The belt you wear with your favorite jeans? It wasn’t made for dress pants. And while we’re all for skirting the sartorial rules around here, there are some instances—the big job interview, the fancy date—when you should play it straight. So when you’re really dressing up, you need a dress belt. (It’s right there in the name.)
Obviously, it should be nice and polished. That means no distressed leather, and no embellishment, with the sole exception of appropriately understated topstitching at the edges. If you’re looking to get the most mileage out of just one—and don’t work at a funeral home—go for smooth brown leather, with a silver or nickel buckle. It plays well with navy and gray suits, and you can wear it with chinos to class things up. Of course, if your wardrobe is comprised largely of black, your belt’s leather should match. In that case, the buckle can be either brass or silver. Your call. But whatever kind of metal it’s made from, it shouldn’t be appreciably wider than the belt itself, and the shape should be basically square, with slightly rounded corners (to take the edge off things). And then there’s that all-important issue of width. Your belt needs to be slim enough to look refined, but wide enough that it’s clear it was made for grown man. That magic measurement? Somewhere between 1” and 1 ¼”. Any bigger, and the bulk of the thing brings you into casual territory. Any smaller, and it’ll just look silly.
Oh, and it should go without saying, but just in case: Make sure it matches your shoes.