Learn all about the many variations and types of the leather belt with this comprehensive and detailed list showcasing the many styles of this versatile accessory.
- Leather belts can be classified according to the different kinds and quality of leather used, styles, and how and when they are best worn.
- As a material, leather is durable, classic, and timeless.
- Leather belts are fashionable for men and women, although women’s leather belts come in many colors, styles, and varieties.
Belts are one of the most ancient of fashion accessories, a blend of function and style. Although belts do hold up your jeans, a belt says so much more about your character. Leather belts are the ideal accessory, stylish, elegant, and classy, and come in various shapes, sizes, and trends.
There is a leather belt for every occasion and every outfit. Let’s consider the different types of leather belts.
Table of Contents
Types Of Leather Belts: Different Leathers
- Cowhide Leather Belts
- Suede Belts
- Exotic Leather Belts
- Leather Quality
- Leather Finishes
- Types Of Leather Belts For Men
Types Of Leather Belts For Women
- Classic Belts
- Oversized Belts
- Embellished Belts
Types Of Leather Belts: Different Leathers
All leather belts are made from leather, but not all leathers are the same. Leather can come from a wide variety of animals and can be of differing quality.
Cowhide Leather Belts
Most leather belts are made from bovine or cowhide leather, that is, leather from the skin of cattle or calves. Calfskin is much softer and makes more elegant belts.
However, leather can also be obtained from bison, goats, and pigs. Pigskin is exceptionally soft, pliable, and not usually used for belts, while kidskin is primarily for gloves.
Suede is a delicate leather made from the underside of an animal’s hide, usually with a napped finish. Suede refers to the leather’s finish, not the origin: you can get suede from lambskin, pigskin, or even deer.
Suede belts are easily damaged and need special care, so they are best kept for occasional, smart-casual rather than everyday wear. Because suede is so thin, suede belts often consist of a layer of ordinary leather covered with suede.
Exotic Leather Belts
Leather from animals other than cowhide is exotic, high-end, and luxurious and is usually more expensive.
These leathers are highly textured, either with the pockmarks of feathers or the scales of reptiles, making them unusual and eye-catching. These are statement belts.
Examples of exotic leather for belts are:
You can classify leather belts according to the leather’s origin, but you also need to consider the leather quality used for the different types of belts. The quality of the belt’s leather will influence the cost, but if you care for a leather belt, it can last you a lifetime. Leather ages well and looks more beautiful as it ages.
Full Grain Leather Belts
The best quality of leather for belts is full-grain leather. “Full grain” means that the leather comes from the entire and untouched surface of the hide, so the leather will have visible grain, hair patterns, and natural markings on it. This leather is the most robust and most valuable layer of the hide and undergoes minimal processing.
Belts made from full-grain leather are usually broad and strong and often include unique marks or brands from the cow’s skin. For this reason, full-grain leather belts are often casual belts.
Corrected Grain Leather Belts
Corrected grain is the second-best level of leather quality for belts. Corrected grain leather has the imperfections (unique markings) of the full-grain leather removed by buffing, making the leather smooth. The leather is then finished and dyed.
Expensive, formal belts are made from this leather quality and are worth buying as an investment for your wardrobe.
Split Leather Belts
The third level of leather quality is split leather, far less expensive but of poorer quality. This leather is often finished and embossed to look like top-grain leather but is far weaker.
Bonded Leather Belts
Also called leather fiber or reconstituted leather, this leather is not cut from the hide but is made of bonded or glued together layers of leather scraps, often leftovers. This fabric is then treated and printed to look like quality leather or covered with a thin layer of top-grain leather.
Unfortunately, bonded leather can still be labeled “genuine leather” so long as there is no fabric or synthetic material in the belt. Bonded leather is cheap, poor-quality leather, and any bonded leather belt will not last long. However, belts from bonded leather are far less expensive and are suitable as single-season fashion accessories, not wardrobe investments.
Synthetic Leather Belts
The word “synthetic” indicates that these belts are not made of leather but of a manufactured material made to look like leather.
Also referred to as “faux leather” and “vegan leather,” this fabric is not usually intended to deceive the buyer into thinking it is leather but rather give a visual impression of leather.
Synthetic leather belts are much cheaper but far less durable than genuine leather.
Leather is often processed and treated to change its finish – very few leather belts are made of natural, full-grain leather. Most belts made with a leather finish are casual and worn as focus accessories.
Tooled Or Embossed Leather Belts
Tooling, stamping, or embossing means that the leather has been stamped with a design and often stained to highlight the pattern. This fine work is usually done by hand, resulting in belts that are unique works of art.
A tooled belt will add a Bohemian and arty touch to any outfit.
Stitched Or Embroidered Leather Belts
Some belts have been decorated with stitching (more for men’s belts) or embroidery (for women’s belts). Embroidered belts often have beautiful patterns stitched into them, sometimes by hand, and may have folk or ethnic designs as a theme.
