I tend to dislike buying belts and ties. I have trouble spending the money retailers charge for what amounts to a strip of leather or fabric. I used to rummage the clearance racks at Marshall's looking for something decent in my size thinking that a belt is the most unimaginative of purchases...like tires and motor oil.
Then I realized buying the same crappy belt every 6 months was getting old and staring to get expensive. So I went on a hunt for a great belt and this is what I found:
Leather. With very few exceptions leather is your go-to material. To quote Alex Muniz over at AskMen, "There are, indeed, colored cloth or canvas belts sold by brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. While undoubtedly of high quality, take a pass on these. Bright belt colors are fine if you're a teenager, a champion yachter or a superhero, but for everyone else, they're a fleeting trend."
By the way, not all leather is the same. You want a 'full' or 'top' grain leather. Don't be fooled by the marketing techniques dubbed 'genuine' or 'bonded' leather. I'll touch on different leathers more in a later post but for now head over the Dave's blog and do your research.
One piece construction. You do not want a belt that has been assembled from leftover scraps. They are both causally and correlatively cheaper--each seam is a weak point in the band and companies who bother with these kinds of belts have nothing good to offer.
The one exception here is shell cordovan, whose hides are rarely big enough to make a single-piece strap. Occasionally the brothers Horween will bless us with a limited run at $425 a pop.
This one is easy. The three basic colors of belt are black, brown and tan. Dress belts are usually polished and tend to be a little more slim while casual belts are wider and have a more flat finish.
Avoid massive buckles (yes, even designer ones. Looking a you Ferragamo and Gucci.) The hardware on your belt is kind of like jewelry: less is more. Polished nickel or gold for dress belts and a flatter brass for casual belts.
Your belt should be one size larger than your pants. If you wear a 34 waist, buy a 36 belt. The buckle should fasten on the middle or second to last hole. "ever wear a belt with a hole that you've punched out yourself. If your waistline is expanding, a) Buy a bigger belt; or b) Join a gym."