A beautifully-constructed pair of leather dress shoes, briefcase, or wallet can be a smart investment. But figuring out how to be a smart shopper when first venturing into the world of leather accessories can seem daunting. So read on to discover how to shop for the perfect leather accessory.
A belt is one of the simplest leather accessories, and one that you likely wear on a near-daily basis. But a belt’s simplicity doesn’t necessarily make it easy to shop for. If you need a crash course, here are the basics to keep in mind: You can find both dressy and more casual belts in leather, and generally, the bigger the belt’s buckle, the more casual the style is. Belts are sized in inches, like pants, and the belt that fits you properly is usually going to be about a size bigger than your pant size. If you’re uncertain of what belt size you need, it’s definitely a good idea to try a few on to figure out your size. That way, even if you don’t find your perfect belt right away, you’ll know what size to shop for.
You’ll be able to choose a belt with either gold-tone or silver-tone hardware, and if you’re a frequent wearer of accessories like cufflinks, tie bars, or even a watch, it might be a good idea to consider matching your new belt to your favorite accessories. The same goes for matching your belt to your shoes, but keep in mind that a match doesn’t have to be perfect. The shades don’t need to be the same, but if your favorite pair of shoes is brown, you might consider a lighter or darker brown leather belt. Similarly, a black belt would be a versatile choice if, say, your work bag and your favorite dress shoes are also black.
Even more than with other leather accessories, shopping for a leather belt will really demonstrate how pieces that look similar can actually vary widely in cost and quality. It’s important to try to get a sense of the quality of the materials and workmanship yourself, rather than just going with a brand name you recognize. Some easy hints: If a belt has a lining, that lining should be leather, not paper. Details like stitching and edge beveling should all appear to be done well and evenly. Stitching should be straight and neat, and loose threads anywhere are a bad sign.
Also keep in mind what you already know about leather types and quality. Top-of-the-line full-grain leather is always a good choice, as this style from Rag & Bone, in black or brown, easily illustrates. A belt in top grain leather, like this one from Piefore, can be a little easier on the wallet and is your next-best choice. Even better — if you’re looking for durability — is bridle leather, the vegetable-tanned cowhide used for equestrian equipment. The rugged nature of a bridle leather belt, like this classic style from Filson, enables it to stand up to years of daily use. That means that even a belt refined enough to go with your suits will be able to stand up to your most active adventures on the weekend. Or, if you’re more interested in a preppy look than an obviously rugged one, consider Brooks Brothers’ classic anchor buckle belt, made with calfskin and brass hardware.