Should your belt match your shoes? (Or bag)

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This question might seem like an easy one, but I do get a lot of comments and emails about it, so I thought I’d lay it out in a post.

No, in short, a leather belt and leather shoes do not have to match. But they should be closely related.

So a mid-brown belt with dark-brown shoes is fine. So is a brown leather belt with suede shoes, even in slightly different shades.

In the images here, I’m wearing a dark-brown woven-leather belt with mid-brown suede loafers. They play perfectly nicely together.

Black shoes and belts, however, are more restrictive.

As there aren’t really shades of black, a brown belt is always going to look odd with black shoes. The brown would have to be extremely dark for that not to be the case.

Always safest to wear black shoes with a black belt, therefore. (Or indeed, given how formal black shoes are, no belt or belt loops at all.)

The only other leathers that black can sometimes work with are shades of grey, or other colours like green and yellow.

I have a gold watch with a pale-tan ostrich strap, for instance, where the light, strong colour of the strap makes it a good accompaniment to suits and black shoes.

When it comes to watch straps generally, the same guidance applies.

So browns in the same family are all fine - in the image below, a brown alligator strap on my IWC Portuguese.

With both watch straps and belts, if the material isn’t leather, there’s no need to worry at all. So belts in a canvas webbing, for example, or Nato straps on watches.

With bags, there is rather more freedom.

If you wear a suit with black shoes and black belt most days, then a black briefcase would perhaps be most elegant. But, if you want something you can also wear with more casual clothes, then go for a dark brown.

Perhaps more important than the colour is to think whether the bag is generally smart enough elsewhere: an attache, briefcase or tote are descending orders of casual, for example.

I have a matte-brown Sac a Depeches briefcase that I happily carry with smarter outfits.

By the way, although I generally dislike belts with suits, I do find I’m wearing them a little more these days - as I move towards more separate suits and trousers.

Although trousers without belt loops will always be smartest, it is nice to use a belt to add a little more interest to an open-necked, jacket/trouser combination. Especially if you feel a pocket handkerchief would be too showy.

The only problem, of course, is then you need two pairs of trousers in every material and colour. So I’ll generally be sticking to beltless for a while.

Items pictured:

Photography: James Holborow, shot at the Billy Tannery

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Burt

As you’re wearing a fine woven belt in the pictures, I wonder what your take is on finely woven leather shoes? I used to have some dark brown pairs from Italy a couple of years ago, they were very comfortable yet still formal enough in hot weather. One doesn’t see them in London, nor does any of the British shoe brands produce them? Kind of a no-go in the UK?

Carl

Interesting. I guess that it is a question of taste and budget but I usually commission two pairs of trousers to my suits. One with belt loops but one without. The problem is that I rarely uses the pair with belt loops if it is a smart suit in for example dark navy. But I guess it is easier to remove the belt loops than the other way around.

Anonymous

Simon
Two points on glasses
Firstly – I think one pair is much more permanent and allows a pair to become a part of the wearer, more than this becomes dandyish. My humble view
Secondly (in semi jest)- aviator spectacles? How very hipster meets magnum pi!

Peter K

I wear only one pair of glasses and they have become an essential part of my look. And then there’s the fun of considering a different style when the prescription changes!

Given the smallness of my face I tend to stick with a frame for a long time when I find one that fits and that I like.

While the aviator sunglasses work for you Simon I find these aviator eyeglasses don’t. A narrower and rounder pair would suit your face better. But that’s just my opinion. If you wore these all the time they would just become part of you.

Kingstonian

The acetate glasses seem to be similar to P3 frames that are readily available elsewhere – Anglo American 406 etc. You won’t get fussed over – but you won’t spend £1300 pounds either.

There are also plentiful wire frames available, from Algha Works/National Health-style to aviator. I don’t know the cost of the ones featured, so they may be similarly priced.

The notion that one looks better without spectacles is fairly widely held – unless one is trying to look clever or bookish. Viewing oneself in a decent, full length mirror also seems pretty obvious. That said, people buy spectacle frames over the internet, which seems risky even if you can photoshop them on to a picture of your face first.

