Your Summer Freestyle: Suits Without Belts
The answer to, “Do you wear a belt with a suit?” is constantly evolving.
As menswear experts, we’ve talked about many of the nuances of fashion, from suit mistakes you’re making to whether brown shoes go with black pants. But today, we’ll answer, “Is it ok to wear a belt with a suit?” and shed some light on the guidelines you should follow.
Let’s get started!
Should You Wear a Suit With No Belt?
You may have already answered the question in your head, but there are different schools of thought on this topic. An older gentleman would probably say “yes” with a quick, confident nod and a shake of his newspaper. A fresh-out-of-school graduate may ask “belts are optional?” with a wide-eyed blink. The answer, if you ask us, is “yes, but…”. While there really isn’t a right or wrong answer to the “To Belt or Not to Belt” question, there are some guidelines to follow when going either route. We’ll shed some light on those guidelines but first, in order to make a truly informed decision, one must consider the sartorial evolution behind the question.
A Brief History of the Belt
While the modern belt is a common accessory when suiting up for dressy occasions, it had a humble beginning. The modern version of the belt was mainly used to cinch the waist of oversized work pants to keep them from falling off. In contrast — and we’re talking early 20th century here — a well-dressed gentleman had his suits custom tailored and fitted to his silhouette. Suits didn’t even have belt loops then, but rather pull-tabs on the side of the waistband to accommodate any minor fluctuations in weight. Suspenders were used when a little extra lift was needed. It wasn’t until suits went into mass production with standardized sizing and off-the-rack shopping that belt loops were introduced.
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Over time, the belt had become an acceptable office standard along with a metallic tie bar to match the wrist watch. Simple rules dictated that the belt should match or complement the shoes and be streamlined in design.
So you wear your suit with a belt, and that’s totally fine if it’s used as an accessory to complete your look. But consider this: if you have a beautifully tailored suit, do you even need a belt to keep your pants from sliding off?
When You Do/Don’t Wear a Belt With a Suit
Wearing a belt with your suit might be the default style, but it’s not a must. That said, there are a few specific instances when you should and should not wear a belt:
When to Wear a Belt:
DO: When you need a belt to keep your pants up.
This might seem obvious, but if you’re wearing loose suit trousers or pants, the question isn’t whether you should wear a belt but rather which do you choose. Do you go with a braided belt, canvas belt, or a belt with a fancy belt buckle?
DO: When you want a more casual/relaxed look.
You can dress down your look by choosing belts that are more about style and making a statement rather than their functionality. For example, braided belts are great with a casual outfit.
When not to wear a belt:
DON’T: When you want to look more modern.
Is it ok not to wear a belt with a suit? Absolutely, though a casual belt should be dropped for a more modern style. Belts are like braces and attract the eye. If you opt to go without, there will be less visual focus on your waistline.
DON’T: When wearing a tuxedo.
If you’re asking, “Should you wear a belt with a formal suit?” then the answer is no. Most tuxedos won’t even have a belt loop, but if it does, belts will detract from your polished and dapper look. A black or brown belt with a beautiful tux will create a visual break when examining the overall vertical look. Even skinny belts will still stand out looped in your pants.
DON’T: When going to a very formal event.
A simple rule of thumb is that the more elegant the occasion, the less likely you need a belt with your pants. Take the Marine Blue Birdseye Suit, for example. A statement suit like this without a belt looks appropriately sleek and modern. Especially for summer, your more unique suits will benefit from a pared-down non-belt look.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions on belts and suits? Here are a few of the most common questions we hear surrounding the subject:
Do you wear a belt with a wedding suit?
This depends on how formal your wedding suit is. Like mentioned above, the more formal the less likely you are to wear one. If it’s your wedding, you make the call. If you’re a groomsman, ask the groom.
Do you wear a belt with a 3-piece suit?
If your suit has belt loops, probably. But the answer to this is, again, that it depends on what event you’re going to. That said, usually a 3-piece suit is a more formal look, and so opting to go belt-less will help make you look more formal.
How do I choose the correct belt size?
When selecting the correct belt size, a good rule is to add 2 inches to your off-the-rack trousers and pants size. If you want more info here, we wrote a whole guide on how to choose the right belt for your outfit.
Do belts have to match the shoes?
Yes. Your belt should complement your shoes and suit and not be jarringly different or overly notable. Knowing the rules to matching your belt and shoes is a must if you’re a fashion-conscious guy. Of course, if you’re wearing casual shoes and an informal look is what you’re going for, mixing things up can be fun.
The Final Verdict on Belts and Suits
At the end of the day, it comes down to the belt loops. If you’ve got them, you should use them. If no loops are present, mystery solved. Keep in mind that regardless of belt choice, your pants should be tailored to fit your body. A belt holding up too-big balloon trousers looks exactly as it sounds — functional, but sloppy. If you’re opting for a belt even occasionally, remember that it’s an accessory, not a necessity. And if it’s an option in your wardrobe, going beltless ensures a cleaner, leaner, more streamlined silhouette that will set you apart in the best way.
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