As with tooled belts, these magnificent pieces are often artworks in themselves and make any outfit noticeable.
Casual belts often have decorative finishes created by topstitching. The stitching may produce a pattern or edge the belt in a neat, contrasting color. Brown belts with white stitching are popular as the stitching adds a hint of interest to a simple belt.
Metallic Leather Belts
Metallic leather has been finished with a product that makes it look like metal, shiny, and reflective. These are usually fashionable belts for women.
Patent Leather Belts
With its characteristic shiny finish, patent leather was initially created using a gloss of linseed oil. Today, most patent leather has been finished with a plastic coating over the leather.
Distressed Or Antique Leather Belts
This kind of leather has been treated so that it looks as if it has aged naturally. This kind of leather is best for casual belts.
Types Of Leather Belts For Men
Because they usually wear trousers, men tend to wear belts every day and so will need to invest in a few of these accessories for different styles and occasions.
Formal Leather Belts For Men
Formal belts will usually be worn with a suit, either for office wear or a formal social occasion. Most formal belts are made of leather, and it is worth investing in a well-made belt to complete your outfit. Formal leather belts are an excellent item to splash out on a designer belt: Salvatore Ferragamo, Coach, and Ralph Lauren are excellent choices.
Well-dressed gents follow these guidelines when selecting a formal leather belt.
The Best Leather For Formal Belts
- Cowhide is the standard leather for formal belts, top-grain quality, as it is spruce, hardwearing, and durable.
- Full-grain calfskin is more supple than cowhide and will look soft and elegant.
- Exotic leathers are only appropriate in a darker color and for formal social events like weddings. Wear exotic leather belts only if you are modish enough to carry them off.
- Leathers with exotic or embellished finishes are not appropriate for formal belts.
The Best Colors For Formal Belts
Formal belts should be subtle and understated, a single color, not eye-catching pieces in themselves. The man wears the belt; the belt does not wear the man.
- Always match your belt to your shoes for formal wear, which means a black belt with black shoes and a brown belt with brown shoes. At most, you could have an oxblood belt – other colors are not appropriate for formal wear.
- Match the shininess of the leather as well – consider your options if you like patent leather.
- Also, match your metals – your belt buckle should match the metal of your watch, cufflinks, and other accessories.
The Best Buckles For Formal Belts
- Formal buckles are usually metal, gold, or silver.
- Formal buckles are small, flat, and discreet – save the loud plaque buckles for casual wear.
- Unless you have a designer buckle, stick to a classic single-prong frame-style clip where the strap goes through the frame, and the buckle’s prong goes through the hole in the waistband to fasten the belt.
- A ratchet-style buckle is also appropriate if you want to keep the belt subtle.
The Ideal Width Of A Formal Belt
Formal belts tend to be narrower than causal belts, only about one to one-and-a-half inches wide.
Casual Leather Belts For Men
There is much more variety in casual leather belts than in formal leather belts. Belts can be made from any kind of leather, any color, width, or buckle size. The only limitation for men’s belts is that they need to fit through the belt loops of the trousers.
Here are a couple of popular styles of casual leather belts for men.
Braided leather belts are a great way of adding interest and texture to a smart-casual outfit without being overwhelming. Smart enough to wear with a light linen suit or sports jacket, or casual enough to wear with shorts and deck shoes, a braided leather belt can comfortably match your shoes.
These belts add a preppy touch to an outfit and are a reasonably priced way of creating a new look. Start with a plain colored strap with a frame-style buckle, which you can wear anywhere.
Ribbon belts are leather belts with a ribbon inset over the leather. The ribbon adds interest to the belt and can be chosen to match an outfit. Ribbon belts are part of the preppy look.
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Western Or Cowboy Belts
Traditionally worn by cowboys, Western belts are made of thick leather to weather the outdoor life on the range. Today’s cowboy belts can be made of full grain leather, with natural imperfections, but some are made from distressed leather to mimic the look.
Western belts are often tooled or embossed, sometimes with studded embellishments and large, engraved silver buckles or plaque buckles.
Wearing a Western belt indicates a very particular style and is often coupled with boots and a hat.
Biker belts are wide, black leather belts often studded and embellished, with large plate buckles.
A belt style created for outdoor durability, these wide belts have come to be associated with a specific look or trend – usually jeans and a white or band T-shirt.
Snapped Loop Leather Belts
Many Western and biker belts come with a snapped loop, which allows the wearer to attach different belt buckles and thus customize the belt.
Types Of Leather Belts For Women
Women’s fashion is far less fixed than men’s fashion, so formal and informal wear boundaries blur to a greater extent. Women’s belts are therefore not categorized by formal versus informal, but rather by the style or shape of the belt.
Women’s belts are also seldom worn to hold up trousers or a skirt and are used instead to highlight the shape of the figure.
Here are some popular and exciting styles of women’s belts.
A few belts can be termed classics, as these are staples of any woman’s wardrobe.
