Many leather accessories we rely on are descendants of ancient accessories created for use with the garments of the time, streamlined throughout history to become what we use today. Belts, especially leather belts, are among the oldest and most essential of all leather accessories.
Leather belts are one of the most basic leather essentials. Ancestors of very early animal hide belts, oday’s belts are simple accessories that make a huge difference in an outfit. Leather belts are available for both genders in a wide variety of styles and colors.
Let’s explore more about what to look for.
What is a Leather Belt?
A leather belt is a long, structured accessory designed to support pants, skirts, or other garments to keep them up on the body. Belts are one of the oldest accessories in history, with fragments of buckles found tracing back to the Bronze Age.
Leather is the go-to material for belts because it stands up to being bent, folded, and cinched without sustaining any damage. As an added bonus, belts made of genuine leather will mold to the wearer over time, ensuring a truly comfortable, customized fit. Though they’re often overlooked, belts are a great way to showcase some personality in any outfit without going over the top!
What to Look for In a Leather Belt
Belts are most successful when they’re made of sturdy, but not necessarily thick, material. Well-structured belts made of good-quality faux or genuine leather will function as intended while still looking neat and fashionable. Thicker belts have the potential to feel too tight and restrict movement, making them a less-than-ideal choice.
As previously mentioned, thicker, heavier leather belts can be restrictive or downright uncomfortable to wear. The exception to this is wide waist belts, which are meant to cinch the waist and create a subtle corseting effect.
It’s important to consider how a belt will be worn in order to determine the appropriate length to purchase. For women, belts worn near the waist should usually be shorter than those worn near the hips. Finding the correct belt length is as easy as measuring the part of the body at which the belt will be worn, and finding a corresponding size. Most retailers include the smallest and largest measurements an adjustable belt is made to accommodate.
Considering belt color is important in finding a good quality, universally wearable belt. Browns, blacks, tans, and greys are the most common colors for belts, as they are modern neutrals that work with almost any outfit. However, choosing fun, bright colors can be an easy way to take risks and express yourself in a simple way.
Browns, blacks, tans, and greys are the most common colors for belts
(Buckles, rhinestones, tooling, etc.) Just as choosing a belt in a fun color is an easy form of self-expression, belts with adornment or embellishment are, too. A decade ago, leather belts covered in metal pyramid studs were incredibly popular.
Types of Leather Belts
Black Leather Belts
Black is the most common color for many leather goods, including belts. A black leather belt is an essential wardrobe piece, able to be worn with any outfit and dressed up or down for most occasions. Black leather belts are the most common choice for all genders. Black leather does not show age as quickly as lighter finishes, and its dark color will make any metal or embroidered embellishment pop!
Full Grain Leather Belts
The majority of everyday belts are made from full-grain leather. This type of leather is made from the strongest and most durable part of the animal hide, so any garment or accessory made with full-grain leather is sure to last. This is especially important for everyday belts, which must stand up to daily wear and the friction and stress that comes with it.
Custom Leather Belt
One of the best custom leather goods to consider purchasing is a custom leather belt. By commissioning a custom belt, you can guarantee that you’ve found a unique, well-fitting accessory that will last a lifetime. Since belts need to be properly fitted, custom is often the best way to get the most comfortable fit.
Western Leather Belts
Western leather belts are typically plain or hand-tooled and usually made in natural leather tones like browns and tans. Western belts may have some embellishment, life rhinestones or grommets, and are usually quite thick in comparison to regular everyday belts to hold up to lots of manual labor and movement.
Handmade Leather Belts
Handmade leather belts are an excellent choice for those who want a specific style or custom fit. Handmade belts will be made to the buyer’s exact measurements, eliminating that uncomfortable new-belt-struggle to figure out which of the belt’s buckle holes gives the best fit!
Here is a video on how to make a simple Leather Roller Buckle Belt
Leather Belt Without Buckle
Though buckles are the traditional way to fasten a leather belt, many try to avoid them. Some hate the weight that buckles add to belts, while others (myself included) have sensitive skin and allergies that react to metals. Leather belts without buckles can be purchased in a variety of different styles, from wrap and tie belts to snap and buckle-less hole closure.
Womens Leather Belts
Women wear belts in two distinct ways: as waist belts to cinch loose clothing, or as standard belts to hold up pants or skirts. Women’s standard belts are constructed similarly to men’s, but may be a bit thinner or more delicate. Women’s waist belts are usually made from thinner, softer leather for comfort. Women’s leather belts are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes and can be found in beautifully embellished styles.
Genuine Leather Belts Made In USA
While many retailers do manufacture within the United States, the best way to ensure that a leather belt is made in the USA is to commission a custom belt from a leather artisan within the country. Patronizing small leather businesses guarantees a beautifully handcrafted, domestically-produced leather belt.
