Personally, if my shirt is tucked in, then I need to be wearing a belt. Anything else feels off, and even when I am not tucking in my shirt, I often will reach for a belt as well. Belts are a tricky area, as they are partly about looks and finishing an outfit, and partly about the function of helping to keep your pants held up (they are never about holding items unless you are working or in a war).
The problem with belts is that there are effectively three types: heritage leather style belts, the classics if you will; hiking performance belts; and tactical belts for holding all the guns. It is extremely hard to figure out what a good belt is for normal life — or as normal as life might be right now. Something that looks good, is comfortable, and has good adjustment.
I’ve already looked at a few on this site, the Grip6 and we’ve talked about the Slidebelt in some guides, but today I want to walk you through the spectrum and how I am approaching belts these days. But first, a baseline: all my belts need to work well on a pair of Futureworks in the office, in the car on the way to the office, and they need to be able to be used on 5-pocket style pants as well. That’s the range I am going for: casual to smart casual.
Let’s go from classic to high-performance.
Filson 1-1/4″ Bridle Leather Belt
First up is an offering from Filson coming in at $80 the 1-1/4” Bridle Leather Belt is one of many offerings in their full leather lineup of belts. It’s width makes it perfect for smart casual to casual wear and the leather itself is among the best you can get. Filson’s bridle leather is next level if you have never handled it before. This is among the most classic designs: single strap of leather with a brass buckle to secure it.
This is easily one of my favorite belts I’ve ever owed and something which feels like it will last a lifetime. There’s plenty of reviews talking about how people used them daily for 10 years and only got a new one because their pants size changed. The sizing is a little odd, but read the measurements and measure your waist — if you buy based on that you should get a belt where the buckle lands in the center of the holes. In the time I have had this belt is shows no stretch and no wear marks at all.
It’s a little bulky at the front, but otherwise is as simple and classic as you can get. For a long time I avoided belts like this because I thought they would not be worth the money, but this one is. The issue: it’s about as low tech as you can get. If that’s your speed, stop here, if not, keep reading.
British Belt Company / Generic Box Store Belts
I have had a few offerings from British Belt Company, and I mean no disrespect when I saw this, but they mostly feel no different than any “genuine leather” belt you grab from a big box store, though likely with better pricing. They look nice! Even the belts you buy from Macy’s or Nordstrom look nice, but they feel nothing like the Filson Bridle Leather. They are $35 belts and paying any more is wasting money.
These are simply about looks, and they last a couple years at most. The leather is cheap and stiff. Oddly turning them into belts that show wear quickly and stretch even more quickly. There’s nothing bad about owning some of these, especially for things like “suit belt” but there is also nothing good about them either.
SlideBelts was one of the first ‘performance’ belts I got. Taking a classic leather belt look, and applying a unique ratcheting style buckle/clasp to the belt. What you end up with is a couple really cool things: easy to adjust discretely, micro adjustments, and a cut-to-fit ordering system so you are never getting the wrong size.
I have two of these, one in the vegan leather option, and one in the top grain leather option. The vegan leather is not good. It’s plasticky and very stiff, so much so that any advantage from the micro adjustments is lost in the uncomfortable nature of the belt band itself not forming well to your body — and I put over a year of wear on mine. The top grain leather is fantastic, it shows wear, but it molds very nicely to your body, forming a very comfortable belt.
Top grain leather.
There’s a wide variety of colors and styles, so there will always be something for you and the buckles are interchangeable as well (though you need a tool to pry them free I find). The part that finally got me to move away from these though: bulk and weight.
The buckle is a serious chunk of metal and it weighs a lot, and more than that it sits out from your pants a fair amount. It feels and looks bulky. With some styles, this is fine, but for me it was too much. (For travelers do note that these buckles often don’t make it through metal detectors.)
Good belts, comfortable, but for the price they weigh a lot and are bulky.
Filson Togiak Belt / Hiking Strap Belts
Now we are moving straight into the hiking performance belts. I have a few in this category, I’ll talk mostly about the Togiak belt from Filson as I like it the best. But generally these are some sort of nylon webbing / elastic webbing / canvas strap type of belt with a pull-to-adjust system of some sort and a basic to fancy clasp. The Togiak is canvas with a g-hook style clasp. Bison Belts are popular, as is the Arc’Teryx belt.
These are all very comfortable while looking not great. Depending on the nylon webbing choice they range from stiff to soft on the canvas side. I prefer the smoother webbing options or canvas as they form well to your waist and offer supreme comfort. They are true micro-adjustment belts too, as they offer near infinite adjustment options.