Kingstonian

Yes I appreciate they are hand made. However, many will not be able to allocate so much to spectacle frames and similar off the shelf styles might suit their budget. I do understand that this site mostly features high end, more expensive items.

As regards only having one pair of spectacle frames, it is certainly one way to do things. However, with the caveat that all your frames have up to date lens prescriptions, then a selection might be better if you also regard spectacle frames as a style option.

Anonymous

Its the bag that I struggle with.

Whilst fashion has moved away from carrying them, or moved to plastic rucksacks, I do still like carrying my notepad, pen, keys etc in an attache/briefcase. I alternate in shades of black/brown shoes through the week but a “matching” briefcase is much more of an investment than a belt and switching cases each morning is more effort than belts.

Its a pity that unlike watch straps there isnt a one size/colour fits all, given its visibility -v- a watch under a shirt, any third option always seem too showy for me.

Anonymous

Match the colour of belts and shoes.

Black is black so that’s that.

Shades of brown don’t matter as they are still brown so they will sit together.

Don’t agonise over trying to match watch straps, bags to anything otherwise you’ll never get out of the house.

Thomson

I find that burgundy works well as a neutral colour. As does dark green. Cordovan is particularly lovely.

Peter B

Get an oxblood colored bag. Goes with both well – it’s formal enough for the black shoes and not too formal for the brown shoes.
Or the “London Tan” shade if it’s to your taste, it would interact like Simon’s watch strap in this case.

Limekiln

My struggle with using decent bags/cases (which I do) is finding anyone else that bothers using them. In my work environment it is de rigueur to use one of those very common rucksacks, usually in black, and usually with a company logo indicating that the carrier got it for free.
They are the height of ugliness, especially when you see men (women often care more and give them a wide berth) wearing them on their back over an otherwise decent suit. To say nothing of how a heavy cheap bag can really damage the structure of a well-made jacket.
There’s no accounting for taste I suppose.

Mike

In an effort to keep it simple: no belt loops on tailored pants, belts loops for jeans and ‘chinos.’ I subscribe to the philosophy that if a pair of pants are properly tailored, a belt is unnecessary. Not only does beltless look more elegant, smart, etc., I think it – in fact – it is more visually interesting when dressed down casually – particularly in a world where every iGent thinks that a belt is an essential “accessory.”

And I agree with Simon that if an event requires the formality of black shoes, then no belt is desired – hence the reason why I don’t own a black belt, and a “dress belt” is not in my sartorial vocabulary. Limiting my so-called ‘belt-loop pants’ to jeans and chinos makes this an effortless proposition.

I strongly dislike really wide belts, fashion buckles, and bright colours (including white!!!).

Simon, what’s your take on canvas/leather trimmed belts?

Anonymous

What is an iGent?

Bobby

Oh some of them have a lot of knowledge all right. It’s just all in compartmentalised chunks. And they have zero self-awareness.

This business of matching belts, bags, watch straps and shoes, for instance. Men in the City have worn black shoes and carried a brown briefcase for close on a hundred years. And they looked spot on. They also wore brown watch straps and carried black umbrellas.

The Neapolitans have a term for sartorialists who try to look too perfect. Something about sembra nu pupo. Which carries un-PC connotations.

Men desperately need to regain that naturalness in dressing. Not so much sprezzatura, as British self-assuredness. Knowing your place. There’s too much new money in menswear.

Anonymous

Exactly right. Looking far too polished is a really terrible look

Ian A

It’s thinking along this lines that has led to the abominations of men in skinny jeans with contrived rips up and down the legs.

Sam

I don’t know which City you frequent but for the two decades I’ve spent in the City of London brown briefcases are almost never seen. These days your more likely to see electric blue suit, tan shoes and black bag than most other combinations

Fabrizio Gatti

For the followers that don’t know Italian: Sembra nu pupo: exactly! It means “he looks like a marionette” or, more precisely, “like a male doll”.