The best way to ensure that a leather belt is made in the USA is to commission a custom belt from a leather artisan within the country.
Mens Belts For Jeans
Men’s everyday belts are typically made to be worn with jeans. These belts are usually made from full-grain leather to withstand the constant friction the belt will be subjected to by rubbing against denim all day. Choosing a belt made from thicker leather is essential to finding the perfect leather belt to wear with jeans.
Genuine Leather Belt Womens
Genuine leather belts for women are far more varied than men’s belts. Women tend to wear belts in two ways: in the standard way with pants, and at the waist to cinch loose garments. These uses call for different types of leather – genuine leather is thicker and best for standard belts.
Hand Tooled Western Belts
Hand tooled leather is a beautiful, traditional means of decorating genuine leather. Hand tooling uses special tools to cut into the leather, creating beautifully textured designs. Hand tooling is a popular method of embellishment for Western belts, as it was traditionally done to show custom style without using any potential hazardous metal embellishments.
Mens Western Belts With Rhinestones
A common embellishment choice for leather Western wear is rhinestone embellishment. These little stones offer a bit of low-profile sparkle without the potential for injury or serious damage to the leather material. Men’s belts with rhinestones can be difficult to find, but they’re traditional in the rodeo scene, where flashy attire is all part of the show!
Thick Leather Belt Mens
Thick leather belts are often used by men who move around a lot throughout the day. Some men may also opt for thicker leather just because they like a sturdier, more reliable belt. Thicker leather will stand up to more friction and movement and require less attention and maintenance than thinner leather would.
Double Thick Leather Belt
A double thick leather belt is exactly what it sounds like – a belt made from two pieces of belt leather rather than one. Double-thick leather belts are best for those who perform hours of physical labor or movement daily. Farmers, animal caretakers, construction workers, and others whose jobs require lots of manual labor need belts that can withstand excessive friction and movement.
How to Choose the Right Size Leather Belt
To choose the right size for your leather belt, you must first measure your body where you intend to wear the belt. For regular belts, this is just above the hip; an easier way to find this number is to simply use the waist measurement of your best-fitting pants or jeans. For waist belts, this is at the natural waist, measured loosely to accommodate for weight shifting when sitting down. Once you have a number, add two inches and you have your belt size. For example, measuring your waist at 34 inches would mean that your belt size is 36.
Some belts offer sizes as a range, for instance 33-35. With these measurements, you’d simply choose a size by finding the correct number in this range. Someone in between sizes may choose to go up or down a size, depending on whether they are on the higher or lower end of “in-between”.
Best Leather Belts
Here are few of the top leather belts for Men
|Hanks Ranger Belt
|This belt from Hanks Belts is a unique, modern take on Western-style belts. It features heavy-duty stitching, thick leather, and a unique slim buckle.
|G-Star Raw Zed Belt
|If you’re looking for a gorgeous, streamlined, modern belt, look no further! This full-grain leather belt from G-Star Raw is truly unique, especially thanks to its beautiful matte black hardware.
|Duluth Trading Co. Men’s Lifetime Leather Belt
|Duluth Trading Co. is always a reliable source of high-quality, rugged leather goods, and this belt is no exception. With thick, utilitarian leather and simple, classic construction, this belt is truly made to be worn for a lifetime.
Here are a few of the top leather belts for Women
|Madewell Women’s Perfect Leather Belt
|Madewell is known for their excellent selection of leather basics. This belt is one of the best, available in two different finishes and two different hardware finishes. Its rounded buckle is feminine and delicate, and its simple, smooth finish work with any outfit.
|Lucky Brand The Point Belt
|Lucky Brand has a great reputation for its denim and leather goods in natural, lived-in finishes. This slim belt is available in soft tan or black leather and features a super low profile buckle – perfect to wear as a waist belt with a loose, flowing dress.
|Coach Harness Buckle Reversible Belt
|The most unique selection on this list, Coach continues to impress with this reversible leather women’s belt. Available in either black and tan with gold hardware or tan and brown with silver hardware, it’s a mid-width belt able to be worn at the waist or with pants for ultimate versatility.
What is the best leather for a belt?
The highest-quality leather for a belt is full-grain calfskin, which combines the softness of calfskin with the sturdiness of full-grain leather. Most everyday belts are made from full-grain leather, which is heavy enough to withstand daily use.
The highest-quality leather for a belt is full-grain calfskin
What makes a good leather belt?
Good quality leather belts have well-structured, sturdy stitching to hold up to long-term daily wear. Since many belts have metal buckles or clasps, proper construction and reinforcement are essential for a well-made belt.
How long can a leather belt last?
