Trying to look your best at work? Got a big event coming up like a wedding? If you're going to wear a suit then not having the perfect suit belt is going to let the entire outfit and look down.
To help you find the perfect suit belt we have created this checklist of the things you will want to get right.
Suit belts; getting the width right
Men's suits are fairly universal in the amount of space they have inside the belt loops to put the suit belt through. These loops are both smaller in height (the width for the belt) and are made of the same material as the suit, usually this is wool or a wool blend.
As a result a belt designed specifically for jeans is simply not going to fit into these loops or it will be a tight fit. Traditional belts made for jeans in an older / classic style will be either 30mm or 40mm (1 1/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch).
The ideal width for a suit belt is from 25mm to 28mm (~ 1 1/16 inch) so it can get through the loops. If its not wide enough then it won't be able to do it's primary function of being a belt and will also look out of place.
Thickness in a suit belt
Not to be confused with width, the thickness is also a key factor in finding the perfect suit belt. The belt loops in suit pants are not only a certain height but also tend to be quite close to the suit pants meaning a belt that is too thick will not fit easily, even if the width is ok.
Simply getting the thinnest belt possible doesnt work however as the belt needs to be stiff enough to be easily pushed through the belt loops. Thin belts also tend to be made from less durable parts of the leather.
To get the thickness right you basically are looking for the sweet spot which is no more than around 3.5mm (1/8th of an inch) thickness for the strap itself (ignore the buckle).
The right strap material for suit belts
It goes without saying that the default option for a suit belt strap is leather but that isn't specific enough for the perfect suit belt. We have done another post explaining various parts of the leather that could be used for a men's leather belt if you want to go deep.
The headline is this; Be sure to buy full grain or top grain only.
Leather that is one of these two options is going to last longer than any other form of leather. The last thing you want as a guy is to find the perfect suit belt only to have it break a few years later.
If you see a leather belt strap described with any of these words
- Real leather
- Genuine leather
- Bonded leather
- Corrected grain leather
then it's not a Full Grain leather belt (or top grain leather) and should be avoided
You will pay a bit more for this choice but it's a false economy buying anything else. It will let you down in a few years.
Buckle type for suit belts
There is dozens of types of belt buckles available, the most common is the frame buckle, however this is not the buckle you want for a suit belt.
A suit is a classic item of men's clothing which is defined by simple lines, colours and a timeless design. This is especially true of the suit pants specifically.
Given this the majority of belt buckles are completely unsuitable as a suit belt as they simply not fine or minimal enough to work with the overall look of a suit. We have done an entire article on dress belts but the main takeaway is that the optimal choice for a suit belt is going to be a flat metal buckle.
In this buckle the strap slides under the buckle and is attached through a hole via a pin on the underside of the buckle. This gives the belt a flat, minimal look that compliments and supports the classic nature of a suit.
For a suit belt the buckle should not be trying to say or do too much. If you see any of these options
- Frame buckle
- Novelty buckle (just don't please)
- Overly complex motifs or mix of materials
then this will not work with the suit, shirt or the other accessories (tie, cufflinks etc)
The only real choice for a suit belt is to get a flat buckle from a single metal in either a matte, brushed or polished finish.
Mechanism is just a fancy word for 'how it works'. The most common flat buckle is permanently attached to a single leather strap of a single colour. There nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach but a single colour for the strap is limiting in terms of optionality. Sometimes a colour OTHER than black or brown would make a suited outfit work even better (tan can look great!).
Some suit belts tackle this challenge by being reversible. This mechanism basically has a swivel attached to the buckle and allows you to reverse the strap and it has one colour one side and a different on the other.
Whilst common the problem with this mechanism is two fold.
- Things that move break. If it's not made incredibly well then it its likely to break within just a couple of years
- Two colours of leather means it's two pieces stuck or bonded together. As mentioned above this is going to be weaker. The two parts will come apart given enough heat and moisture which all belts are subject to when worn day in day out.
If you can, the ideal outcome is to have a belt mechanism that allows for a degree of interchangeability that is made well.
Durability; suit belts that are made to last
Whilst a combination of the factors above we thought it worth calling out separately given how important it is. A suit belt that is not going to last is just not worth spending money on. All or any of the following factors impact how long it will last
- Poor quality leather
- Cheap metal for the buckle
- Frame buckle design (especially if paired with thin or cheap leather)
- Swivel buckle or buckle with teeth, both tend not to last
- Unnecessary stitching in the leather
There others but these are the main ones. If the brand/company that makes the belt makes lots of other things as well then it's highly likely that making a suit belt so that it lasts is simply not a priority for them.
What you want to look for is strong and consistent messaging around the durability of the belt. If they have some form of workmanship guarantee or other lifetime guarantee then this ideal.
The perfect suit belt should last a lifetime. It will typically be under a lot less stress than a traditional belt worn in outside or more extreme environments so there is no excuse for it not to outlast its owner.
Lack of branding
This last one is both surprising and obvious. In hundreds of interviews with men looking for the perfect suit belt over 3 years YOKU determined one key thing. Men don't want to be a walking billboard for a fashion brand, especially not around their waist.
What is surprising is the number of brands, especially those who we describe a 'logo fashion' [LINK], who can't help but stick their logo on that flat metal buckle.
Not only is the actual logo of the company likely to clash with whatever you might be wearing but it also completely goes against the overall look of a mens suit. What is ideal is a buckle design that is minimal and contemporary that is confident enough to let the belt work with the overall look rather than trying to compete with it or vie for attention.
Branded belts and suits simply don't work together.
Closing thoughts for the perfect suit belt
To choose the ideal suit belt simply look for the following 7 items
- Around 28mm (1 1/16 inch) width
- Around 3.5mm (1/8th inch ) thickness
- Full grain or top grain leather
- Flat metal buckles
- Interchangeable, but only if built to last
- Durable, look for brands that talk about this a lot
- No branding, at least not visible to anyone else