FIDELIO

Simon,
I don’t usually wear belts but have become interested in the Drake’s alligator one. How versatile is a piece like this? Can it be work with jeans, chinos and some casual tailoring?
Thank you,

Anonymous

I have my bark brown soft leather briefcase. Have never felt its note smart enough, can work on a dress down friday, and I don’t need to move documents etc around. Job done.

Steve Calder

Congrats on the Alden’s (they look new!). I picked up the same ones myself when visiting Trunk in London! The beginning of a dangerous Love affair with the brand for me…

On the topic of briefcases, as many people are seeking the impossible perfect answer – I don’t think one should worry too much about matching colours and shades. I own a charcoal patina top-handle and wear it with everything. I’d do the same with a black, brown or navy briefcase if I found one which I loved. Just my two cents!

Per S

Nice and useful post. How about a black watch strap (silver and black watch; hence black rather than brown strap) to brown shoes and belt?

JB

This is one of the best, if not the best, casual looks I’ve seen you in Simon.
Have a nice weekend.

Anonymous

I like the look too but why are the trousers too short?

Ian A

It’s good length for the summer and to go sockless with.

Brett

Speaking of watches, what are your thoughts on the Apple iWatch? In particular the Hermes version.

Fabrizio Gatti

Interesting. Love the look in the first picture. One thing that I never do is wearing a suede belt with suede shoes.
My watch straps are and have always been in some shade of tan to mid brown: they work for me. No wrist watch with a tuxedo

Ian A

Personally I like black shoes for walking around a city or town with. They fit in great with asphalt and don’t look like the stuff I avoid stepping in. I’m not a believer that a man should try to get people to look at his shoes. Brogueing, a nice texture like grain or EG Utah or even one of Simon’s perennial favourites black suede shoes all dial down the formality aspects. Plus if i’m not in the countryside walking over grass or mud it just seems pointless.

Jason

The longer this site goes on, the more it is becoming the antithesis of ‘Permanent Style’.
‘Permanent Style’ by definition is permanent and represents a strong, individual attachment to a specific way of being – both in terms of look and in the way one lives. It may evolve but the overall aesthetic remains instantly recognisable.
In the beginning, PS respected and reflected that ethos but, somewhat enivitably, it has morphed into a fashion blog advertising brands.
The case in point here are the glasses. Frankly they don’t look remotely correct and are just a nod to fashion.
I think it’s time to reasses because this is becoming less interesting.

Sebastian Crowley

I think the challenge which Jason raises is a fair one.

PS started as a guide to tailoring, craftsmanship and the like. You wrote partly about technical aspects: construction, technique, tradition, and made useful comparisons between different tailors and styles of tailoring.

Then somehow you ended up writing about “look” as well. People started asking you questions about mixing fabric A with colour B, matching a brown watch strap to blue trousers, and suddenly you are a style guru.

Wearing a blue OCBD with bottle green chinos and brown suede loafers Simon is, frankly, kindergarten stuff.

I really appreciate the way you write about craft and tradition, but don’t think you offer much about style. A lot of the “advice” you offer on the subject is a bit suspect, and given your heritage can be no more than an opinion.

Keep up the good work.

Sebastian Crowley

Quite so, Simon, but your style perspective is entirely self taught and can only be of real value for those who simply want to copy what you do or say.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. It’s only my opinion.

Anonymous

The last paragraph is spot on.

Anonymous

How ridiculous Sebastian – what else is there apart from self-taught style?

Plus all anyone does is copy others, including Simon, whether peers or style writers.

Sebastian Crowley

Self taught as opposed to having undertaken formal study, eg London School of Fashion.