A real leather belt can last a lifetime if properly cared for. Belts require a bit more upkeep than other leather garments due to the stress they’re put through with daily use, but can still last if consistently cared for.
How can you tell if a leather belt is real?
While some faux leather is shockingly close to genuine leather, it’s usually easy to tell the difference. The most obvious way is to check the belt’s tag for materials used. A stranger way to tell is to smell the belt – if it smells like plastic, it’s faux leather. Those more acquainted with the differences can look closely at the leather’s texture – real leather, no matter what type, has inconsistent pores and texture, while faux leather’s texture tends to be entirely consistent and even.
Why do leather belts crack?
Because of the stress and friction they’re subjected to from daily wear, belts tend to crack more than other leather accessories. To combat cracking, conditioning with a balm or oil will ensure that the belt lasts for a long time.
Who makes good leather belts?
The best leather belts come from leather-specific retailers and artisans. Some designers also focus heavily on leather goods, but the best quality can be found with those who specialize only in leather.
How do you maintain a leather belt?
Leather belts can be maintained by occasional moisturizing. Checking belts for damage around the seams and hardware is also a good idea, as repairing any damage quickly will result in a longer life for the accessory.
Are leather belts good?
Leather is the best material for belts. It is long-lasting and able to withstand quite a bit of tension, folding, and friction, all of which belts are subjected to with every wear. Genuine leather has the bonus of slightly stretching and molding to the wearer over time, resulting in a super comfortable custom fit.
How thick should a leather belt be?
The desired thickness of a leather belt is determined by its use. Traditional belts used to hold pants up should be relatively thick in order to do their jobs without folding and bending, but not so thick that they’re uncomfortable. Thinner belts are ideal as fashion belts.
Should I oil my leather belt?
While leather does not need constant upkeep, oiling or treating it with a leather conditioner is a good way to prevent cracking and other damage to the material. Since belts are constantly being bent, folded, and pulled against metal buckles, some extra care is needed to ensure that they last.
Do leather belts shrink when wet?
Leather can shrink if soaked in water and heat dried. Leather can also shrink if soaked in water and left to dry without properly being handled or shaped. Leather is water-resistant, but not waterproof, and can still retain water damage.
How do you moisturize a leather belt?
To moisturize a leather belt, you can use a leather oil or conditioner. Oils that will penetrate the leather to provide a water-resistant, moisturized finish without getting tacky or spoiling are perfect for leather. Mink oil is the most recommended way to moisturize leather, but artisans also recommend flaxseed, coconut, and essential lemon oil. Conditioning balms and creams are also available, with most of these containing beeswax as a weatherproofing agent.
Here is a great demonstration of how to care and maintain your leather belt
Where to Buy Leather Belt
Hanks Leather Belts
Hanks belts are USA-made, rugged belts for manual laborers. These belts are double thick and made for utility, with ultra-conditioned leather that won’t crack with friction and wear. Hanks belts start at around $50 and can cost well over $100.
Leather Belts on Etsy
Etsy is the best place to find leather workers for one of a kind leather belts. Whether purchasing readymade belts or commissioning a custom piece, purchasing from an artisan on Etsy ensures that the leather belt is handmade and high-quality.
Madewell Leather Belts
Madewell’s leather belts are beautiful and simple, with sleek hardware and gorgeous finishes. The belts are mid-range, priced from $40 up.
Fossil Leather Belts
Leather specialty retailer Fossil’s belts are classic. Available in warm, rich finishes, these belts are made from high-quality leather and are super affordable, going for around $40 to $80.
Kohls Leather Belts
Department store Kohl’s has a variety of leather and faux leather belts for sale in different styles and finishes. They’re a great middle ground between Nordstrom and Target.
Saddleback Leather Belts
Saddleback’s leather belts are simple and classic. No fancy embellishment, no fancy embossing or stitching, just high-quality leather and a sleek, low-profile buckle for wearability and versatility. Saddleback’s belts cost around $90.
Belts are an essential part of fashion and everyday clothing. Knowing how to properly size yourself and style belts is an important skill for anyone sartorially-minded. Even for those who aren’t concerned with trends, belts are an important wardrobe staple.
Whether plain, embellished, or brightly colored, belts are a subtle, personal touch to every outfit! If you’re interested in other leather accessories, click here for my article on leather duffle bags or if you want to find something for your favorite furry pet friends, click here for my article on leather dog collars. And for more fashion, here for my guide to leather ties.
What size belt should I buy for a 32 waist?
As a rule, your belt size is two inches larger than your pant waist size. If your waist is 32 inches, your belt size is 34.
Do leather belts stretch over time?
Genuine leather belts will stretch and mold to the wearer over time. This doesn’t mean you should choose a belt that’s too small hoping that it will stretch – leather will only give very slightly, so choosing the proper size is still important.