Let’s be honest: belts are uncomfortable. There, I said it. They actually get more uncomfortable as the day wears on (yes, really, because your weight actually fluctuates throughout the day).
So why are we all wearing something so uncomfortable if it doesn’t even work?
It’s time to make the switch to a belt alternative. Here’s why belts don’t work and a few ideas on what to wear instead.
How Can I Make My Pants Tighter Without a Belt?
From a pure utilitarian standpoint, if your belt keeps your pants up, it’s technically doing its job. However, from a style and comfort standpoint, simply keeping your pants from falling down up isn’t enough. Also, a lot of belts fail to meet even the basic utilitarian metric.
If you’re in search of other solutions that help keep your pants from falling down, please check out my How To Keep Pants From Falling Down. 13 Killer Solutions article.
This may not be the belt’s fault per se. For a belt to keep your pants up without cutting into your stomach, they have to rest on your butt and hips. So if you don’t have a butt or hips, the alternative is to cinch your belt so much that it cuts into your low belly, thus the muffin top look. It’s uncomfortable and socially awkward.
For a lot of people, the solution is to find a way of holding up your pants that doesn’t rely on your butt and hips — in other words, not a belt. There are a couple of ways to tackle this, depending on your personal preference and personal style.
What if I Have a Big Stomach?
If you’re like a lot of middle-aged guys facing the growing-middle-shrinking-butt problem, you have options. Better still, many of them are more comfortable than a belt.
Basically, think about the mechanics of how you hold your pants up. If the issue is a belt digging into your stomach, look for options that sidestep this. Either way, for guys with a big stomach, pay attention to tailoring. This often gets tossed by the wayside, but it actually makes the world of difference for keeping your pants up without making it impossible to breathe.
Alternatives to Wearing a Belt
With that in mind, here are several great alternatives to wearing a belt.Keep in mind that these will depend on your personal preference, your style, and where you’re going (and the associated dress code).
Don’t feel limited to one option — there’s a whole new wonderful, beltless world out there.
1. Well-Tailored Pants
Well-tailored pants: they’re not just for bespoke suits anymore.
Once upon a time, in ye olden days when everyone’s clothes were made expressly for them, tailoring was a feature of everyday life. Then ready-to-wear clothes came along, which is actually why we have belts in the first place. Jeans were one of the earliest forms of ready-to-wear clothing made expressly for workmen, but because the items were no longer made-to-order, jeans manufacturers introduced the concept of belt loops to compensate for the fact that one size does not fit all.
Now, it’s time to bring tailored pants back – especially pants tailored at the waist. When you buy clothes off the rack, get yourself to a tailor and get your new pants refitted.
Suspenders are now an icon of hipster clothes and quirky style, but they’re not an invention of the too-cool crowd. They were actually invented in 1822 by a British fashion designer called Albert Thurston. At the time, people wore them religiously–there wasn’t any competitor at the time.
That all changed when belts were invented. Even so, belts were mostly used for military uniforms as decoration until after WWI, when trousers were cut to sit lower on the waist and men became accustomed to belts. Suspenders didn’t resurge in major popularity until the 1990s and early 2000s, when a hip-hop icon called Fonzworth Bentley popularized them.
These days, they’re more of a fashion choice, but they’re still highly functional. Plenty of men find them more comfortable than belts, and they work on pants without belt loops.
Where to buy: Amazon
3. Hikers Hidden Suspenders
Designed to be worn under your untucked shirt, keeping them hidden, Hikers is a belt alternative as well as an alternative to traditional suspenders. One simple attachment point at the front button hole of your pants, and one at the back.
As an added bonus, Hikers won’t pop off your pants like most suspenders, thanks to their innovative fastening method. Made in USA. Free shipping to USA residents.
Note: If you wear your shirt tucked in, Hikers won’t work for you. See the other products below.
Where to buy: hikersco.com
4. Elastic Waistband
Absent a well-tailored pair of pants, an elastic waistband is the next best thing. Actually, as comfort goes, these are the most comfortable belt alternative. Plus, an elastic waistband expands and contracts with you, so there’s no issue if you gain or lose weight.
Fortunately, pants with an elastic waistband are easy to spot and don’t require outside investment from the pants, like suspenders or a tailor. The downside is that pants with an elastic waistband tend to be on the casual side.
5. Side Tab Adjusters
Side adjusters are a little like a belt without the all-around discomfort or the permanency of tailoring. They’re small buckles, usually one at each hip, that allow you to cinch the waist in about an inch or so on either side.
These are a great option for men who need formality for work-appropriate attire but don’t want to rock suspenders. The downside is that they can have the same cinching effect as a belt, so it’s a question of what feels comfortable to you.
There’s a great article about the Features of A Pair of Pants on gentlemansgazette.com that covers side adjusters. So, if you’re looking for a belt alternative, think about purchasing pants with side adjusters.
PantsProp (patent pending) is a super cool silicone-like grip designed to prop up your pants, and keep them from falling down past your hips.
You attach it to the bottom of your shirt just below your belt line, one on each side, and it creates a slight ridge for the waistline of your pants to sit on. Use in conjunction with your favorite belt or even try a stretch/elastic belt (I LOVE these!! See link below).
PantsProp offers free shipping to USA residents.
BeltBro is basically the lovechild of elastic waistbands and belts. Instead of a belt buckle, a BeltBro uses a strip of elastic (or even elastic all the way around your waist) and uses a velcro closure in the place of a belt buckle. This makes them way more comfortable than your average belt, more flexible than side tab adjusters, and less of an overt fashion statement than suspenders.
The downside of a BeltBro or a similar device is that they’re not really acceptable in a formal setting. In cases where you’re wearing work attire like a suit, you have to wear a proper belt. But for a more casual work setting or just hanging out, a BeltBro is a great option.
Where to buy: beltbro.com
More Style Advice Men Can Count On
There’s a whole world of belt alternatives out there. So the real question is: which one is right for you?
Looking for more great style advice? Make sure to check out the site for more great tips, like this list of my tried-and-true favorite underwear and undershirts every guy should keep on hand.
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