Anonymous

Very rarely comment but moved to do so by the idea that only those who have formally studied fashion are fit to comment on style. Extraordinary! Thankfully Simon doesn’t seem to take such elitist and unreasonable comments to heart

Jason

True but that’s why fashion magazines aren’t selling and certainly don’t interest me.
Where you go with this is up to you but you refer to the beginning as narrow. For me, it was focused and of interest to those who had long turned their back on the GQ, Pitty Peacock, iGent brigade. It was primarily adding value for folk who new about things.
Ironically, it is now well on the way to morphing into the aforementioned.
It’s probably somewhat inevitable but buying more stuff is certainly not the answer.
Personally I would welcome more focus on providence, quality, how things wear over time etc…

Fabrizio Gatti

Permanent Style has evolved in terms of amount of content. And this is a good thing. It is one of the many points of reference for many followers, along with the old way of getting inspiration for instance by sitting at a table in a nice coffee shop in Piazza della Signoria and watching people passing by. And yes, everybody copies something they have seen adding their personal touch, including the old time stylish gentlemen (the infamous watch strap over the shirt wrist is not an invention by Gianni Agnelli. It was worn by actor Amedeo Nazzari in a movie and by young upper class kids in the French Riviera. The latter grew up, while Agnelli kept “playing” until he turned 47 and decided that was time to work… just a little).
I very much appreciate the fact that Simon is able and willing to post in his site and very politely reply to such harsh criticism: a real gentleman. By the way Simon, I wrote a few thoughts on the doble-breasted jackets but it hasn’t been posted yet. Cheers?

Fabrizio Gatti

You found it and posted it. Thank you.

Kev Fidler

I don’t see how how you can divorce the two, technical information on clothes construction and so-called style. Presumably when buying a jacket say as RTW or commissioning a bespoke suit you are automatically thinking about gaps in your wardrobe, what you will pair it with etc. The mixture of the two styles of article is informative and perhaps appropriately adapted but not to be followed slavishly. The points raised in the comments do the same job; not all Simon’s suggestions or that of fellow commentators are to my taste but they are at least interesting to hear.

Anonymous

Style is an elusive, ephemeral quality, which can be analyzed, but is difficult to really pin down – that is why it remains an intriguing subject, and why people continue to read and write about it. And then there is the view that it is innate and cannot really be taught, which I suppose makes reading and writing about style a non-issue.

Let’s remember the year is 2018. The street, the Row, vintage photographs, the way your parents and grandparents dressed, these and endless other influences all contribute to the personal style everyone possesses. Images of all this are instantly available to us both actively and passively, and we also have access to “educate” ourselves online with a modicum of effort.

With regard to your posts on style, Simon, I think they are a great component of your blog. For various reasons both professional and personal, I suppose I could argue that I never need to read a post on style. However, I look forward to your next well-written post on the topic and the opportunity to consider something new.

Adam Jones

How do you approach the belt/shoe colour combination of black boots with denim. I have a pair of black G&G Chelsea boots I wear with l dark denim (I dislike boots with suits) but the belt always causes me issue. A dark brown belt (wider jeans style belt) doesn’t always feel right but a black belt can look downright odd and far to formal to go with jeans.

Andrew

Style is interesting.

The line between style and “like” is very blurred.

Preppy is a style. Like a 50’s mobster is a style. Shabby chic is a style. Like a “born to be wild” biker is a style.

The problem, gentlemen, is that you can copy any “style” in the way you choose to dress, but copying it well still won”t stop you looking like a plonker if you don’t know HOW to wear things.

Peter

I souldrottningen say that it is not a question. Just stop wearing belts! If you wear trousers that fit you should not wear a belt. Case closed

CS

btw J Fitzpatrick shoes have some braided leather shoes.

not sure if that counts as a British brand though?

Michael

Simon,

Random question regarding RTW casual trousers like the ones pictured here from incotex. I’m finding that so many makers are using fabric blends that contain some kind of synthetic stretch material for their trousers. I’ve always expected this in brands like Jcrew and the like, but I always chalked it up to “you get what you pay for.” Now however, it seems like tailoring houses have jumped on the band wagon for their RTW products as well as other higher quality brands like Incotex.

What are your thoughts on this?

Howie

I often wear my sleeves rolled up too, but thought it more “correct” to cuff them three times, so they are higher. Thoughts please?

