchangeable buckle is a reversible buckle. It has a swivel at the buckle that allows the entire strap to be reversed so an alternative colour can be shown. These are sub-optimal for 3 reasons
- The swivel mechanism is likely to break, anything that moves eventually breaks
- To achieve two colours of leather means that you have two thin straps of leather bonded together. This will come apart and likely means lower quality leather is being used
- You are limited to just two colours, better than one, but marginally.
Being able to have an interchangeable belt that is made incredibly well so it lasts and gives you the option of more than just two colours is optimal
What are the dress belts dimensions?
The important thing to remember here is that pants come in a variety of sizes and weights. The loops that the belt goes through also do. If you buy a dress belt that doesn't fit the loops (ie not thin enough for a smaller belt look like you would find on a suit or pair of casual pants or shorts) then you won't be able to wear it with any of these outfits.
Conversely if the strap is not thick or firm enough then the strap will not work with more casual clothing like jeans. It simply won't be able to properly handle the weight of the material
What you are basically looking for is a belt that is somewhere in the goldilocks zone for thickness, width and sturdiness so that it works just as well with a fine suit, some weekend pants, a pair of nice jeans or semi-formal pants.
Is the dress belt buckle plastered with a logo
The majority of men would, all other things being equal, prefer their belt didn't have a logo on it. The problem with dress belts is that the usually have a solid metal buckle and the majority of brands can't help themselves. They see that wide open space and think it would be perfect for their logo. We talk a lot about the problems this creates from a sustainability perspective but on pure aesthetics alone if you can find a dress belt that doesn't have a visible logo on either the buckle or strap then it will be preferable to the majority of men.
Another advantage of no logo on a dress belt is that it will also go with more stuff. The logo will inevitably clash with some outfits.
What you are looking for is a highly regarded brand. One that is well known for quality, durability and design but that has the sensibility not to cover their buckle with their logo. Either no branding or something subtle that the wearer might see putting it on but that wouldn't be seen once it is being worn.
Can you customise it
When dress belts are bought for a special occasion such as a big meeting, a wedding or major milestone birthday a lot of people will want to customise it in some way to tie it to the occasion. Most dress belts sold are made by large brands that make a whole range of items and a belt is just another thing they make. You can tell if this is the case simply by going to their website and if belts show up in some sub-category they are not really focused on making great belts.
These types of companies typically won't provide you any form of customisation such as laser etching or engraving. If you wanted to add something unique for the occasion you'd have to get it done separately
Smaller brands will often offer bespoke services like this so they have a more unique proposition from the larger brands who operate a 'logo' fashion model.
Does it look timeless
There is a saying, 'good design is never out of fashion.'
Good dress belts are like jeans, jackets or shoes. When you buy the right one you own it for the rest of your life. It's not enough to simply make it durable, it has to be emotionally durable.
A lot of dress belts try too hard to be fancy, usually by unnecessary adornment or motifs. Designs like this inevitably date (i.e. don't age well) so over time the belt becomes less appealing day to day.
A great designed dress belt will adopt a timeless, understated design that will stand the test of time.
Final thoughts on choosing dress belts
Dress belts are a wardrobe item that should be bought only 1 - 2 times in a man's life. When you buy on, whether for yourself or someone else, it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford. Paying close attention to 5 critical factors above will help you land a belt that goes with everything, will last a long time, has a classic design and isn't a billboard.
This basically describes a YOKU men't belt. Our patented design enables the buckle and belt to be interchanged with no moving parts. It's made from stainless steel and full grain leather. It has zero visible branding and if you want to customise the buckle you can request this once you order.
Buy yours (or someone else's!) today.