Formal belts don’t differ much from each other and share certain characteristics without many exceptions.
Almost all formal belts include a frame-style style buckle, in which the strap goes through the frame. The prong of the buckle goes through holes in the strap to fasten the belt.
The buckle of a dress belt is usually shiny and sleek, gold or silver in color, and smaller and flatter than those found on casual belts.
A dress belt should be 1-1.5 inches wide, with thinner belts being more formal. A belt on the 1” end of things is suited for a smaller man, with a waist under 34”.
Leather is the only suitable material for dress belts (or a really good imitation leather if you’re vegetarian).
Cowhide. The most common leather used for belts, and comes in a few variations: full-grain leather is the best looking and most hardwearing, while calfskin is the softest and most supple. The highest quality formal belts will be full-grain calfskin.
Ostrich, lizard, crocodile, and alligator. These skins are all technically more casual belt materials, but can work as formal in a dark color.
Ostrich belts are a bold look, dotted with pockmarks from the feathers. They tend to fetch a high price.
Crocodile and alligator belts are even more upscale and have a subtler pattern and texture.
Faux leather is made with polyurethane on a fabric backing. It’s durable and low-maintenance, and the best faux leathers look realistic, although they don’t develop the same patina as real leather. Cheap fake leather looks, well, cheap and fake.
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