Albert

Are the green trousers pictured just incotex chinos with turn ups added by yourself?

Anonymous

On the direction of PS etc.; I think it unfair, unreasonable and faintly ridiculous to expect PS to run in a vein similar to that of its inception. We have all evolved in our tastes, experimentation and views as has PS. Moreover we live in a slightly different time than when PS began – fashions, businesses, market offerings have all evolved. In this last point the current status of PS is defined by its evolution. No reasonable person should expect PS to be the same nor focus on their own singular expectation – after all the readership is approximately 300,000 plus. I think Simon does an excellent job of covering the bases moving frequently from high detail to general, more simple articles. One final point: we can all learn more about style but to suggest that Simon isn’t qualified to write on style is so erroneous and without merit that it is a ridiculous statement. For eleven years Simon has travelled to the world’s best clothing, shoe and accessory manufacturers from Cuccinelli to Cleverley in discovery of the world’s best. Supporting the empirical aspect is an Oxbridge education – still the world’s best – allowing for good, well reasoned and thoughful journalism and opinion. I may not always agree with his opinions, nor on all matters sartorial but unlike many Simon will host a discussion even when it is critical. After a decade of reading and following PS – as well as reading widely across other sites- there isn’t anything online that reaches PS’ level.

Martin Plant

Very well said Anonymous

Anonymous

First time commenter, so I’d take a sec to express how much I appreciate reading weekly permanent style. The quality of posts is stunning and the advices really valuable.
Now down to my question: what would you suggest to pair with bordeaux shoes (e.g. tassel loafer)?

Anonymous

Apologies, I wasn’t clear enough. The question I meant to ask was what color of the belt you suggest to pair with bordeaux shoes?

Anon

Simon,

A related question relating to how to how belts should be worn: How much of the belt tongue should project from the first belt loop after the buckle? I see wide variation, and I’m curious as to what you think looks best?

Shem

Hey Simon what kind of belt would you recommend if I’m looking to pair t-shirt/Oxford shirt with my armoury army chinos? I would assume very casual ones but would suedes or woven ones work better?

Philip

Hi Simon,

I’m on the market for a high quality crocodile leather belt. But I’m not willing to buy from one of the fashion houses – I would rather buy from an artisan. I would be willing to travel within Europe. Is there anyone in particular that you can recommend? Many thanks in advance!

Philip

Anonymous

Hello Simon, it seems like your IWC Portuguese has a missing pusher. Is it the photo or did it just fell off ?

Shem

Hey Simon I’m looking to purchase a suede/canvas belt and notice some have silver while others have brass buckles. Is there a difference in formality between the two?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, an off topic but slightly related question: how have you found the Alden loafers after wearing them a bit? How would you rate them against say, a similar unlined Edward Green shoe as to suede quality/make, etc? Thank you very much.

Anonymous

Hi,
I recently purchased a pair of chinos with side adjusters.Slim fit with a soft washed handle….£149.The alternative Incotex pair were £245.In the end I preferred the former but was puzzled why Incotex are so expensive.What do you think about their cost?Can it really be justified?

John

Hi Simon,

I’m about to buy my first high quality formal briefcase (from Swaine Adeney, Westminster 2 model) and since that will be a large expense for me, I’d like to ask you explicitly for an advice, despite some hints in other readers’ posts above. I have three question:

1. I’m craving for a London Tan colour but I wear mostly black shoes and dark navy suits (and no belts). I see that your pale-tan watch strap can perfectly work with dark colours (charcoal/navy/black) and see no reason why a briefcase of the similar colour could not. What do you think please?

2. I wear only silver accessories (cufflinks, spectacles etc.) and I’d like to choose silverish fittings for my briefcase. Since I see that even on your Hermes dark brown briefcase there is silver hardware, I think that silver with London Tan is no mismatch, would you agree?

3. And to satisfy my curiosity, what is the traditional (English?) way of displaying one’s initials on briefcases, attaché cases etc.? Hidden (under flap, inside the case) or clearly visible when the case is closed and carried?