The downside is completely on the looks end. While you can get the precise strap you want and a wide variety of color options — none of these will look “nice”. They don’t all look bad, but they are going to stand out if you try to rock them in the office with a pair of chinos and a button down. Firmly casual, but among the most comfortable out there since they are the easiest to find exactly what you need/want for your use.
I wear the Togiak all weekend long. Great stuff.
Arcade Adventure Belt
Arcade made a good marketing splash when they launched the Adventure belt. I picked one up and fell in love. This is a belt for people who don’t like wearing belts, but want their pants to fit a little more snug. These are a decently thick bit of elastic webbing with a very thin plastic buckle.
They sit very low profile, and move very nicely with your body. They come in a wide array of color options as well. The color I picked isn’t conducive to the office and I think you might be able to get away with one with chinos, but it would be pushing the limits. So while the looks aren’t a huge downside, I don’t find them to look overly dressy as they are quite wide. Some newer options from Arcade attempt to solve for this, but the logos and buckles will always skew these casual.
There’s only two downsides to these belts: they flex a lot so they won’t work well for you wanting to hang anything from the belt (which don’t); and they are difficult to adjust when wearing them as they are very tight to move through the adjuster on the buckle.
If you like elastic waist pants, but sometimes have to wear non-elastic waist pants, these are a great solution for you.
Grip6 Belt Narrow
I’ve already written about this here, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed. Grip6 belts are fantastic low-tech, high-impact belts. They sit very flat, offer a webbing that is strong enough to have some structure, but eventually will form to your waist shape. They are comfortable, secure, and look ok. They won’t work for business casual, but I wear mine often into the office.
They hold really well after you sort out the correct way to secure them. They come in a wide array of colors and widths, and the buckle is the lowest profile of all the belts on this list. The only downside with these that I have found is that they are a little tricky on the width. There are three widths: 1.1”, 1.5”, and 1.75”. Anything in the 1.5” and up realm will often look far too casual for office wear with chinos/button down. But 1.1” is slightly too narrow to site well in the loops of my Futureworks. I really like the 1.25” width for universal belt use, and that isn’t available in Grip6.
For me, I wear these belts a ton, but they do have some downsides the width being one, but the second being that they need to be worn snug in order for the clasping mechanism to secure properly. So this isn’t a belt you can wear loosely at all.
Good stuff, great price, versatile — tricky widths.
Outlier Polyamour Precision Belt
The last belt is the most technical of them all, the Outlier Polyamour Precision Belt. This is a crazy belt, as it is 100% polyester webbing that has all sorts of tech into it making it feel like cotton canvas, but perform like “not cotton”. And then there’s touches of suede to aid the looks. Lastly the belt secures with a hidden Fidlock clasp.
The belt only comes in black and in a 1.5” width which normally I don’t love for smart casual, but the looks of this belt pull it off well. I’ll go ahead and say this right now: I wish there was charcoal, because I would only wear this belt if given the option. There’s no other belt on this list as good as this belt. It’s comfortable, the webbing forms well, and the clasp is fantastic. Both fast to secure, easy to undo, and secure throughout the day. With a nice balance of sitting low on your waist, while not looking out of place.
There’s two main downsides to this belt:
- The clasping mechanism has limited range of adjustment about 1.5” total. And while it does step nicely through them so you can find a good fit, that does mean that if your waist size fluctuates this won’t be a great option for you.
- It only comes in black.
The upside is that the sizing is easy on this one, as Outlier tells you to buy your pants size which is contrary to all other belt sizing, but 100% how belt sizing should work. I wear a 34 in Outlier pants and bought a 34 belt — perfect fit.
Again, if this came in charcoal (brown likely wouldn’t look great) I would only wear this belt and forgo all others — it’s that good. This is what all the other belts want to be and so much of that is because of the webbing magic.
What I Mostly Wear
All of those belts above are ones I bought, own, and wear with some regularity. The Outlier belt is newest to me, but easily my favorite. That said I find that I wear the Filson Bridle Leather belt the most, it’s essentially everything I want in a belt, and I never have to think about whether it works for that situation.
Belts are funny, they are the one area where the tried and true classics work almost as well as the highest of high-performance models, so much so that there’s very little upside to getting anything other than the classic options.
Then again, Outlier, make me a charcoal variant of that Polyamour Precision belt and I am all in. Until then, the Filson Bridle Leather is fantastic.