Black or Brown Belt? The Age-Old Question

Written by: Orvis Staff

What color belt should I buy—brown, or black? It’s a question most men have probably asked themselves at some point. Or maybe we’ve pondered more specific questions: what color belt goes best with my gray pants? How about with my navy pants? And most of us have probably worn the wrong color belt with our jeans or khaki pants on some occasion or other. Let’s demystify this age-old question and take a look at when to wear a black or brown belt—and when it’s okay to add some color to your waistline.

So Many Leather Belts—Which One to Choose?

Leather belts for men tend to come in either black or brown, with varied shades among the browns. To further refine (or complicate) your choices, leather belts come in a matte or gloss finish, and of course, flat, braided, embossed, pebbled, and many other leather textures and styles. But when it comes to choosing a leather belt, let the color guide your decision. Why choose a black belt over a brown one, or vice versa? It’s pretty simple—our eyes appreciate matching colors. While you may think you don’t personally care, it’s human nature to prefer a well coordinated outfit over a mismatched one.

Should My Belt Match My Shoes?

The most reliable convention for choosing between a black or brown leather belt is to go with the color that matches our shoes. Black Oxfords? Black belt. Espresso brogues? Brown belt. It’s a pretty simple rule to follow. Mismatching the color of your shoes and belt is certainly a noticeable fashion faux pas, but obviously there’s a lot of gray area (and I’m not talking gray belts). And while the ‘shoe’ rule typically applies to dressy attire—occasions where you’re most likely to wear black or brown shoes—you should observe it most of the time with your casual wear, too.

Can I Wear a Brown Belt With My Jeans?

If you wear jeans—and you don’t pair them with black or brown shoes—a darker brown belt is often the most popular choice for all denim washes except black denim. And fortunately for those of us who don’t like to spend a lot of time looking for the right accessory, a jeans belt is an actual thing.

What Color Belt Should I Wear With My Khakis?

For the casual khaki or chino wearer, the rules become a little murkier and depend on the shade of pants you’re wearing. If your pants are a true khaki color, you’re already in the brown spectrum, so stick with a brown leather belt to keep it simple. With very dark chinos you’ll want to go with a black belt if that’s your only option. If you’re a tad more adventuresome, colorful woven belts can also work well with casual chinos and khakis. A cotton and leather surcingle belt is a classic choice, but you’ll also find colorful patterns and graphics woven into cotton webbed belts, typically with leather tabs.

If you’re looking to streamline your wardrobe, a reversible belt can deliver multiple fabrics or two colors, like a black leather that reverses to brown leather, or a cotton canvas that reverses to brown leather. Having one or two of these in your closet not only reduces clutter but makes putting together an outfit infinitely easier. Plus, if you mess up, or for some reason need to change shoes midday, you can simply reverse your belt.

I hope this clears up a few questions for you when you’re belt shopping, and at least sheds some light on the black versus brown belt debate. Share your thoughts or questions about men’s leather belts in our comments below.

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