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A good belt is more than just a means of holding up your pants. The belt you wear makes a statement about who you are. Like shoes that look worn-down at the heal, nothing says “loser” faster than a worn out belt. A belt can dress up your whole outfit and while lots of cheap imitations appear to look good, they won’t last. Consider your belt an investment and you’ll be on the right track. When you begin to shop you’ll be faced with a variety of leather choices. “Full-grain” leather is the best grade you can buy. It is the totally natural, unaltered hide that lets the true look of the leather—marbling, texture and color—come through, but it’s very pricey. For those on a budget, “top-grain” or “genuine leather” provide more affordable options.

Beyond leather choices you’ll also need to choose between dress belts, casual belts, cotton and suede. So, how do you know what to look for? We’ve taken the pain out of your buying decision process by breaking belts down into some simple categories with recommendations on sizing and use, so you can go belt shopping with confidence, knowing you’re going to come away with the belt that’s just right for your needs.

Great Value

This 1 1/8-inch leather dress belt comes in a variety of colors and shades to match anything in your wardrobe. Mio Marino

This is what you want to wear with a suit or sportscoat. Dress belts should measure between 1 1/4″ and 1 3/8″ in width and about an 1/8″ in thickness. Anything wider than this falls into the casual-belt category.

Also be mindful of what shoes you’ll be wearing. Ideally, you want your belt to be made of exactly the same leather as your shoes so they match, but at the very least, choose a belt that will be very close in color and texture. Sizing can be a challenge. The basic rule is to buy one or two sizes larger than what your waist size is, but you can also measure one of your old belts that still fits well and use that as a guide when you shop.

Top Pick

Made of 100% genuine cowhide, this belt features a Zinc buckle that is more scratch and corrosion resistant. Oveynersin

These are the belts you’ll want to reach for when you’re wearing jeans. Casual belts tend to be thicker—anywhere from 1/8″ to 3/4″ in thickness and wider—1 1/4″ to 1 ¾.” The most common size for jeans is right at 1 ½.” In addition to full-grain leathers, suede is also an option for casual belts, but be warned, suede is more delicate and lighter shades will show dirt and wear more quickly.

Vegan Option

Looking for a casual belt that will never wear out? Nylon web belts like this are a good option. They also breath and dry very quickly when wet. Fairwin

While you’ll want to start out with purchasing one really good leather belt, here are the 4 choices you’ll eventually want to add to your wardrobe to cover every season and clothing type. And remember, belts are a great thing to put on your holiday or birthday gift list, so other people can help build your collection.

Black dress belt: If you buy nothing else, buy a quality black dress belt. Black goes with everything and you can wear it formally with a suit or slightly more casually with a sport coat.

Brown dress belt: Once you’ve made your black belt purchase, a brown belt should be next on your list. This will match every pair of brown, navy, khaki, or tan pants you own and they never go out of style.

Tan or brown casual belt: This is perfect for wearing with jeans. If the dress code where you work is business casual and you can wear dress jeans, this is a belt you’ll be wearing all the time.

Cotton or suede casual belt: Primarily for summertime wear with shorts, khaki pants or linen trousers, though these kinds of belts also work well in the shoulder seasons when warmer days (and lighter clothes) are still being worn.