April 29th, 2005
Q: I still haven’t quite figured out shoes and belts for men. What’s the connection between shoes and a belt (one time, or, to be honest, many times I’ve worn black shoes with a brown belt and had comments flung my way)?
Also, I’m the kind of guy who only has one pair of shoes at a time — which color has more power to look professional and match khakis, brown or black? And last up, what am I doing wrong in trying to buy a belt– I walked into Nordstroms to get a black belt recently and they averaged $90, which is way above my budget. What am I to do?
A: General rule of thumb: match the belt to the shoes. So if you’re wearing a black belt, wear black shoes. If you’re wearing a brown belt, wear brown shoes. And so forth. However, this isn’t a Law.
A better rule might say match the style of the belt to the shoe. That style is most visually expressed through color–hence the "match the belt to the shoes" mantra. I wouldn’t want to pair the black and the brown, but pairings that don’t exactly match, but are similar in style are definitely A-OK.
Note also that there are formal belts, and there are casual belts. Skinny belts are usually reserved for more formal occasions, and thicker belts are more appropriate for casualwear. For casual belts, leather isn’t the only option–there’s nylon, grosgrain (ribbon), and canvas, for starters.
If you want to look professional, I’d recommend moving away from khakis and going towards black or grey pants. In your industry, though, it might be more acceptable to wear khakis. In that case, I’d recommend a darker shade of brown. For the black or grey pants, black would be the preferred option between the two.
As for buying a belt, try Macy’s. I’ve found decent quality, stylish belts in the $30-$40 range there. Other options: Club Monaco, or the everpresent Banana Republic and Gap stores.