Belts aren’t just things for holding your pants up. Although they’re pretty good at that. Matching your belt and your shoes is one of the best ways to elevate your overall look, especially for formal and business wear. If you’ve ever seen a guy at the office who looks put together and stylish – but you can’t quite figure out why – it’s probably because he’s paid attention to accessories, and matched them well. Good shoes, good belt, good watch, good cufflinks. The simply rule is: the more you shoes and belt clash, the worse you’re going to look.
In this article we’re going to run through some of the common belt and shoe mistakes, as well as styling tips to help you avoid the dreaded black-suit-and-brown-shoes scenario. Buckle up.
Matching belt and shoes
Matching your belt and shoes is exactly what it sounds like. They should match. I.e. look similar. This goes for obvious things, like colour, but also for finish, shine and texture, too. For example, if you’re wearing tan leather shoes, your belt should be a similar light tan colour – dark brown won’t quite work. Likewise, black shoes go with a black belt.
When it comes to finish and texture, have a look at your shoes and try to find a belt that channels the same energy. Shiny patent leather Oxfords need a shiny, no-nonsense belt. Distressed leather would just look weird. On the other hand, a more casual, woven leather belt might work with tassel loafers, boat shoes, or even suede Derbies. Texture is actually the exception to the ‘matching rule’: don’t try to find an exact textural match. This will look a bit off. Instead, find a subtle variation that gives your outfit balance.
Choose your buckle carefully
Most leather belts will feature a metallic buckle, and this needs to match too. Not with your shoes, as such, but definitely with your other accessories. Nothing stands out worse on a guy than a gold belt buckle and silver tie pin.
The easiest way to solve this is to own a few belts, some with silver buckles, and others with gold. Alternatively, take a look at your favourite dress watch, your favourite cufflinks, your favourite tie pin – are they gold, brass, silver or gunmetal? Buy whichever belt matches them best. The goal is to wear a belt that channels the colour of your shoes and the shine of your accessories. This will give your whole outfit a sense of cohesion.
Black belts are obviously the most formal. Something like the TODD in black would make an excellent belt for events or office wear. Simply pair it with black Oxfords, or even a sharp-toed Chelsea boot, like the OSBOURNE 2.0. Black belts and shoes tend to work best with black suits, but you do have a little flexibility here. Black also pairs well with navy and charcoal (stick to darker greys – light grey suits work better with tan leather). When it comes to metallics, think silver buckles for everyday wear, and gold for more fancy, black tie occasions.
Every guy needs at least one brown belt in the cupboard. It’s by far the most flexible shade, although there are dozens of subtle colour variations to watch out for. As we’ve said above, try to match your brown as best as you can: tan with tan, tobacco with tobacco, dark chocolate with dark chocolate. A nice mid-tone brown belt, like the BANE, is a great place to start. You could wear this with jeans and loafers, or with navy suit pants and a white dress shirt. For a more casual take on the brown belt, try something like the DANILO, with its gunmetal buckle and paired-back design. This guy goes great with Chelsea or military boots.
Woven leather belts can be a bit intimidating, but don’t be put off. They’re a great way to add some texture and personality to your outfit. The trick here is to find balance with your shoes, not match them exactly. For example, a woven belt like the DEN would work perfectly with some DWAYNE monk straps. The monk straps aren’t woven leather, but they are the right colour, and more importantly they channel the spirt of the belt: fun, quirky and formal, all at the same time. Woven leather belts are also a great choice with jeans, Chukkas and desert boots.
Cotton and synthetic woven belts are generally for casual wear, although they can sometimes be worn with suiting separates. These are often the exception to the colour-matching rule, since you’ll find synthetic belts in khakis, blues, reds and all sorts of other colours. Tricky to find footwear to match. Brown and navy shoes are often your best bet here, since they offer the most versatility. For example, you could pair the MERCURY belt with some navy boat shoes or brown penny loafers, then layer up with ivory chinos and a white linen shirt. Pro tip: stick to neutral shades like khaki, bone, white, grey and brown. They’ll help you avoid the dreaded colour clash.