The 13 Belt Questions That Most People Get Wrong

The 13 Belt Questions That Most People Get Wrong
Black vs brown? Mythbusting the most common questions we get about wearing and pairing belts.
belt guide intro

What are the style rules when it comes to belts? 

I always thought you weren’t supposed to wear brown belts with a suit. When I saw an otherwise very well dressed gentleman wearing a sharp blue suit with brown belt and shoes it was actually kind of shocking. “Is he trying to break the rules,” I thought to myself? 

The thing is … I never stopped to ask: How did I learn these rules? And are they even correct? 

And I’m not alone. 

Primer Gets A Lot Of Belt-Related Style Questions

Google any style question about belts and you’ll find a multitude of opinions. There’s traditional (“Belt and shoes should always match”). And radical (“Mismatched belt and shoes is the pinnacle of style”) … and everything in between.  

Needless to say, there’s a lot of confusion out there. 

How sure can you be that what you think you know about what belt to wear with what outfit (and when) is right? 

So … Can You Wear A Brown Belt And Blue Suit? 

Absolutely. Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the idea that ONLY black belts could be worn with suits. I was really, really wrong (more on that later).

But I’m about to take it a step further, and potentially blow your mind. 

Your brown belt and shoes … don’t have to match. 


The Rules Of Belting May Surprise You

Before you break out the pitchforks, let me clarify: 

No, your browns don’t have to match, but they should coordinate (more to come on that). 

Coordination – instead of a perfect match – actually gives you a lot more options when it comes to presentation, individuality, and your budget. 

Our goal with this guide isn’t to tell you you must  do X or you have to do Y – it’s to give you some fundamental principles of belting you can follow, bend, or break as you see fit. 

brown belts with silver gold and black buckles

Style Rule-Of-Thumb: Brown, Black, Silver, Gold

If you’re unsure where to start, consider the traditional Four Pillars Of Belting: a brown leather belt with both silver and gold (or brass)-colored buckles and a black leather belt with both silver and gold buckles. 

With these four belts you are virtually guaranteed to have what you need for any outfit or social commitment. The downside is, you have to pick out and invest in four different belts!

That’s one reason we really like Anson Belt & Buckle. By utilizing their box set option, which includes three leather belts and two interchangeable buckles, you get six different belt combinations for a very reasonable price. It’s a quick and quality way to build a comprehensive belt collection.

Now, you may not want to build a traditional belt collection. Getting locked into a “brown and black” mindset is actually very limiting. 

So let’s slay some of the sacred myths you hold about belting … and answer your most pressing belt questions along the way. 

The 13 Most-Asked Questions About Belts 

Should My Belt Match My Shoes? 

This is the number 1 most-asked question we get about belts. Understandable. Ever had this happen to you: You’re invited to a function that demands dressy shoes. Your dress shoes are black. Your belt is brown. What to do?? 

As discussed, your belt should always correlate with your shoe color. It doesn’t have to match. Brown tones with brown tones. Black with black. 

But there’s more nuance to it than that. 

does belt and shoes have to match color
Cognac Italian Calfskin belt with silver buckle

How Closely Should My Belt Match My Shoes? 

When it comes to mixing different shades of brown belts and shoes, here’s the rule: Brown shades darker than tan can be intermixed.

In other words, the darker the browns you’re mixing, the easier it is. Tans and light browns can clash with dark browns and should be avoided or paired carefully. 

With black, the rule is a bit different: black is black, so focus on matching textures and materials. For instance, a textured, suede black belt doesn’t pair well with shiny, patent leather shoes. You get the idea. 

black suede belt patent leather shoes
Black micro-suede belt

How Do You Match Dress Shoes With A Belt? 

See above. Brown with brown (but not tan); black with black, focus on materials. 

But dress shoes add another consideration: formal vs casual. You want the level of formality to roughly match between shoes and belt. 

For instance, does it feel right to pair an embossed, casual belt (like this one) with really formal shoes? Probably not.  

Is It Ok To Wear A Brown Belt With Black Shoes?

Take a look. What do you think? 

can you wear a brown belt with black shoes

Nope. The belt unnaturally draws the eye to the waist.

Primer founder Andrew gets around this from the other side, saying, “I personally wear brown, tan, gray, or white shoes almost exclusively. That means brown or gray belts, or interesting belt colors like olive, khaki, or navy.” 

Can I Wear A Brown Belt With Black Pants? 

Sure! IF you’re also wearing brown shoes. While it's easy to get stuck on the no-black-and-brown rule above, it's referring to the belt and shoes, not the pants.

The first rule about coordinating your belt and shoe choice applies here. In fact, Primer founder Andrew calls it “Leathers and Metals.” Your leathers should coordinate, as should your metals (more on that later).

Andrew actually recommends coordination – but not total matching – as a way to expand your belt-pants-shoes palette. 

“Mix it up,” he says. “Break out of the 1:1 rule and wear a belt that isn’t the color of your shoes, but still pairs well.” 

belt and shoes different color
1.25″ shark grey belt

Can I Wear A Black Belt With Blue Jeans? 

