Three Questions To Ask When Buying A Men’s Belt Buckle

A good belt buckle can achieve its primary job of keeping your pants up while at the same time making a fashion—and political—statement.

Couple holding hands walking through field
Got a cool belt? Pair it with an even cooler buckle.Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

Belt buckles come in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles, and so do the men who wear them. Some men don’t give a hoot what their buckle looks like, while others use their buckle to let those around them know they are a proud gun owner or that they love bull riding. Fact is, both of those types of guys would be wise to learn a thing or two about belt buckles before jumping online and clicking the “Add To Cart” button. To make a good selection when shopping for a belt buckle, ask yourself three important questions—what type of buckle you prefer, what metal you prefer and what size buckle will properly fit your belt’s width.

Type of Buckle

american pride belt buckle
This clip buckle measures approximately 2½ by 3½ inches.Amazon

There are many types of belt buckles, but four are most common. A clip buckle is a flat or slightly dished plate with a bar on the underside of one end shaped kind of like a towel rack, and a hooked prong at the other end. The belt is fastened to the bar and the hook engages a hole at the other end of the belt. These are often considered western style buckles and can be small to very large. Snap buckles come in two parts that are attached to the opposed sides of the belt. The upper piece usually has two protruding parts that fit tightly into opposing hollow parts on the other side of the belt when pressed together. A tang buckle consists of a closed loop and one or two tangs or prongs, which pass through a hole in the belt and rest on the top surface of the opposite end of the loop. Military buckles are used on belts that do not have holes but are fitted with a rigid plastic strip on the inner surface of the belt. When the belt is passed through the buckle, it is secured by the strip mating with an oppositely ridged catch inside the buckle. Choose the type that best fits your needs and your belt style.

Construction Material

sterling silver plated belt buckle
This sterling silver plated buckle is made from a zinc alloy.Amazon

Brass is the most classic type of belt buckle material and looks great with just about any color or style of belt. It is a commonly used material in western-style clip buckles. Pewter buckles tend to have a darker hew than many other metals and some have attractive carvings. Silver buckles are both elegant and dressy, and some can be quite valuable. The majority of belt buckles are made from various alloys and, while they have no real value in the metal, can look awesome when properly matched to a belt that they complement well. Steel or stainless steel belt buckles are also available and often contrast very well with a black belt.

Belt Width

don't tread on me belt buckle
This clip buckle fits on a standard 1½-inch belt swivel.Amazon

Regardless of what style buckle you choose and what material it is made of, if it doesn't fit your belt properly it's not going to look good on you. Belts come in a wide range of widths, and buckles are also made specifically to fit those belt widths. Obviously, a 1½-inch buckle won't fit on a 2-inch belt, but the opposite can be just as bad. A 2-inch buckle on a 1½-inch belt will fit, but it will slide up and down, never be comfortable and not look good. Make sure you know your belt's exact size before starting to shop for a new buckle.