As far as frequently asked questions about menswear styling go, this is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous: how should I match my belt and shoes, again?
To be fair, it’s a good question. Belts are a too-commonly overlooked wardrobe essential that, when properly matched, can help create outfits that are simultaneously full of exciting contrast and cohesive as a whole. Improperly matched belts, on the other hand, can make even the most expertly tailored garments look sloppy and unfocused.
Menswear should be about helping anyone and everyone look and feel great in the clothes they wear, and without spending the requisite time on learning the fundamental rules of fashion like these, achieving great outfits is going to be near impossible.
Fortunately, you won’t need to spend hours (or even minutes) trying to drill this essential fashion knowledge into your head.
Once you understand the logic behind it, matching belts and shoes is simple enough for anyone to become an expert. For your reference, here are the rules to keep in mind when matching shoes, belts, and other leather garments and accessories in your wardrobe together.
Rule Number One: Always, Always Match Your Leathers
If you take away one thing from this article, it should be this: always match your leathers as closely as you possibly can.
Mixing different belt colors (black shoes and a brown belt, for example) just looks sloppy. It demonstrates that you haven’t put thought into your wardrobe, and might not really care about the impression you’re making.
With remarkably few exceptions, there’s almost no way to make unmatched leather look acceptable in any context.
On the other hand, matching the colors of your leather -- from your shoes to your belt to even a bag or watch band -- can make your outfit distinctively put-together, especially if you really nail the exact tone of the leather across multiple items. When more than one tone of leather is featured in an item, matching can be trickier, but try to match the primary tone as well as you can.
Mirroring the precise warmth or color of your shoes in your belt or your daily carry bag, for example, can make a huge impression. Conversely, a not-quite-right pair of differing browns or blacks can look really unappealing.
When matching belts and shoes, one additional factor to keep in mind is the tone of your shoes and pants: you’ll want to avoid matching the exact tone. You have tons of flexibility with color and texture for the rest of your outfit, but an exact top-to-bottom tone match is going to look strange, so try to ensure at least some contrast.
Rule Number Two: Whenever Possible, Match Your Metals
This one is also pretty straightforward, but a lot more flexible: as much as you realistically can, matching the tone of your belt buckle with other metal elements on your outfit is a great way to ensure matching success.
If you’re the type of dude to wear metal accessories or jewelry, such as sunglasses, rings, bracelets, earrings, ensuring that they all match the tone of your belt buckle will further underscore the cohesiveness of your outfit.
Matching the shade of your buckle with the shade of your belt is generally not necessary: brown or black belts can look great with either bronze or silver buckles.
What makes this a little more flexible is that since these metallic details are typically much smaller, you can enjoy a lot more leeway with matching.
Wedding rings, for example, are typically exempt from metal matching rules, and one or two stray gold items on an otherwise all-silver outfit typically won’t make-or-break your entire look.
Ultimately, if you follow these two basic guidelines, you’ll be able to match leather garments like belts and shoes with relative ease. Once you get past the initial confusion and learn the basic rules of matching, this is a great way to ensure that any outfit you put on looks as great as it possibly can.
One thing you might be wondering is this: is it ever acceptable to break these rules? The answer is...maybe.
As I’m writing this article, I myself am wearing leather shoes that do not precisely match the tone of my belt, so yes, some flexibility is possible. However, it takes a lot of finesse to create a contrast that works, and it’s pretty easy to make major mistakes that throw off your entire outfit.
If you’re feeling creative and want to give breaking the rules a try, make sure you’ve cultivated a really deep understanding of the rules you’ll be breaking first: I’d only recommend trying to wear unmatched leather after you’ve spent a long time looking at fashion inspiration and developing your personal aesthetic.
Ready to take your shoe and belt game to the next level? Drop by the Blaine’s Fine Men’s Apparel website or visit our location in Montgomery, OH for some of the best men’s fashion that Cincinnati has to offer.