Should You Wear a Belt?

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Following on from my last posting on what belt to wear, there is one, perhaps more important question – whether to wear a belt at all.

Those who wear braces deride belts as “pull-up not stay-up”. They suggest that several times a day you will be forced to hike up your belted trousers back to their original position. This would not happen with braces.

Now, I have never worn braces. But I have also never had to pull up my belted trousers during the day. I would suggest that the reason for this is that I, like most young men these days, wear my trousers on my hips. Not my waist, and nowhere in between.

Your hips – that gap just below the first ridge of your hipbones – provide a fairly stable location for the waist (the irony!) of your trousers. The swell of bone above and below stop them moving.

This is not necessarily the case on the waist, where a variable amount of fat can provide a less rigid shelf. Unless you have less than 5% body fat, there will always be more softness here than on your hip bones.

Most people who wear braces also wear their trousers on their natural waist. So it is understandable that they would deride belts as useless.

One good way to make sure your trousers don’t slip is to have a belt that fits you perfectly. The best way to do this is to have a belt cut to your waist size and punctured with holes at your precise measurements, with perhaps one either side to be safe.

(Most luxury brands offer this service. I have one from Lanvin that cost £40. Not a bad investment for something in both black and brown – it is reversible – that I will wear often, for years.)

Outside the realm of braces, there is a much better reason not to wear a belt. It can seem like too much clutter in an outfit, spoil the long lean lines of a suit, and suggest that your trousers simply don’t fit.

The first two of these points are the most important. How much more elegant is it to wear no belt with your suit – indeed, no belt loops – and have one clean, smart colour from shoes to tie? I would recommend not wearing a belt with most suits if you are dressing smartly – perhaps defined as when you are also wearing a necktie or a handkerchief.

With neither of these accessories, a belt can be a nice addition – a focus point for the eye, a replacement for those missing accents. It is also a natural accessory for a casual outfit – with odd jackets, with tweed, cotton or linen.

P.S. Make sure you look after your belt. It will get worn and fray over time, but this can be mitigated with cleaning and an occasional polish. Wearing a frayed belt is akin to wearing unpolished shoes – no matter how much of a favourite they might be, it just looks scruffy.

Indeed, my father tells the story of the manager of one company who paid to give all his male employees new belts, because Englishmen “tend to wear old favourites, and never consider that their belt might be denting their image of professionalism”.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.

Comments

  1. Tim says:

    I see that is a 3 button suit in that picture but it is folded so that it appears to be a 2 button suit. Is that common?

  2. Turling says:

    I think the issue lies a lot with fact that the majority of men (and, I am an American, so can speak from the experience of simply looking around) have a very large stomach that pushes their pants down. This being compounded by the fact that their shirts, undoubtedly, don’t fit (being too big, which is shocking) and balloon from the back, give one the feeling that their pants are falling down and need to be pulled up. So, I say, either wear braces (suspenders over here, of course) or put down the cheeseburger.

  3. Simon Crompton says:

    Tim – yes, it is common. All three-button jackets have a certain amount of ‘roll’ from the top button to the middle, seen when only the middle one is done up. Most of the time it is what’s called 3 to 2 1/2, but this jacket appears to be more like 3 to 2, with the top button almost disappearing.
    The extent of the roll depends on the softness of the fabric and the stiffness of the lining. You should never iron the lapel in order to try and fold it over, as this will always look artificial and the jacket’s material will rebel against it. But do try to avoid ‘true’ three buttons which have no roll at all. They can look very square and blocky without the top button done up.

    Simon

  4. David Valenta says:

    So you say your pants don’t slide down during the day beacause you place them at the drop zone to begin with.
    Isn’t that like leaving your shoelaces untide because they just may come undone during the day anyway?

  5. Roderick Mallia says:

    Not really David. I think that wearing good, well-fitted trousers at the ‘drop zone’, looks better in my opinion. Firstly, it’s only about an inch lower, so why the hassle? Secondly, the fit at this area is more natural, thus ‘relaxing’ the trouser cloth so to speak, and letting it fall cleanly over the leg.

    Which in the end makes belts more aesthetic than practical…

  6. Simon Crompton says:

    I have to agree, Roderick. There is nothing inherently wrong with wearing trousers at all. You could argue it shortens the impression of height, but that’s about it.
    Given that trousers on the waist were really only designed to be worn with braces or nothing at all, you even argue that wearing them on the waist with a belt is an inconsistency rather than being more traditional.
    Rather, in my opinion, like wearing pleats on the hips – it’s not what they were designed for and keeping one element and not another is nonsensical.

  7. David Valenta says:

    Sorry. Shortens the leg and increases the length of the torso offsetting the balance.

  8. Jenna says:

    The pants that have that flap on them, I don’t know in english do not need belts. I never put belts on such pants for my shows and magazine.

  9. Jason says:

    In response to David: I see your point, but you assume that everyone has a perfect 50/50 balance between legs and torso. As someone who has very long legs and a relatively short torso, putting my trousers on my waist actually redresses the balance instead of offsetting it.

  10. Tripp says:

    I find it quite fascinating just how hard some will argue to justify, even rationalize their fashion choices. I’m 20 pounds overweight, yet my waist is still smaller than my hips. Pants don’t fall down on my hips unless they’re too big to begin with. I enjoyed reading recently on this site an article decrying the ridiculous trend of intentionally wearing suits and sport coats too small, with shoulders bulging outward. I think I’ll leave the low-riding pants – whether baggy or skinny-legged – to the teenagers who were born before this tired fashion choice began. I’ll continue to wear clothing that fits.