Most of us have our go-to belt, maybe even a few in the standard black or brown because let’s face it — they go with everything! I know it’s easy to just throw on the same types of belts every day without a second thought, but I’m here to tell you that you have options, my friend.
Belts aren’t always comfortable, and it can be tempting to think of alternatives to wearing a belt. But you’d be surprised how many styles exist that move and stretch with you instead of pinching at you every time you sit.
I’ve put this guide together to help you make sense of the most common types of belts and options that are out there.
If you’re looking for other (and more comfortable) ways to hold your pants and your goods in place, check out this undershirt that keeps pants up or look into alternative solutions to keep your pants from falling down.
Casual Types of Belts
As the name suggests, these types of belts are your everyday belts. You can get creative with your choice of colors, styles, widths and shapes. Any belt that expresses your style and personality is good to go.
The only rules here are to match the colors and textures of your belt to the rest of your outfit. For example, if you’re already wearing highly textured clothes or a shirt with a lot of patterns, you’ll probably want to steer away from a braided belt.
If that’s what speaks to you, though, have at it! There are no hard or fast rules in casual attire. Here are some standard belts you might wear with a casual outfit.
1. Leather Belts
Let’s start with the classic leather belt. Plain leather belts frequently double as casual wear and formal wear. Whether or not you tuck your shirt determines which way your overall look goes.
If you’re going to wear leather, however, you must remember one important rule: the color of your belt must match the color of your shoes.
2. Braided Belts
This type of belt is a comfortable, flexible and easily adjustable option. Their flexibility makes them ideal for active days when you need to be stooping, bending or doing any other type of movement that could be more uncomfortable with a less forgiving belt.
Fabric braided belts often pair well with jeans and sportswear, while braided leather belts can work with jeans and lighter pant colors like white, gray or beige.
3. O-Ring and D-Ring Belts
O-ring and D-ring belts get their name from the shape of the buckle, which looks like the letter “O” or “D.” These types of belts are lightweight so you can thread them through one or two of these buckles. This quick video tutorial better explains how the final result looks.
O-ring and D-ring belts are popular with linen pants, polo shirts, and other lightweight clothing in the summertime.
4. Military-Style Belts
Military-style belts, also known as tactical belts, are often made from tightly woven nylon and have a sturdy plastic or metal buckle. They are easy to clip on and off and are extremely durable.
As you might guess, these belts are best suited for situations where your belt will undergo heavy use and if you plan to attach items that weigh a significant amount. They’re excellent for carrying tactical gear, weapons, flashlights, tools and other accessories.
5. Double-Prong Belts
A double-prong belt is common in wider belts that need more uniform tension. Having two prongs means you’ll get less stretch on your most frequently used size setting and more wear out of the belt overall.
This type of belt is a bit pricier, but this makes sense considering how long they last. You can pair one of these belts with your hiking gear just as easily as you can wear one to dress things up.
6. Suede Belts
Yes, suede is just another form of leather, but suede carries a very different aesthetic and has a different feel. Not only is it texturally different, but it’s also less rigid and more comfortable than leather.
Suede is interesting because it has a matte tone instead of a glossy one. It adds a distinctive style and texture that other belts can’t mimic. Wear a suede belt with pretty much anything as long as the colors complement each other.
Formal Types of Belts
When it comes to formal wear, it’s all about your choice of accessories. Your tie, your belt, your shoes, even your cufflinks and tie clip all contribute in their own way to your overall look. While many belts can play double-duty and serve as both casual and formal wear, a few characteristics are more common among dress belts.
First, almost all formal belts have a D-shaped or frame-style buckle. Colors are typically subtle and understated, while the texture is smooth and often glossy, matte or lightly patterned. The strap should be no more than 1.5 inches wide.
In terms of the material, you’ll want to stick to leather or imitation leather. You have plenty of familiar and exotic options here, including cowhide, ostrich, alligator skin and more.
If you’re vegan or don’t like using animal products, you still have a bunch of good options. Faux leather has come a long way, and you can find high-quality belts that look like genuine leather instead of cheap-looking plastic.
The most important thing is to make sure the buckle’s metal matches the metal of your cufflinks and tie clip, and that the color and level of shine on the belt matches the color and level of shine on your shoes.
Here are a few variations in the realm of dress belts.
7. Leather Belts
We can’t talk about leather belts in the casual sense without talking about them in the formal.
As I mentioned above, leather belts are the only suitable material for formal wear. Just make sure the belt is black, brown or some other subdued color, and that the buckle is sleek and simple rather than large and bulky.
8. Reversible Belts
These types of belts have a buckle you can flip so you can use both sides of the belt. Each side is usually a standard color like black or brown, so you can use the same belt for drastically different outfits. The obvious perk here is that you don’t have to buy two separate belts, and the color of the belt buckle is often silver, so it goes well with both colors.
9. Ratchet Belts
Like the braided belt, the ratchet belt is a highly adjustable option because it has no holes. Think of it like a zip tie you can actually undo! A latch inside the buckle holds onto the teeth along the belt strap, and (unlike a zip tie) a small knob underneath the buckle releases the belt. Because the teeth are so close together, you can get a very customized fit.
Typically, you would wear this type of belt with formal or semi-formal clothing, but you can also wear it casually.
There are so many different buckle types, so choosing one really comes down to personal taste and preference. Here are some you’ll most likely see in stores these days:
- Frame: the familiar rectangular shape you see on most belts
- Box Frame: this looks like a rectangle with three sides
- Post Frame: this one looks like a rectangular box; it presses the strap against the inside of the buckle rather than using holes and prongs
- Plate: a large decorative buckle commonly seen on cowboy belts
- O-Ring/D-Ring: you would use one or two “O” or “D” shaped rings to secure the belt with or without the use of holes and prongs
- Snap Buckle: commonly used on backpacks and other adjustable straps, two sides of the buckle snap together to hold the belt in place.
Again, choosing the right belt and buckle combo is more about preference than it is about anything else.
Have any other preferences or tips for choosing the perfect type of belt? Feel free to leave a comment below.