Whether you're looking to buy the best men's belt for yourself or for someone else there is a set of things you will want to consider. Whilst there is no one single best men's belt by considering these factors you can get the best for the person you are buying for.
What you ultimately want is for this belt to be your (or their, if buying for someone else) favourite belt.
To achieve this consider these 4 factors firstly
- Who is wearing it
- How will it be worn
- What colours does it come in
- How long will it last
The best men's belt for a certain type of style
Belts basically come in two styles.
- Belts that are aiming to be the feature of the outfit
- Belts that are aiming to compliment the outfit
If you are looking for a belt to be the focus of the outfit then getting a style that perfectly fits the person wearing it is critical. For some people this may be a subculture that they identify strongly with (e.g. American country or a particular sports team ) or an aesthetic they are going for (loud, flashy, modern etc). There is nothing inherently wrong with a belt of this style but ultimately a belt that aligns to a very specific and strong identity will likely be more limiting in terms of when it can be worn. It will always be trying to compete with whatever else is being worn. It may also risk losing its relevance over time as people's tastes change.
The other type of belt is one that itself is not trying to make a statement, but rather designed to go with a broad range of outfits. These belts still come in a variety of styles but are more classic or traditional designs. The two most common types of belts in this category are frame buckle belts or dress belts. These types of belts have a far stronger chance of becoming 'your favourite belt' as there is a greater opportunity to wear them over an extended period of time.
How will it be worn has a big impact
The best men's belt is the one you want to wear every day so it is of course important to consider what else is worn every day. If you are wearing a suit or business casual to work 5 days a week then this impacts what type of belt can be worn most days of the week. If your daily wardrobe is heavy jeans or work wear (as in outside work not a keyboard warrior work) then you're going to do better by choosing a heavier weight of belt.
In terms of the two most likely options there are
- Dress belts for people who in casual, office. (indoor) or suit type clothing mainly
- Traditional belts for people who are in work wear / outdoor wear generally
It's definitely not black and white, there are very heavy set dress belts and there are more traditional belts that will work nicely with a suit but in general these rules apply.
What colours does it come in?
The overwhelming colour choice for belts is black, brown and tan in that order. Most belts can be bought in these colours however the vast majority of belts are not interchangeable. This means if you are buying one belt then you are making a decision to only wear the one colour you choose. This is a major limiting factor when trying to find the best men's belt as again by choosing a single colour you limit the potential of the belt to be worn as much as possible.
Some belts that are interchangeable use a mechanism that either isn't that durable (locking teeth on leather) or means the leather strap isn't that durable (reversible belts have two bits of leather that is bonded and these come apart).
Your ideal outcome is to find a belt that has the ability to swap out different colours but have high confidence that the mechanism is built to last.
The best men's belt needs to last a LONG time
Ultimately the best men's belt is the one that 10 year (or more) years from now you look back on and say 'this is my favourite belt' or 'I'd hate to lose this belt, I wear it every day'.
Durability therefore is the most critical factor. There is a lot that goes into making a belt that will last a long time.
Firstly the choice of materials matters more than anything. If you use cheap leather or the wrong type of leather it simply won't last. If you use cheap metal allows they will quickly degrade and while they may still 'work' the will make the belt look tired and busted up.
Secondly, the design needs to ensure durability. The most critical thing here to know is that if something moves it has greater potential to wear down. Traditional belt designs with a frame buckle essentially create wear and tear on the leather every single time they are taken on or off. This can be offset by using very high quality full grain leather and the wearer taking good care of the leather but designs that have no moving parts will avoid this problem altogether.
Lastly, the product and brand needs to create emotional durability. This is where the owner wants to wear it and own it for a long period of time. Part of this comes about simply by the act of having it for a long time and wearing it every day but the rest is through ensuring the design is timeless. The other aspect of creating long term emotional durability is that the brand who makes the belt is aligned from a values perspective.
If you value good design, sustainability and prefer to buy better and own less then the best men's belt for you is going to be from a company aligned to this.
What should I look to avoid
Another way to find the best men's belt is to quickly remove belts from brands/companies with the following attributes
Low quality materials
It's impossible to make the best belt with poor quality materials. Things to avoid are
- Metal buckles in anything OTHER than stainless steel, silver, brass or or a very hard and durable metal
- Belts that aren't Full Grain Leather Belts or at least made from Top Grain Leather
If you see the words zinc alloy, genuine leather, bonded leather, leather, real leather then run a mile.
Whilst more of a general rule than an absolute if you are looking at a 'designer belt' then you are basically paying a lot of money for a logo and the marketing behind it rather than the quality of the product itself. Designer belts work by creating a 'look' and then sticking their logo on it and what you are paying for really is to say to the world 'I have this look'.
For some people that is what they want (whether consciously or otherwise) but in over 100 interviews with men over 3 years around their favourite belt not one of them had a designer belt that they loved. Often someone else bought it for them and they either never wore it or they wore it for a brief period before realising it wasn't a brand they wanted to be a part of or advertise.
If you see a logo of the brand heavily featured on the belt or buckle then is most cases this is unlikely to be the best men's belt for all the reasons started above.