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”.