Most women own a classic black or brown leather belt with their choice of a simple silver or gold buckle. This kind of traditional belt can do double duty as an office favorite or a jeans partner.
What will distinguish this type of belt is the buckle, and you can have a variety of simple straps with different clasps. A couple of years back, the Gucci belt with its characteristic buckle was seen everywhere.
Another distinguishing feature is the texture – you can have several belts in this classic style if they are made from different kinds of leather.
When worn with office wear, remember to match belt and shoes, and metal buckle and accessories.
A practical version of the classic belt is the reversible belt. Usually black on one side and brown on the other, the reversible belt offers two straps for the price of one. These leather belts have a specialized swivel buckle to help you switch from one look to the other.
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The buckle belt is a broad, simple belt consisting of a long leather strap and a large, often round, buckle. The buckle is a focal point and may be unusual.
Buckle belts are often made of full-grain, natural leather or distressed antique leather to add interest.
Wear your buckle belt to pull in a winter coat.
The skinny belt has become a classic in its own right. Many women own these belts in various colors and finishes, depending on the fashion of the moment.
Pair your skinny leather belt with a straight dress to ring the changes, or highlight a tiny waist. Skinny belts are also gorgeous with jeans. Keep the outfit fitted, or the small belt will be overwhelmed.
Braided belts are just as striking for women as men and offer a versatile touch to any outfit. Because the buckle’s prong can fit through any part of the belt, these are good for ladies with larger waists.
A well-made braided belt can look elegant with a trouser suit, while a soft, brown version is perfect with jeans. Braided belts can also add a romantic touch when worn with a dress.
These wide belts are not intended to be worn through the belt loops but over an outfit. They can pull in the waist or ride low on the hips. Choose an oversized belt as a statement to add a “wow” factor to any outfit.
Wide belts have always been on the fashion horizon but have swept back into fashion again this year.
Leather Corset Belts
This belt style is a combination of a corset and a belt, lacing up the front or back like a traditional corset.
Some versions come with zippers, buckles, or hook closures; most are black and may be embellished with studs. Corset belts come in a variety of finishes, including patent leather.
Unlike an ordinary corset, this belt is worn over dresses or shirts and creates a flattering silhouette.
Another wide belt, the yoke belt, is curved like the yoke of a skirt. It fastens at the back of the waist. Often made from suede or finished leather, these wide belts extend down as far as the hips with embellishments on the wide yoked front.
Yoke belts can look dated as they were the height of fashion in the eighties.
Leather Sashes Or Obis
Sash belts are broad, like a Japanese obi sash, and consist of a long strip of leather, which may be wound around the waist once or more. They don’t come with buckles or other closing devices and so are tied or knotted around the waist, cinching in a dress, shirt, or sweater like a corset.
The belt is usually tied at the front and made of soft, pliable leather, which adds a luxurious look.
Snapped Loop Leather Belts
Snapped loop belts were trendy in the eighties and nineties when enormous plate buckles were all the rage. This look isn’t in anymore and can date an outfit.
Leather peplum belts add interest to any outfit, as they flare out over the top of your jeans or skirt like the peplum on a dress. Made of soft leather, the belt gives an edgy look that will upscale a boring outfit.
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These leather accessories are like the jewelry of the belt world – they are shiny, have beads, buckles, fringes, or other items of interest to catch the eye.
Knot Or Tie Belts
Knot belts are usually narrow, fasten only once around the waist and are attractive for the simplicity and the beauty of the leather itself.
Other tie belts have beads, fringes, or other embellishments hanging from the ends in a Coachella style.
A version of the tie belt is the twisted belt, which has a metal loop, often in a horseshoe shape, that the leather twists through to fasten.
Knot and tie belts are particularly on-trend now, so this is the belt to invest in right now.
Western Or Cowboy Belts
The Western belt is a particular style choice and is a fun addition to an outfit for a party or music festival. Worn with denim cut-offs, the Western belt looks casual and Bohemian.
Choose one with an embellished silver buckle – even then, this is not a belt for formal wear. If you choose one covered in rhinestones or with the double clasp, it easily slips into costume mode – unless you’re from Texas.
Grommets are a particular embellishment used in belts, creating metallic holes. Often with a double-pronged buckle, these belts have a nineties look. The grommet belt gives an edgy addition to a simple coat or floral dress.
Like the grommet belt, the biker belt harks back to a vintage look. Unless you want to look like an extra from Grease, combine your studded black belt with a pretty dress and boots, or pull in a winter cardigan.
Sometimes made of fabric, but often of soft suede, bow belts are not tied like a knotted belt but come with a ready-made bow as a central embellishment. The belt usually fastens at the back. These belts add a whimsical, romantic charm to an outfit.
These leather belts, which went twice around the waist – and sometimes buckled twice – were a hit in the 1980s. Usually worn loose, sometimes down to the hips, the double belt was a must-have. These belts are now vintage items and strictly for 80s parties.