Thank you very much!

J.

Shem Teo

Hi simon i recently purchased a pair of dark denim jeans and I realised it went perfectly with Oxford button downs and my long neglected black calf Cavendish tassel loafers. I only have a brown suede and canvas belt which seems odd to go with the outfit. Do I strictly need a black belt? And what other suitable options are there?

anon

Simon,

I’m thinking about a belt in exotic leather, maybe sharkskin or alligator, for office wear (as opposed to bridle leather, which I would only wear casually). Any thoughts about these materials, and whether something matte but textured, like sharkskin, is appropriate for an office?

Kailash

Simon,
I have a couple of questions and therefore approaching you so that you could help me solve it.
1) Can i wear ‘chino’ and ‘jeans’ without a belt?
2) In the first image you are wearing a blue accessory (bracelet) which matches the colour of your shirt and which in my view brings the outfit together. Often times when i am wearing a printed shirt i tend to wear a bracelet which matches the colour of print. ‘So for instance if i am wearing a white shirt with red checks then i wear a red bracelet’. ‘Do you think men can wear colourful bracelets’? I love wearing colourful bracelets but i am not sure whether it is appropriate for a man to wear colourful bracelets and therefore i have come to you for an advice.

Kailash

Thanks for the suggestion Simon.
1) If my tailor removes belt loops from chino then would it look appropriate?
2) Would matching a bracelet to a particular item in an outfit come across as too matchy and that is why you are suggesting to avoid it?

Kailash

If the same cloth is not available then can some other cloth work?
Do you think it would be so noticeable?
I do not like to wear belts and it just looks a bit off when i do not wear a belt when belt loops are there in trousers.

Kailash

Highly appreciate your help.
I want to ask one last question on this topic so that i have a clear perspective on the issue regarding belts and it would be very helpful if you could advice.
Do you think going without a belt when belt loops are available look odd for chino?
Would it give out a feeling that i forgot to wear one?

Michael

Hi Simon,
I want to get a woven belt to pair with dark brown suede shoes casually with chinos,cotton trousers.
I have a watch with silver case. Does it matter if the buckle of the belt it’s gold?
As for colour,I am thinking at cognac colour rather than dark brown .
Also one belt it’s 3.5 cm and another it’s 2.5 cm. Does the width between the two matter so much or it’s just personal preference. I do like the smaller width.
https://www.mrporter.com/en-gb/mens/product/andersons/accessories/leather-belts/4cm-dark-brown-woven-leather-belt/16494023980254997

https://www.mrporter.com/en-gb/mens/product/andersons/accessories/leather-belts/25cm-woven-leather-belt/46353151655016169

https://www.mrporter.com/en-gb/mens/product/andersons/accessories/leather-belts/35cm-woven-leather-belt/14097096497399082

Thanks!

Michael

But in terms of colour, the cognac belt is better suited than the dark brown?

Andrew Pearce

Hi Simon,

Greetings!

Question – what kind/colour belt would you suggest wearing with canvas shoes, like Doeks, for example? I have similar style shoes in blue and ecru that I wear with chinos and white jeans from time to time, and would love a bit of guidance on this.

Could a blue or olive colour belt work in this instance? Or is brown a better colour choice?

I like to think with those more casual outfits one can be more adventurous with texture and colour re belt choice.

Look forward to your thoughts. And as always, thanks for your insightful advice.

Best,
Andrew

Ps. I’ve read the post as well as the comments and I don’t think this was raised.

Andrew Pearce

Thanks for replying and confirming my thinking! I appreciate it.

Marvin

Where would blue leather watch strap sit, do you think this could be matched up with brown suede shoes?

My thinking is blue (navy) trouser happily sits with brown suede.

To mix things up, may purchase blue watch but don’t want to limit it wear.

Cheers

Marvin

Thanks Simon. Never really looked at it from that point of view, different colour entirely so doesn’t matter – too hooked up trying to ensure a match.

Appreciate input.

If anyone else has a thought, or experience, please chip in.