Everything You Need To Know About Matching Your Belts and Shoes
You wear shoes every day. You wear belts every day. But you gotta make sure you’re wearing the right belt with the right shoes. It’s simple enough to do this, though, if you just follow this guide:
NEVER, ever, ever wear a belt that is a completely different color than your shoes!!!
Let’s call this “Rule #1”: Shoes and belt cannot clash. Ever.
Rule #2: The color of your shoes and the color of your belt should ideally match exactly. Black shoes goes with a black belt, brown shoes goes with a brown belt, and so on.
But what do I mean when I say that it should match “exactly”, though?
There are many different shades and variations of each color, and you will definitely look sharpest if your shoes and belt are the exact same shade. That’s why I love it when shoe companies sell an exact matching belt for each pair of shoes. Allen Edmonds is awesome about this, for example. And from a business perspective I believe it’s an absolute necessity (and easy pickings) for shoe companies to sell matching belts (which is why I am always surprised when they don’t do this).
This all being said, you can still look dapper if the color match is “close enough.” In fact, it’s a smart wardrobe move to have a belt that is a mid-shade color of each color group. In other words, you should have a medium brown and medium black belt since they will almost always be a “close enough” match for whatever color shoes you are wearing. If you are dressing casual, you also only really need to get the shade close enough. Here is the deal:
Black dress shoes: In truth, when it comes to black shoes, matching a belt is almost never an issue as black is black is black (certainly for the purposes of matching a belt to shoes). Wear a black belt with black shoes, always. Simple as that.
Brown dress shoes: If your shoes are a light brown, wear as close a light brown belt you have as possible. If they are a darker brown, wear a darker shade of brown. And, like we said, it’s always acceptable (even if not ideal) to wear a medium shade brown belt with any shade of brown shoes.
Grey or blue dress shoes: Nobody expects you to own a blue or grey belt. If you do have one, fantastic. Whip it out for your grey of blue shoes. If you don’t, though, just go with a shade of brown you think complements your shoes best. Again, when it comes to color combos like this, just make absolutely sure you’re not clashing (as in, of course no black belts with blue shoes). Beyond that, any neutral shade belt that goes with the shoes is perfectly fine.
Casual shoes or sneakers: When it comes to shoes like sneakers or espadrilles, a casual brown belt will do just fine, always. Otherwise, feel free to have some fun with some more casual woven belts that might have a number of colors in them. Again, just make sure you’re not breaking Rule #1, and that the colors in the belt don’t clash with your shoes.
Basically, get your belt as close as possible to your shoes, and of course, make sure it doesn’t clash (as per Rule #1). Here’s a bit of a rhyme to summarize these rules:
Texture is a bit more complicated than color, as matching texture can sometimes look absolutely awesome, but it can also sometimes look terrible. This requires a bit more personal judgment and sometimes you will just need to turn to a friend and ask what they think. For example, personally, I think wearing a suede belt with suede shoes is trying too hard, but there are no hard and fast rules here, and many of my colleagues would disagree. This really is more a matter of personal taste than something like matching color.
The same goes for crocodile or alligator leather belts with shoes of the same kind of leather. I think this is even more egregious than suede belts with suede shoes, but some would disagree. Really, each to his own here.
However, I believe everyone can agree that when matching the more subtle finishes and texture you will look awesome and it’s no different than matching the exact color, like we discussed above. In fact, I think that generally the smartest way to be edgy without being too risky is to vary the texture between your belt and shoes. For example, if you are wearing light brown plain leather loafers, then you can wear a light brown ostrich or alligator belt. In fact, I actually think that by varying the texture you also allow yourself to vary the color a bit as well. If you wear a medium or dark brown ostrich belt with light brown shoes, you will still look great. Varying the texture of your belt can look really great and it’ll add some optionality to your wardrobe!
Formal vs. Casual
Never wear formal shoes with a casual belt, and vice versa. Everyone knows what is or isn’t a dressy shoe, but lots of people are confused about what constitutes a formal or casual belt. There’s a very simple rule that will tell you the difference, and I’ll let Alpha M do the explaining:
“A simple rule to determine whether a belt is casual or dress is by using your thumb. If the belt is about as wide as your thumb, it's a dress belt. If the belt is wider than the first knuckle? It's a casual belt... It's that simple: the thumb tells if it's a dress or casual belt...”
The other rule here is about materials. If it’s a canvas belt, it’s a casual belt, no question. If it’s made out of leather — woven or not — use the above rule to determine its dress-status.
Simple enough? Got that all? (Remember, we’re always here, so feel free to consult whenever you’d like!) Now go get ‘em.