You can, but, especially with a lighter wash, it’s very dad jeans. If you’re wearing dark blue jeans with some black Red Wings, you would opt for a black belt. 

light wash dad jeans black belt

Can You Wear A Brown Belt With Grey Pants?

Grey causes confusion. A lot of guys think of it as “light black,” and consequently a difficult color to match. 

Not necessarily. 

Different shades of gray, especially mid and slate grays, pair easily with brown belts and shoes.

gray suit with brown belt and brown shoes
Brown leather belt

Belting Options Can Get Expensive. That’s Another Reason We Like Anson

If you’re going to break out of the brown-belt-black-belt paradigm, a great place to start is monochrome canvas belts. Gray, navy, and olive belts can add a lot of character to a simple blue jeans and t-shirt look. 

Anson makes creative belting easier because their buckles and straps are hot-swappable, and picking up an extra canvas strap will set you back less than the cost of a whole new belt. 

How Wide Should My Belt Be?

The thicker the belt, the more casual. 

The two most common belt widths are 1.5” and 1.25,” and you’ll notice that Anson’s formal leather belts only come in 1.25”. 

That said, it’s really about your preference. As a taller guy, I prefer 1.5” for my casual belts, but a 1.25” canvas belt doesn’t look out of place. Most of Andrew’s belts are 1.25”, with the advantage of being able to wear them casually or dressed up.

Do You Wear A Belt With A Suit? 

It depends … how well-fitting is your suit? 

The rule here is: your suit pants should be so well fitting you don’t need a belt. Wearing a belt with a suit should be a matter of preference and accessorizing, not necessity. 

Of course, not everyone is one weight their entire life. Plus, many men prefer the look of a suit with a belt. So go ahead and belt up as needed. 

While some men might scoff at the idea of not wearing a belt with a suit, remember plenty of suit pants are designed to be worn with suspenders (meaning they don’t even have belt loops), or have trouser adjusters on the side.

Generally speaking, for most men, wearing a belt with a suit is a safe way to go, but opting not to can also create a streamlined, fashion-forward look.

james bond suit no belt

What Color Belt Should I Wear With A Suit? 

A classy brown belt and shoes are the less formal and more stylish option with a gray or blue suit. If you must wear a black suit, a black belt is best … but should you ever wear a black suit? 

In our opinion, black has come to be associated with suits for a simple reason: black is inherently more dressy. So does that mean you should wear black belts with any suit? 

No. No. No. 

Black belt and shoes with a suit are, in fact, more conservative than simply playing it safe. It’s very, very safe. To the point of uninteresting. 

A lot of guys are terrified of brown. Don’t be. If you’re uncertain, try a dark brown before you work your way up to a full-on tan with a suit. 

blue suit with tan brown belt and shoes
Tan belt with silver buckle

Can I Wear A Casual Belt With A Suit? 

It depends on the occasion, and it depends on the belt. 

If the belt is wide enough to be really casual, probably not. If the belt buckle is chunky or Texas-themed, probably not.

Now, regarding occasion: 

Are you going to a job interview, formal (or formal-ish) wedding, or a funeral? Probably not. 

Are you going out, or headed to a wedding or party that’s “garden casual?” Go for it! It’s OK to get crazy if the setting allows it. 

Can Belt Buckles Go On Any Strap? 

Remember the rule about matching texture and materials when it comes to black shoes and belts? Same sort of thing applies here. 

You wouldn’t pair a rodeo buckle with a 1.25” formal leather strap. Buckles and straps should coordinate and not clash. 

Anson Belt & Buckle has you covered here. Their buckles come in two broad categories – dressy and casual – and as long as you’re pairing like with like you’re OK. 

What Is The Belt Buckle Rule? 

According to Google, the “Belt Buckle Rule” actually relates to ladder safety. To us, however, the belt buckle rule is this: the buckle metal should coordinate with the other metals you’re wearing. 

For example, my wedding band and daily beater watch are both titanium, so I favor matte gray metals for my buckles. 

Is it the end of the world if your metals don’t coordinate? No. But if you’re wearing a nice gold Rolex, you’re going to want a similar buckle. 

coordinating metals wedding ring belt watch
Match your metals: Cognac Italian Calfskin belt with silver buckle

Anson Allows You To Swap Buckles … And Sizes

The Anson system is built around maximum flexibility, enabling you to interchange your buckles and straps. 

Anson belt box set
Build your own box set and get 9 possible combinations

Equally important, however, is that Anson has ditched the classic 5-hole design for micro-adjustable belts. This means that whatever size you are in the morning, your belt will shift to match you … and not the other way around. In fact, Anson promises their belts will fit every waist size up to 50 inches. 

Get the looks:

What Are Your Favorite Belting Combinations? Let Us Know In The Comments Below!

Stillman Brown

Stillman Brown is a writer and TV producer who has created prime time content for National Geographic, Discovery, Travel Channel and many others. His interests span science & the natural world, personal growth, and food. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.